ouch is a four letter word, too
“Rupert.” A whispering voice broke Giles sleep, urgently repeating his name over and over again. “Rupert, wake up.” A rough hand shook his shoulder, “Up and at ‘em, Rupert.”
Giles stirred a little, eyes dizzily opening to focus on the insistent person disturbing him. He sluggishly swiped the intruding hand away, trying to nuzzle back into the sheets.
“Why do you have to be so damn difficult? Rupert, rise and shine. Get a bloody move on.”
“Konton? Is it morning already?” Giles mumbled, reaching up to wipe the sleep from his eyes.
“Not quite. We have to go for a walk.”
Giles glanced around the long shadows of the darkened room. Seeing it was still night, he shot the doctor a confused look.
“A w-walk? Now? What time is it?”
“Time for no arguments. Come along, doctor’s orders.” Konton began pulling Giles from the bed with an uncharacteristic impatience.
Giles gave up arguing as he sat up and hopped out of bed to the floor. The sting of the cold floor sent a chill up his body as he tiredly reached for his jeans.
“Forget them. No time.”
Giles glanced down to his t-shirt and boxers. “No time?” he squeaked. “No time to dress?” His wide eyes stared past his friend and a subtle trace of worry creased his brow. “Um, Doctor, w-who are they?”
Konton let out an anguished sigh as he turned around to see three brow-bent faces blocking their only way of escape.
“This must be them, can smell the stink of magicks all over ‘em,” one man snarled and the others snorted in agreement.
There was something about these three strangers Giles just didn’t like, making his stomach knot, heart race and legs twitchy. For one thing, they were scary; large, all dressed in dark colors and had dangerous eyes. Eyes like flames but cold. And then there was the smell, a stench somehow familiar. Something sick, rotten. It suddenly came to him, they smelled like the morgue.
Giles looked to Konton for a reaction. The doctor was worried, though trying hard to hide it. Unsure of what to do, Giles leaned forward, whispering nervously into his friend’s ear. “Wow, must have been some strange car accident to do that.”
Konton ignored his confused companion and raised his hands in a passive display. “So what’s it to be, boys? How much are the nerdy types paying?” he asked, backing away and corralling Rupert along with him. “I’ll double it, and throw in a charm for the misses…”
“We don’t want nothin’ from you but your blood, sorcerer,” one stranger growled. At that, all three stalked closer.
“Sorcerer?” Giles repeated, glancing expectantly at his anxious friend. Blood, sorcerer… this wasn’t good, whatever it was.
“A long story best kept for another time, Rupert. But for now…” Konton retrieved something from his jeans pocket, “Run!” He slapped the mysterious item between his hands and with a strange phrase, cast the entire room into a brilliant light. The rude visitors roared as they covered their blinded eyes.
Before Giles knew it, Konton grabbed him firmly by the arm and was guiding him past the scarily deformed men. Once they made it out to the hall, Rupert staggered to a halt, blinking wildly to try and clear his stunned vision.
“Wha… what’s happening?” Giles voice cracked.
“That’s what I’d like to know!” yelled a voice from down the long stretch of hall. It was Rupert’s new old friend, Buffy. At the first glimpse of her, Doctor Konton took off running in the opposite direction. Buffy began to give chase then stopped when she reached Giles.
“Are you okay?” she asked, examining Giles’ head for any sign of another injury.
“I’m…. I’m fine but…”
“Who was that, Giles?” Buffy asked eagerly.
“Who?” Buffy repeated.
She sounded mad. Was she angry at him? “K-Konton…” Giles stammered then reached out for her. “Look out!”
With a swift tug of her arm, Giles pulled Buffy clear of a fist coming dangerously close to connecting with her head.
“What are you d-doing?” Giles asked the misshapen man, stunned at his unprovoked violent behavior.
Another of the mean men rushed aggressively forward and Giles staggered backwards to avoid suffering a nasty strike. “That could hurt someone.”
“They know that, Giles!” Buffy barked sharply, charging straight for Giles. He braced for impact when she suddenly veered off, tackling the stranger closest to him. They fell hard to the floor and wrestled for dominance until she landed a series of solid blows to the man’s chest and stomach. Then with inhuman strength, the stranger used his feet to vault her up over his head and sent her crashing to the unforgiving wall. She collapsed to the floor, lying flat on her back and motionless.
