"Thanks, Rupert, but I'll skip the champagne."
"No champagne?" Jenny wasn't looking at him, but her voice had been definitive. Giles glanced up at the waiter and changed the order to a bottle of sparkling mineral water. The waiter vanished in the direction of the bar. "I thought you liked champagne."
Jenny fidgeted with her fork. She'd been nervous when he'd picked her up at her flat, too. "I do, I do. It's, oh, God, I don't know how to say this. And it needs to wait. Until after dinner. Let's have a nice meal. Lovely place, Snobby. Been meaning to come here, but I never had a date."
"Jenny," he began, uncertainly. "I should like to hear it now, if I may."
She was looking everywhere but at him. "You're so polite. Always so polite. A gentleman, that's what you are, Rupert."
Would he have to take bad news like a gentleman, with a stiff upper lip and a polite smile pasted on? Valentine's Day was not a day for receiving gentle letdowns from the woman one had just admitted one was head over heels for. If any day was a good day. Like a gentleman, Giles waited patiently for whatever it was.
She sighed. "I should have told you right away. I know that. I admit freely that you'd be right to be upset with me. Secrets are-- wow, until I met you, I didn't realize they'd be so hard to handle."
Giles closed his hand around his napkin, crumpling it. His mind ran pell-mell from one possibility to the next. "Secrets? Jenny. Please."
She pulled her shoulders back and cleared her throat. "You remember our first night together?"
He flushed. He remembered it, despite the stupendous hangover he'd had afterwards. He had taken steps to renew the memory with fresh experience, as often as possible. And he had not mistaken her enthusiasm for her part of that renewal. He was certain of that, certain she at least enjoyed his presence in her bed, if he was as yet uncertain of her heart.
"You remember that we were a little bit, um, spontaneous?"
Giles nodded. He searched her face, trying to work out what she was about to say. She opened her mouth, but the waiter appeared with glasses and a bottle. He poured with a flourish, and was waved away again.
"So it turns out that the rhythm method is a bunch of hooey."
"The rhythm method?"
"You know. As a means of avoiding getting pregnant. Yeah. That. I'm eight weeks along. I've suspected for a while, and today I found out for sure."
That. Oh, lord. Giles stared at Jenny. Blank. That's what he felt. His mind was blank for two space of two breaths, then his head felt strange and dizzy. Emotion flooded over him, so intensely he had to look away from her, longing and hope surging through him and making his chest hurt. He was forty-two; he'd begun to despair of ever finding someone he might love enough to marry, never mind settling enough to have a child. But would she? She might not want a child. She might be upset. She might enjoy taking him to her bed, but being tied to him permanently was different matter. Tied to a Watcher. Oh Lord, she didn't know what he was.
Giles gulped his mineral water and wished it were something stronger. Though that had been the start of all the trouble: eggnog that had been more rum than egg.
"What-- what do you wish to do?" He was stammering as badly as he ever did.
Jenny leaned her elbows on the table. "I'm a modern woman, Rupert. My own silly choices got me into this mess, so I can see it through on my own. But, ah--"
"I was thinking it was a good time to have a kid. I'm a good age. If you'd like to be involved--"
Giles's heart leapt. "Involved?"
"You know. In some sort of parenting role. Non-traditional if you'd prefer."
Jenny stopped and raised an eyebrow. Giles gulped more mineral water; his mouth had gone dry, and he didn't think he could speak if he tried.
The waiter appeared and hovered. Giles waved him away. The interruption gave him a chance to gather himself. He knew what he wanted, but he also knew that he could not yet offer it in good conscience.
"There's something I need to tell you."
Jenny sat back. "Oh, God. You're married."
"Goodness, no! Nothing like that. Just--" Now it was his turn to wonder how on earth to say it. "I've seen the books and the herbs in your flat. I know that you know that magic is real."
He cocked an eyebrow at her and she nodded.
"The world is full of creatures who are not human. Every nightmare you've ever had, about things lurking the dark, all true. Vampires, demons, angels. Do you also know that?"
"I know that vampires are real, yes." She was smiling oddly, ironically, and he wondered if she'd had an encounter with one. It wouldn't surprise him, as she'd been on the Hellmouth longer than he. "But what does this have to do with us and our little accident?" A wave of her hand on the last word, downplaying it.
"I need to tell you what I truly do for a living. I'm not, I'm not a librarian. I mean, I am a librarian, but-- Have you ever heard of the Slayer? The Chosen One?"
Jenny shook her head. "No. Yes. Isn't she a legend?"
"No. Well, yes, she's a legend, but she is also real. A girl, one girl in every generation, charged to defend humanity against the vampires. She's a student at Sunnydale, and she is given to my care. She's my reason for being."
Jenny sat back and frowned at him. "Isn't that a bit melodramatic?"
"No. It's who I am. What I do. I am her Watcher. I prepare her to fight." Giles leaned forward, trying to read her face. She'd gone distant for some reason. "You don't seem surprised."
"I knew something was up. Your books. The swords in the rare book cage. The continual presence in your library of a student who acts as though she's never voluntarily read a book in her life."
Giles smiled, just a flash. "Yes, Buffy gives that impression, but she's really quite-- Jenny. The point is, is-- My life is dangerous."
She regarded him solemnly. "What are you trying to say? That you can't allow yourself to get tangled up with a wife and child?"
Giles shook his head. This was always a problem for Watchers. The Council recommended against it while one was in the field, but his father had always sneered at their timidity. If one stopped living out of fear, he'd said, the battle against evil was already lost. His father had married and raised Giles while an active Watcher.
"No, that's not it. It's just you're owed the truth. If we're to be together, you need to know who I am. Why I'm here."
Jenny was looking away, and the expression on her face was unreadable. "Wow. You've really raised the stakes here, Rupert."
He couldn't find any reply to make that didn't seem inane, so he said nothing. He pulled off his glasses and polished them, to give her time. She didn't need it, however.
"So. Now I know."
"And you're, you're willing to--"
"Up to you, Rupert. I, uh--" She looked down, and now Giles could read her face easily. She was embarrassed and pleased at once. "I've, you know, grown accustomed to your face."
"Oh. Yes. And, um, I yours."
There was silence between them. He met her eyes and she smiled. His heart expanded in his chest, and ached so much he thought he might die of it.
"What's the plan, Snobby?"
Plan? Giles's head spun, then it all settled into place. The future stretched out before him, clear and simple and bright.
"The plan. Right. We'll get married straight away. My flat is larger than yours, and I've gone and bought it anyway, so we'll either live there or let it and take a larger house. Can't say which yet. September? End of September? Forty weeks, isn't it?"
"Hold on. Did you just ask me to marry you?"
"Oh. Er. Not precisely. I, uh." He glanced around the restaurant. No, he wasn't going down on a knee here.
"I'll just have to ask you then. Wanna get married so I can make an honest man out of you?"
Giles grinned at her. Fatuously, foolishly, out of his mind with joy, he grinned, stretched out his hand, and met her halfway across the table.
Continued in Tactical Considerations