Disclaimer - nope, not mine. All characters belong to Joss except Cyndi and she's not a money maker either.
Rating - FRT
Time Line - S2 Set between Reptile Boy and Halloween
Summary - An innocent piece of art could lead to the unthinkable, the gates of heaven and hell swung open wide.
feedback - yes please Pairings - Giles/Jenny (with minor B/A)
Author's notes - Thanks to Maren for the beta. Thanks to Silvrethorn for helping me find the latter named paintings. This was written for the third Choose Your Author Ficathon and I'm not sure yet who I was writing for. Requirements will be at the end
"Of all the bloody, hare-brained ideas." Giles lifted a delicate china tea cup to his lips. "I'm lucky I can turn these things on and now they want me to submit my diaries for translation to the web. I don't care if it's part of the new Watcher's training." Giles glared at the computer. "How does Willow make this look so easy?"
"Maybe because she doesn't actively hate the poor thing."
At the sound of Jenny's voice, Giles whipped around, cracking his knee on the desk. "Bloody hell."
Jenny's smile lit up the room. "It's a little early in the morning to be so grumpy."
Giles rubbed his knee. "It's too early in the morning to find out I'm expected to contribute to some ruddy website."
Jenny crossed over and leaned in to see what he was doing. "What do you need to do? Need a hand writing the code?" She grinned at Giles' deer in the headlights look. "So, not coding. You know, Rupert, you can ask me for help."
"I'm a reasonably intelligent man. I should be able to figure it out," he said, angry at himself, as she leaned even closer to the screen.
"Wouldn't it be easier to just have directions to do it?" Jenny's painted lips quirked up at the corners. "Oh, that's right, you're a man. Directions are forbidden."
Giles glanced up at her suddenly aware of how close she was to him and how wonderful it felt. He looked away hoping she hadn't noticed his adolescent-styled burst of lust. His eyes snagged on her red sweater. Was it cashmere? The way it clung to her lush body was absolutely intoxicating. God, he was as bad as Xander. He blushed faintly. "Yes, I suppose a little help would be nice. I was going to ask Willow but..."
He couldn't tell this beautiful woman that was he was afraid of getting laughed at by Willow and her friends for his total ineptitude. He was the butt of enough jokes and while he didn't let it show, it occasionally wore on him. "I didn't want to distract her from her studies." Yes, that sounded more appropriate.
Jenny's smile went positively wicked. "You're afraid she'd laugh at you."
His lips pinched. "Don't you have a class to prepare for?"
She put her hands on his shoulders and began to massage. "Not for a half hour."
He just grunted softly, easing into her touch. Jenny leaned over him and kissed him gently.
"I need eye bleach!"
Buffy's horrified voice made the adults spring apart, Giles running his knee into the table again. He swallowed his curse this time.
"Buffy, what are you doing here so early?" He rubbed his knee, which had a decided knot on it.
"Going blind," she replied, sitting on the table kicking her feet. "And I wanted to tell you about the vampire nest I cleared out of a warehouse down by the docks but if I knew there'd be early morning old-people smoochies I'd have waited until my first free period."
Both of them eyed Buffy ill-temperedly.
"Just remember, Buffy, you are taking classes here," Giles said, inclining his head towards Jenny.
Buffy popped a wad of gum into her mouth. "You don't teach, Giles, and I'm not taking a computer class." She blew a bubble.
"This semester," Jenny said pointedly.
"And take the gum out Buffy. No food and drink allowed in here," Giles added.
"Touchy. I'll just come back after your bowl of grumpy-o's wears off." Buffy jumped off the table and breezed out.
"I'm going to be the only Watcher in history who kills his own Slayer," Giles grumbled, watching the library doors swinging on their hinges.
Jenny laughed and kissed him again. "You love her and you know it. I'll be back at lunch. Let's see how many of Buffy's free periods we can ruin." Her dark eyes glinted with glee.
He beamed at the thought. "You're a wicked woman."
She tapped his chin. "That's why you like me."