“B-Buffy?” Giles hobbled forward to see if she was alright but stopped mid-step when, with an agile buck of her legs, she miraculously sprang her body airborne, returning upright in time to spin around and plant a devastating kick to the midsection of one of the men. He buckled forward as his companion attacked. Instinctively, Giles stormed forward and rammed his shoulder square against the attacker, pushing him off balance and giving Buffy just enough time to counter.
Giles gasped in horror of his own violent actions and reached out, apologetically gesturing as if to help the man back up. “You w-want to hurt me?” he asked, bewildered. “Did I do s-something wrong?”
“No!” Buffy continued to batter the fallen man with her knees, her fists, her feet, moving incredibly fast and keeping him pinned to the ground. “They’re the bad guys, Giles. Not you.”
“Oh… okay. In that case…” Giles looked down to see the man trying to get to his feet.
“Uh-oh.” He went from offering the man a hand to slamming his fist hard into the man’s face.
The stranger recovered immediately, roaring in response to reveal sharp, drooling, beast-like fangs. Giles gasped and retreated in shock at the sight of those menacing dagger-like teeth. What was wrong with these guys?
Giles glanced back and spotted Buffy as he tried to gather the words enough ask a dozen questions. Before he could sound a single one, however, he caught sight of the fallen bad man reaching for Buffy’s leg as the other distracted her with an attack. Something set him in motion. He hurried forward, sending his bare foot stomping downward to slap as hard as he could across the ugly man’s face. The man growled in response, baring his fangs as he changed targets and crawled furiously after Giles.
The assailant closed the distance instantly and caught hold of Giles’ ankle, tripping him up and sending him faltering backwards to the floor. The next thing Giles knew, the brute was hovering above him, fangs drooling as they drew nearer. But the attack he feared never came; instead, the enraged man disintegrated into a cloud of ash that rained down to tickle Giles’ stunned face. He blinked and lifted his eyes to see Buffy holding what looked to be a piece of sharpened wood where the man’s chest had been.
Rupert sat up, wordless and utterly stunned. His eyes fluttering the dust away to watch as Buffy pivoted fast and buried the sharp wooden stick into the second charging bad guy’s chest. The man swore his last word and evaporated into another inexplicable haze of dust. Suddenly, an arm came around from behind Giles and locked his neck in a strong choke hold, forcing him upright. He clawed uselessly at the inhumanly strong forearm, struggling to breathe and quickly feeling panic overwhelming him.
“Let him go!” Buffy ordered, wooden stick twirling in her hand.
“Sure, that’ll work,” the attacker snickered as he tightened the hold, choking off Giles’ throat entirely.
Head throbbing, heart pounding, face flushing with the strain of trying to breath, Giles felt a burning anger well within. He slapped his feet down hard to the floor, pushing off with all his might, sending himself and his attacker tumbling backwards awkwardly. They collided against the wall, but it was a futile gesture as the intense hold on his neck remained, growing ever stronger.
In a burst of motion, Buffy lunged forward and with a brutal tug, snapped the monster-man’s bones back in the wrong direction, freeing Giles. He stumbled away, gasping for breath, turning around just in time to see his new old friend stab the wooden stick into the last man’s chest, right about where his heart would be. The man’s face suddenly shifted, looking normal yet alarmed. There was no sign of deformation anymore, only fear. A second later, his entire body dried to dust and powdered before Giles’ eyes.
“Are you okay?” Buffy took a weary step towards him. When she didn’t get a response she asked again, more urgently.
“I t-think so,” he gasped, still trying to catch his breath. “Ouch!” He cringed as he cradled his wrist within his other hand.
“Ouch? I don’t like ouch. What’s wrong?” Buffy hurried over to him.
“My wrist, it hurts.” He winced as she examined the length of his arm with tender pinches and pokes.
“Doesn’t feel broken. A little strained, maybe. Probably just bruised,” she suggested, searching the rest of him for injury. That’s when she realized Giles’ partial state of undress and immediately looked away, face flushing with a discomfited smile. “Um… maybe we should get some pants on you, eh Rupert?”
