which way is up, again
The jovial ring of the bell above the Magic Box door sent everyone to their feet.
“So he’s awake? What happened? What’d the doctor say?” Willow asked, excitedly rushing to follow along with Dawn and Buffy as they dragged themselves through the door. Their silence didn’t deter the witch from continuing rattling on question after question as the young ladies made their way further inside, their faces long. “You saw him, right? Can we see him? How’s he doing? Does he miss us?”
Xander quieted her with a grip to her arm and directed her to sit. “ Willow, slow down and breathe. Let’s try the one question at a time approach first. If we don’t get anywhere with that, then we’ll resort to the CIA interrogation technique, ‘kay?”
“He doesn’t remember us… either of us,” Dawn said, flopping down dispiritedly into one of the chairs surrounding the bottom-lit glass, Scooby, round table.
“I think that maybe it goes for all of us… all of this,” Buffy glanced around the shop, sighed and took the seat next to Dawn, falling forward onto her folded arms upon the tabletop.
“You mean amnesia?” Willow squeaked, quickly taking up one of the many medical reference texts spread out in front of her. She started searching wildly through the pages. “With the loss of memory?”
“Is there another kind?” Anya asked as she finished counting the change in the register and pushed closed the drawer.
“Yeah, I mean… there are. In the sense that there are types…” Willow stammered, flustered. She couldn’t find the correct passage. Page after page suddenly seemed like a foreign language. She’d just read about it, the varying degrees and types like retrograde, lacunar, anterograde, transient global amnesia… and there were more. Where was the damn passage? If she could just find that index…
Tara reached out and carefully took the book from her.
“I’ll find it, okay?” she offered gently. “Its okay, Willow.”
“But it’s not,” Willow winced. “Giles doesn’t remember. This isn’t good. I mean, he’s our resident book guy, with the languages and the knowledge and the research. If he can’t remember Buffy and Dawn… what else can’t he…?”
“Maybe he could be our mascot? Every team needs a mascot,” Anya suggested optimistically, shrinking back at the glare she got from Willow.
“Maybe he was kidding… trying to pull a fast one over on you? You know Giles… that old practical joker.” Xander suggested then paused to take in the skeptically raised brows. “Okay, not so much.” He took a seat, succumbing to the gloom of the rest of the gang.
“Can he remember his name because I always thought he could do better than Rupert? Maybe Seymour or something more ethnic, like Carlos?”
“Anya!?” Xander barked and could see the wounded expression on her face with his sudden sharpness.
“I don’t know what he doesn’t know. They didn’t give us much time,” Buffy mumbled.
“But he’s out of the coma, right? How’d he look?” Willow asked, brow crinkled with worry.
“Was there drool and disconnected staring?” Anya asked bluntly, coming out from around the counter to join the rest of the gang at the table. “Glassy eyes, a far off, distant look, dementia…”
“Ahn, now is not the time for bedside doctoring, okay,” Xander suggested in a stern tone.
“No drool. No staring,” Buffy muttered. “Could barely even hold eye contact with me. He seemed aware but he was just … just weird.”
Tara could see the concern on all their faces, wishing to somehow help. “It could have been medication. Sometimes it c… can make you dazed and confused.”
“This was way past ‘Dazed and Confused’. Bordering on ‘Flowers for Algernon’.”
“But he looked good,” Dawn offered hopefully. “I mean, the swelling was less and all the bruising was fading. Looking much less Rocky Balboa and more English Patient.” Dawn shrugged. “Sorry, Buffy started it. Point is, Giles is okay, he just doesn’t remember, is all.”
Buffy mumbled under her breath, “Kinda envy that.” Apparently no one heard her.
“So when will Giles be back and should there be punch, cake and balloons?” Anya asked much too cheerfully, returning to the counter as a customer came through the door.
Buffy and Dawn exchanged sad glances.
“He is coming back, right?” Anya asked, quickly growing impatient with the lack of answer.
“That’s the thing,” Dawn sighed. “They don’t know if he’ll ever …”
Buffy jolted up quickly and gestured to the back room. “I got to go… um… trai… I just got to go.” She hurried off, disappearing behind the slamming door to the training room. The room remained quiet for a long moment.
“Sorry guys. She’s been like this since we saw him,” Dawn offered quietly. “I mean, I know it’s hard on her… it’s hard on all of us. But it’s not like he died. He’s still here, he’s still Giles.”