Giles kissed her again. "Yes, I believe it is."
Giles saw Buffy peering cautiously through the library door's odd little windows. Why his domain had doors better suited for a restaurant, he couldn't fathom. Sadly, Jenny had been delayed, having drawn warden-duty for detention hall. His loss was apparently Buffy's gain. She sauntered in with Willow and Xander in tow.
"Alone at last?" she asked, checking around to be sure.
"Lamentably yes," he replied with an impish grin tugging at the corners of his lips. Buffy eyed him sourly. Jenny was right, this was rather fun. "So was there more you wanted to tell me about the nest, which, truly, Buffy, a job well done."
She beamed. He knew she needed to hear that, knowing she was down on herself for the near fiasco at the college when she and Cordy had nearly been sacrificed. "Naturally. Anything else we need to talk about Giles? Cause we want to breeze this afternoon."
Willow and Xander nodded their agreement.
Giles sighed. "What primal teen-aged festival are you running off to now?"
Buffy pursed her lips. "You can suck the fun out of anything."
His eyebrows raised. "And the event?"
"It's retro night next weekend," Buffy admitted begrudgingly.
"The whole school is kinda jazzed. I mean there're signs everywhere. How'd you miss them?" Xander asked.
"And you have to leave now for an event next weekend because..."
"Outfits, it'll take work for me and Willow to look all retro," Buffy replied as if it should be self-explanatory.
Willow bobbed her head quickly. "Lots of work."
"I don't see why. Seventies fashion is all the rage right now. I've seen you both in no less than three different outfits that are perfectly retro," Giles said.
"Giles, the 80's are retro. The 70's are oldies," Buffy correctly him blithely.
Giles gritted his teeth. "There is nothing at all old about the 70's. And I would really like to work on some of your skills with the sword tonight. Willow and Xander can go, of course, if they'd like. There are no emergencies for us to work on at the moment."
"Oh, you just jinxed it," Xander scolded, wagging a finger.
Giles eyed him sourly. "We can forego believing in jinxes."
"Fatal last words," Xander assured him with a sage nod of his head.
Giles' glare deepened.
"Remember that talk we had about riding me too hard?" Buffy made a face. "Okay that just gave me a creepy image. Anyhow No-Fun-Buffy almost got eaten by a snake. It's a weekend, Giles, shouldn't you be taking Ms. Calender somewhere nice?"
"Buffy's mom has a new local artist showcasing her work tonight at the gallery," Willow added quickly, eager to play match matcher.
Giles knew when he was beaten. "Very well. You may have the weekend though I expect some patrolling to get done."
"Okay," Buffy replied so happily Giles didn't doubt Angel was about to get dragged all over Sunnydale.
At least the vampire was a plus in the war against his own kind. It was one of the reasons Giles tolerated Angel. He was also a vast source of knowledge and he made Buffy happy. It was hard for the father figure in Giles to argue with that. The Watcher tapped the stems of his glasses against his lips as the teens scrambled out before he could change his mind. Art gallery? Jenny might just like that.
"You've got your 'this isn't art face' on," Jenny said, pulling Giles closer to her. "There's more to art than the grand masters."
"Oh, I agree. I don't particularly like this piece but that last one with the Magic Eight ball pieces was quite interesting." Perhaps not quite as interesting as Jenny in her simple black silk sheath dress that reminded him he was a man in all the right ways. "What is this form of art called again?"
"Found art. Basically the artists use recycled bits of pop culture to tell a story," Jenny replied, peering close at the pieced of puzzle that seemed vomited up on the canvas before her. "I'm glad you thought to bring me to the show."
"It was hard to miss it with Buffy's mother organizing it. I took a chance that you like art along with football." He smiled.
Jenny grinned back. "I like art just fine, and apparently so does Buffy."
"I would doubt that," Giles replied then Jenny pointed over his shoulder. He turned to see Buffy moping by a piece of art made up of decapitated Ken and Barbie dolls. She brightened seeing them.