Giles glanced down and back up at her, offering a distracted shrug. They returned to the solitude of his room just as the lights in the hall came on and hospital attendants finally came out to investigate the late night ruckus. She closed the door behind them and carefully guided Giles to his bed. He took a seat on the edge of the mattress, his green eyes watching the shimmer of the fine dust drifting off her clothes, floating on the wind generated by her movements.
“You’re special, aren’t you?” he asked softly.
“What?” Buffy asked from the opposite side of the room, just a feminine silhouette framed by the dim glow of the window lit from the street lamps outside.
“You’re one of the s-special people my friend Konton told me about.”
Buffy brushed the dust from her arms and nodded wearily. “Yeah, something like that. But you can’t tell anyone, okay?” She asked in a whisper, her eyes pleading to him. “Can you keep a secret, Rupert?”
“Oh, yes. I like secrets.”
“That’s good because I can tell you more secrets, like what those guys were and why they wanted to hurt you. But you have to promise not to tell anyone else,” she bargained. “Can you do that? Can you promise me?”
Giles nodded, a sincere yet curious glint to his features. “I promise.”
delicate threats and salutations
“We want to take Giles home, Doctor Talbert,” Buffy requested, arms cross resolutely before her.
“To England?” The Doctor’s brow creased with concern at the six determined youths intruding in on the small space of his office.
“No, home with us, where he belongs,” Dawn said, mirroring her sister’s pose.
“I’m sorry but that just isn’t possible.” Talbert tried to return to his paperwork.
“Come on, Doc. Ain’t so tough.” Xander flashed a friendly smile. “Just sign the release and we’ll take it from there.”
Talbert set his pen aside and with a heavy sigh, focused somberly on Buffy. “I don’t think you understand, Miss Summers. Rupert requires extensive rehabilitation. He’ll need to go through a community re-entry program to prepare him for what he’ll face when leaving this institution.”
“He’ll get all the help he needs and more. We’ll make sure of it,” Willow assured him.
“And there are the things you couldn’t possibly know to teach him,” Anya suggested candidly. “Critical details that are extremely important for Giles to know but that you’re too naive to….”
“Ahn…” Xander interrupted her with a stern look and she shrank back, irritated.
“Taxes…” Tara said with a shy smile. “She m-means taxes.”
“Yes, well, in any case, I understand there are extenuating circumstances regarding his relationship to you all. And I know you care for him dearly. But based purely on the precedent and nature of his numerous and quite frankly suspicious injuries he’s suffered over the years, I can’t help but feel that being released into your care would predispose Rupert to another possibly harmful situation. Not intentional, mind you. I’m merely concerned that returning him to his former environment might put him at further risk.”
“After the break-in last night, I don’t think he’s any more protected here. Besides, I won’t let anything happen to him. I swear,” Buffy urged.
“I appreciate your concern, I really do. You’re an incredibly caring, responsible and independent young lady but with all due respect, I’m not fully convinced you and your network of well-meaning friends can handle the necessary requirements in caring for such a dependant patient.”
Buffy stepped forward and pointed a finger to the paperwork littering the doctor’s desk. “Then look again, doctor because me and my gang of well-meaning friends handled my mother and her affliction the best we could. Every nurse in this facility will back me up when it comes to our care for her.”
The doctor nodded, carefully choosing his next words. “You’re right. I know. I looked… rather thoroughly, I might add. But that was entirely different. She was your mother… your f… ”
“Giles is my family… our family,” Buffy interrupted. “He just doesn’t remember it yet.”
“I’m afraid I can’t, in good faith, release him.”
“I suggest you give this gentleman a call before you commit to a decision, Doctor.” Willow stepped forward and handed him a business card with the name Quentin Travers on it. “Because if your answer is anything other than ‘yes’, a certain undisclosed investigation into the widespread mental illness epidemic that broke out last year in Sunnydale… the same one that this hospital failed to follow the CDC’s regulations in containing and reporting… will be miraculously disclosed to the local newspapers.”
Buffy smirked, folded her arms and added, “I’m thinking you and your hospital don’t want that. After all, if favorable press is better than gold, I gotta think *unfavorable* press is what? Worse than sh...”