“But not really. Not until he remembers. *If* he will remember,” Willow sighed.
“Then we’ll just have to help him remember, right?” Tara wrapped her arm around Dawn’s shoulder.
The gang nodded half-heartedly.
“Um, what does this mean… for the Slayer/Watcher part? Will the Council send another Watcher to fill in for Mr. Giles?” Tara inquired in a more quiet tone to avoid unwanted civilian snooping.
“They did before,” Xander remembered unenthusiastically. “Didn’t work out so well.”
“Maybe I should call them,” Willow suggested, quickly getting to her feet and fidgeting in her spot on what to do next. “I can play middleman with the Council and give Buffy a chance to… you know, discharge some bad energies and all. This is all too much too fast. We don’t want her blowing a gasket.”
“Can we visit Giles?” Anya asked with hopeful expectation.
Dawn shrugged. “The doctor said to give it a few days. Let Giles get a handle on things before we all show up to remind him of what he’s forgotten.”
“So what? We just sit back and wait?” Xander grumbled. “We’ve waited for over a week for him to come to and when he does, they quarantine him from us? This isn’t fair.”
Tara reached out to calm him with a hand. “I’m sure it’s for the best…”
“Then the best so completely sucks,” Xander declared, pulling away. “I hate this!”
“Imagine what it’s d-doing to Mr. Giles,” Tara suggested with a sympathetic look. “This must be terrifying for him.”
square one and other geometric shapes
Therapy was tiring. Not for the physicality of it, the physicians told Giles he had retained much of his mobility. There was only a slight deterioration in motor functions resulting from the coma and injury. But it wasn’t the physical strain of recovery that drained him; it was the constant doubt that wore him down. With every face that crossed his path, Giles would rack his mind, trying to determine whether or not he should recognize their features and know them. Some people seemed familiar but none stood out clearly as family or friends or someone of consequence. It was like the chalk board of his mind had been erased, leaving only a smear of what had been before.
Overall, the hospital staff was nice, if not just a bit too rushed and busy. When they did find the time to check in on him, most talked to him as if he were a child, quickly testing the boundaries of his temper until he found himself not understanding something. Then he would be most appreciative of their calm, slow words and patient smiles. Unfortunately, there was quite a lot he found he didn’t understand and judging by the sympathetic looks on the therapist’s face, they were things he should. Colors, numbers, shapes and words all remained a mystery. The ideas… the concepts where there but hidden away for him to unravel again. Most of the time, he got it wrong but there were only encouraging phrases given in his presence. Kindly praises offered freely by professionals who were trained well at administering it like they would medication. But then he could hear the doctors discussing the realities of his condition just out of his vision and the words sounded harsh and ugly. Maybe he was doing something wrong. Or maybe it was this place.
For one thing, the room was always cold. The bed was too stiff and the pillows made his neck ache and the blinds were dusty and the cold colored lights hummed faintly above him. The food tasted like plastic and the plastic utensils poked his tongue. Made him wonder how he could remember what plastic tasted like. And how he remembered what his name was. But then he couldn’t remember how to tie his shoes or spell his name or even recognize it on a page. Everything was a blur and no one understood, even if they thought they did. Giles was alone. Even when in the company of people he supposedly knew, he was alone. All at once, it made him lonely, angry and depressed and he wasn’t going to eat whatever that green stuff was on the tray. It looked alive and slimy. He wanted something sweet.
With a boastful knock announcing his entrance, a tall, peppered dark haired man came through the door and flashed a beaming smile. He wasn’t wearing the customary doctor’s jacket, though he was wearing the identification clip commonly worn by attendees. But rather than displaying it like a proud badge upon his breast pocket, he clipped it low and out of the way from a belt loop on his tight fit black jeans. His shirt was loud and kinda ugly but it made a nice shimmer that caught Giles’ eye as it seemed to change in the light with movement.
“Hello Rupert, how’s things?” He asked with a lighthearted salute, eyes examining the room rather than the patient watching curiously from his bed.
“Word has it you met with the unfriendly end of a club and the club won.”
Finally the man’s eyes focused on Giles, dark and confident as well as strangely friendly. His brows lifted with expectation of an answer but Giles didn’t know what to say.
“Look well enough. Avoided damaging those ruggedly handsome looks of yours,” he winked as he removed the food tray, setting it aside, and took a seat at the edge of the bed.