Buffy came over to them. "Aren't you two the picture of cuteness?"
"Buffy, what are you doing here?" Giles sounded a tad nervous even to his own ear. He didn't know why. There was nothing improper about him and Jenny dating. If nothing else, it helped ease worries that someone might think he was spending too much time with Buffy and Willow in an inappropriate manner. "Shouldn't you be patrolling or with Willow finding retro clothing?"
"Angel wanted to see the art." Buffy put on a very grumpy face, nodding toward the back of the gallery. "But I can't have mom seeing me with him. She was kinda put out the first time she met him and I said he was a tutor from the college. She doesn't want me hanging with older guys." She rolled her eyes. "If she only knew. But with you two here, I can at least get into his orbit." Buffy started herding them in Angel's direction, oblivious to the fact she was intruding on their date.
Jenny just smiled good-naturedly at Giles, feeling him tensing. He was glad that she let him know that it was okay, that she didn't mind so much. It was nice to have someone who understood his responsibilities, even if this really was going above and beyond.
Angel was studying a collage of keys set against a blood-splash of red with murky blotches of black that might have been open doorways but there was something suggesting that one didn't want to peer around the corner, let alone go inside. Keys also decorated the wood, heavy hewn frame. The centerpiece one seemed to captivate the vampire. As Giles got nearer, he could see what Angel found so fascinating. There was something unsettlingly beautiful and fearsome about the piece and the centerpiece key seemed to emit a siren's call. Giles shook his head. That was ridiculous. It was a piece of junk the artist had banged into her frame. It wasn't making anyone do anything, only in his world it wasn't that ridiculous. Objects could be bespelled, cursed, blessed.
"Oh, hello, Giles, Jenny," Angel said, sounding almost angry at being disturbed.
Giles barely took note as he stared at the old silverish key. Old was the operative word. He could see the age on the metal. This wasn't some Victorian piece of junk that turned up all the time in second hand stores and places catering to restorers. This seemed older. The head was the typical open, vaguely heart-shaped design that had defined key-shape for centuries but the teeth were odd. Arranged in a crescent, they were strangely shaped, almost filigree-like, like they had been spun by a mad spider. Giles tried to picture the lock it would go with.
Jenny's eyes were dark and round as she drank in the art. Giles could see the covetous look in those beautiful orbs. Only Buffy appeared unaffected by the piece. Buffy was more interested in giving Angel meaningful looks that Giles had no doubt were intended to get the vampire out of the gallery, only he wasn't noticing.
"It's creepy," she announced petulantly.
"It's powerful," Angel contradicted.
"Maybe it just has creature of the night appeal," Buffy replied then put distance between her and Angel.
Giles saw Joyce heading their way with a young woman with long dirty blonde hair and a frightening amount of metal pushed through her face. Buffy hovered closer to Jenny, watching her mother's approach.
"Mrs. Summers," Giles said, "We're enjoying the new show."
Joyce smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Giles. This is Annabel St Cyr, the artist." Joyce waved a hand at her companion.
The girl smiled, making her eyebrow rings flip. Giles wondered if smiling hurt with the rings tucked on either side of her lips. "I'm glad you like it. This piece is my favorite. I call it Keys to Knowledge."
"Keys have long been used to represent knowledge," Giles said, appreciating the analogy. "I think you did a very intriguing job of conveying that sense."
"I like the way it's been framed out," Angel added, gesturing to the key-studded wood.
Annabel favored them both with a broad smile. "Thanks. I just lucked into this box of keys at an estate sale and thought about all the possibilities keys represented, things behind doors, in trunks." Her blue eyes gleamed.
"I especially like this key," Jenny said, voicing what Giles and doubtlessly Angel were feeling as she pointed to the centerpiece.
"I thought that key was just so interesting," Annabel said, "And this one, too." She pointed to a golden V key.
Giles realized in a sudden flash that Annabel didn't have any special sense about how compelling her extraordinary key is. "It is a very fascinating piece. You could study it for hours," he said and Buffy huffed, as if afraid that's exactly what Angel might do.