“You’ll need quite a few things. I’ll start a list.” The doctor took up a notepad and started scribbling.
the hard sell
Rupert was surprised to find Doctor Konton in his room, standing at the end of a freshly stripped bed, nearly finished packing a suitcase with familiar things. Giles’ things.
“Wha… what’s going on?” Giles asked nervously, slowing stepping inside the room.
“Alas, sweet prince, tis time for you to go home.” Konton smiled wistfully.
Giles’ eyes went wide with the news and his mouth fell uselessly open with voiceless objections. “But … but this… this is my home.”
Konton folded the halves of the suitcase together and snapped the latches closed, returning the case to rest flat on the bed. “No, Rupert, your home, your *real* home, is with Buffy and your friends… your family. It must be exciting for you.”
Giles eyes searched the room, finding all his projects and his assignments, his personal items were gone, probably packed away. His thoughts scrambled to make sense of it and his mouth wouldn’t work for him. He couldn’t argue, only question, only doubt.
“But… but I don’t remember them,” he argued quietly, voice breaking, brow creased with worry.
Konton took a seat on the edge of the bed and folded his hands in his lap. “They remember you, Rupert. Perhaps that is enough?”
Giles’ fingers fidgeted at his sides, as if wanting to do something but undecided on what. “But… but you won’t be there.”
“No, I won’t.”
“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be welcome.” Konton stood and crossed his arms as if fortifying himself for Giles onslaught of refusal.
“Is that why you ran away the other night?”
The doctor chuckled faintly and nodded, remembering. “I prefer to view it as making a hasty exit, but yes, that had quite a lot to do with it.”
“Come with me.”
“Can’t do that.”
“I want you to.”
“I know, but I can’t.”
“But… but I’ll miss you, Konton.”
“I’ll miss you too, Ripper… Rupert…” the doctor corrected, shaken by his slip.
Giles cocked his head sideways and lifted a curious brow. “Ripper?”
“Sorry, an old name for an old soul. My mistake. But this… but now, you’re a new born babe, Rupert. No strings tying you down, mate. You’re ready for this, even if you don’t believe it yet.”
A nurse peeked in from around the doorway. “Oh, I didn’t know you where here, Doctor. Mr. Giles’ friends are here for him. Should I send them in?”
“No, he’ll join them shortly. Thank you, Nancy,” the doctor acknowledged with a gracious nod.
Giles’ face set stiff with panic. “I don’t want to go.”
“Yes, but I’m afraid we are all doomed to do things we don’t wish to. That is an unfortunate side effect of life. You’ll see this is for the best soon enough.”
“Come with me.”
“Again, not my place to. I’m needed elsewhere.”
“To help others like me?”
“No Rupert, there is no one else quite like you.” Konton smiled sincerely.
“Because I’m special?” Giles asked, repeating the words Konton had used upon their introduction weeks ago.
“That you are.”
“Buffy is special, too.”
“That’s why you need to go with her.” He lifted the suitcase and set it down beside Giles. “Now go… be with your family. Doctor’s orders.”
“If you say so.” Giles’ jaw clenched miserably as he gave in with an unenthusiastic nod. He stood there, not moving, just staring at his friend and contemplating. “I knew you before, didn’t I?”
Konton waited a long moment before smiling regretfully. “Yes, Rupert. You did.”
Giles nodded his understanding. After a few seconds more, he crossed the small space of the room and wrapped his arms around the man, catching him in a genuinely warm embrace.
“Thank you,” Giles said softly, hugging him. The doctor seemed to tense for a moment before lifting his arms up to apprehensively return the hug.
“Thank you, Rupert.”
Konton pulled away, running his fingers through his hair and distractedly pressing out the wrinkles in his shirt with the palm of his hand. For the first time since they’d met, the doctor seemed uncomfortable, almost sad and trying desperately to hide it.
“Now you remember what I taught you, right?” He said, clearing his throat as he spoke.
“Pink Floyd, biscuits, scotch and…”
“And?” The doctor’s brows lifted with expectation.
“Magicks,” Giles concluded proudly.
His friend smiled proudly. “Spot on, Rupert. You’ll do fine.”