“Are you… are you a doctor?” Giles asked, trying to politely avoid revealing his suspicions to the contrary.
The man smirked as he brazenly reached out to place his hand along Giles’ cheek, pinning him with an intense stare. “Of sorts, specialize in alternative therapies for those of special needs and circumstance.”
His eyes narrowed as he glided his thumb in to lift Giles’ eyelid back, examining carefully. Giles got the sense he wasn’t looking just at the eye but deeper somehow. It made him uncomfortable.
“And I’m… special?”
“Indeed you are, Rupert. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here, right?” He shifted to check the other eye.
“Wha… what’s s-special about me?”
“Well now… that’s for you to discover.” Another wink and Giles couldn’t help but smile at the strange man’s crooked grin. “It’ll take time but we’ll get you there, together.”
“I’m sorry d-doctor but… do I know you?”
The man’s hands fell to his lap and his gaze followed. The smirk remained, though with the slightest trace of disappointment.
“Naw, we’ve never met. Names Konton. Don’t bother with the formalities, only further inflate my already gargantuan ego. Besides, titles make me edgy. And you would be Rupert Giles, pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
He stood and reached out, offering Giles his hand. Giles drew back with the sudden spark that snapped between them as their hands met.
“Oh, sorry ‘bout that. Static electricity around here is bloody awful. Airs too dry, you see. Perhaps I’ll talk up one of those lovely young nurses into setting up a humidifier. In the mean time, we have a great deal of work ahead of us.” He began to stroll around the small space of the room, shaking his head discouragingly.
“First things first… lighting in here is deplorable and what in blazes is that smell? Simply won’t do. I’ll need to fetch my things. But for now, let’s start things off with this?” He dug into his jeans pocket and fished out a small, unlabelled medicine bottle. He popped the cap off the container and retrieved a solitary red pill in the palm of his hand, holding it out in a gesture for Giles to take it.
“What is it?”
“Medicine. Down it goes. No questions. No time for ‘em.” He stood insistent and impatient, waiting for Giles to follow his order. “Doctors orders.”
“You’re n-not like the other doctors.”
“And that’s what’s going to get you out of here faster. Haven’t got all day, Rupert.”
Giles took the oddly shaped pill and stared at it for a long moment. He gave it a quick sniff and cringed.
“Holistic medicines usually do.”
Holding his breath, he placed it in his mouth and forced down the dry, stubborn pill.
“Well done,” the Doctor said, retrieving another pill and popping it casually into his own mouth. Giles eyes went wide, watching with confusion as the odd Doctor pulled something out from his back pocket and placed it on the sheets in front of Giles. “And for being such a cooperative patient…”
It was a chocolate bar, the kind with almonds. Just the sight of it made Giles’ mouth water. He made short work of removing the wrapper, practically shredding it as he bit off a huge chunk of the bar, savoring the taste with a giddy smile.
“I see from your reaction you remember the finer things like dark chocolate.” Konton nodded, pleased. “Then the rest is a piece ‘a cake.”
Konton’s dark eyes lit up with an idea and he slapped his hands together, rubbing them anxiously. “Speaking of which, I could really go for some cake. Let’s say you and I head on down to the cafeteria and see what the real people are eating. Not this sodding rubbish, I can tell you.” He waved disapprovingly at the discarded tray.
“I don’t much like the food here.”
“As well you shouldn’t. Come along then.”
“Oh… alright.” Giles slipped out from under the sheet and carefully stood. Konton’s head shook again, bothered by something.
“What’s all this then?” He motioned toward the hospital gown. “I can’t be seen with you dressed like that. There must be something better here. You’re a gentleman, best look the part. ‘specially with all the pretties about.”
“Some l-ladies brought clothes. They put them there on the chair.” Giles motioned to a small, neatly folded pile of clothes.
“Not very inspired but they’ll have to do for now. What are you waiting for, Rupert?” Konton handed the bundle to Giles who stared down at them, eyes nervous.
“What’s the hold up?”
“I… I don’t remember…”
“Speak up about it then,” the Doctor hurried to start dressing him. “Can’t have you standing about without a clue, can we?”
“For the candy.”
“Ah, well there’s more where that came from, Rupert. Just you wait.”
Giles decided right then and there that he liked this doctor. They had similar interests, like cake for instance.