"It is for sale, though it'll be hard to part with it," Annabel said and Giles actually believed she was of a mixed mind about selling it. She seemed a bit disappointed that neither he, Jenny nor Angel jumped at the opportunity. Giles didn't need to look to know it was out of teacher's or librarian's salary and he wasn't sure Angel had money, which put the vampire's wardrobe into question. Where did he get cash for obviously fine-cut clothing? Giles decided not knowing was better in this case. "Come find me if you'd like to talk more."
Annabel skated away to talk to an exquisitely dressed couple who were eyeing a bright piece made up of broken pottery bits. Giles wondered distractedly if they were Cordelia's parents. They had the clothing and the look.
Joyce moved in Annabel's wake, obviously hoping to broker a deal. She glanced over her shoulder. "I hope you're enjoying yourself Buffy. I'm glad you came."
Buffy smiled brightly. "It's cool. I'm probably going to book though, head to Willow's to talk clothing options for the dance." She elbowed Angel discreetly but forcefully in the kidneys.
"Okay, dear. Maybe we'll go on a shopping trip tomorrow to find you something," Joyce called back then turned to the business at hand.
"Cool, Mom." Buffy whirled on Angel. "Meet me at the corner in five minutes. And you two have fun," she added to Giles and Jenny with a little wave.
Angel gave them a hapless look. "Am I the only one getting the impression that there's something...different about this piece of art?"
Giles shook his head. "No, there is something extraordinary about it."
"But it's not effecting everyone," Jenny said, nodding at Joyce and Annabel. Buffy had obviously not felt what ever it was either. She sucked in her bottom lip on one side, chewing it thoughtfully. "Does this mean we need to go and dive headlong into the research?"
Giles heard the disappointment in Jenny's voice and he was just as eager to have a weekend off to be a normal man as Buffy was, though he doubted his Slayer would believe that. He shook his head. "I don't imagine it's emergent. The display will be ongoing for some time and at this price," he said, peering at the tag as his eyebrows shot up, "I doubt this will be selling quickly."
"I'd better go before I have an accident with a splinter of wood," Angel said, wryly. He smirked at the couple and headed for the door.
Jenny chuckled softly. "I guess we know who wears the pants in that relationship."
Giles scowled. "Now there's a disturbing image."
Jenny just smiled and pulled him along to the next piece of art. Giles still felt the pull of the key. He was sure he'd know exactly where that painting was no matter where he was in the gallery. However, what he hadn't seen was the tiny woman who slid into the space vacated by him, Jenny and Angel and even if he had, the long curtain of dark hair would have hidden the covetous look on her face as she gazed on the artwork.
"That was fun," Jenny said as Giles walked her to her door. "Thanks. Want to come in for a night cap?"
Giles smiled. "Yes, thank you."
Jenny led the way into her small apartment. She waved a hand at the mini-bar. "What would you like? There's beer in the fridge."
"Scotch would be nice," Giles said, feeling suddenly nervous.
"Make it two."
He poured the scotch and joined Jenny on the couch. She snuggled up against him, turning on the tv as she took the scotch. Giles draped an arm around her, pulling her close. "I'm glad you enjoyed the artwork. There's going to be a large show of Mayan artwork coming to Los Angeles later in the year. Would you like to go?"
Jenny gazed up at him. "Would that include an overnight stay?"
Giles realized it was a few hours drive either way and he hadn't taken that into consideration. His face felt aflame. "I didn't mean...it doesn't have to."
"Relax, Rupert. Either way, I'd like to go."
He relaxed. When had he become this nervous with women? He used to be so smooth, so able to flirt and seduce. He felt more like a clumsy teen now than he had when he was a clumsy teen. "I'm glad."
Jenny put her head on his shoulder as she surfed the cable before settling on A& E. She set the controller and her glass of Scotch on the table then reached up caressing his face. Her lips settled on his warmly and Giles was very glad in that instant Buffy had insisted on a weekend off.