to keep it dark
Buffy struck the punching bag for what had to be the millionth time since Giles first introduced her to her very own training room. Everything about this place reminded her of her Watcher. The throwing knives displayed by the door, the rack of staffs tidily arranged off in the corner, the pommel horse, the well worn wrestling mats… it was all him. Buffy could smell him; the scent of their shared sweat lingering still beneath a mask of cleanser and incense. Sure, he’d clean the place, always kept it perfect, but he couldn’t wash away all their hard work from her, no matter how he’d try. Buffy wouldn’t have it any other way. That scent was evidence of his wisdom. It stained every inch of the room as they worked together tirelessly for hours on end, trying to keep her good enough to stay alive just one more day. Endless hours of effort that now had come to an end. It was why she would escape here, to remember what Giles couldn’t and might never again. No matter what happened, she would always have this room, the equipment, the physical representation of what once was.
With a faint knock, the door opened to reveal the concerned face of Willow. As she entered, quietly closing the door behind her, Buffy threw one final strike, sending the punching bag wobbling.
“You okay?” Willow asked as she sat down cross legged on the couch, preparing for a discussion Buffy didn’t want to have but knew the witch wouldn’t let her avoid.
“Same here,” Willow admitted gently, watching Buffy steady the punching bag. “Does the hitting help any?”
“A little. Wanna try?”
“I dunno. Does it hurt?”
Buffy shrugged. “Not anymore. Well, maybe just a little.”
“Think I’ll pass,” Willow smiled thankfully.
Buffy’s finger traced along the creases she’d put in the leather bag. “Ever think maybe he’s better off not knowing.”
Willow’s eyes went wide. “What?”
“Giles… I can’t help but feel that maybe this is like a new lease on life for him. No vampires, no prophecies, no destinies. Maybe it’s better for him… staying in the dark.”
“What are you saying, Buffy? That you wanna turn your back on him, let him stay this way?”
“It’s not about what I want to do, Willow. It’s about what’s best for him.” Buffy avoided Willow’s stunned expression, knowing that one glimpse would send her crumbling back into unwanted tears.
“I don’t think that’s what’s best for him. Besides, it would never work, Buffy,” Willow shook her head, trying to find the right words. “Giles… Giles is an explorer. Always has been. You can’t read all those books unless you’re driven by a seriously obsessive curiosity, right? I can’t believe a bump to the old noggin can take that away from him. Even if you decide to stay away, to hope he never remembers, he’ll find his way back somehow. I have to believe that.”
“Wonder if he doesn’t.”
“But if he doesn’t.”
“He will!” Willow said sternly and shied back at her suddenly sharp tone. “I’m sorry. It’s just… I mean, his place is here, with us. Anything else would… would just be wrong.”
“ Willow, you know I care a lot for Giles. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever…” she gulped down a sob and continued on in a whispering voice, as if ashamed. “But what if you could take it back… all this, erase the day you found out that the monsters under your bed are real…”
“I wouldn’t change a thing and neither would Giles, if he had a choice,” Willow said determinedly. “I know this is hard for you. But are you sure you’re not confusing something here. Is this about Giles or is this about you?”
Finally, a quick, angry look. Willow was almost relieved to see the emotion there, if only for a moment. At least she got something.
“I think maybe you’re the one who wants to forget, not him.” Willow stood, watching as the Slayer’s eyes looked everywhere but at her. “I can’t blame you. It’s tough and unfair and a royal pain, it really is. But the deal is this… Giles need’s you, Buffy, we all do. And more importantly, you need him. That’s the way it’s supposed to work with friends… with family. And no stupid amnesia, permanent or not, is going to change that, okay?”
“Yeah,” Buffy said unconvincingly.
“It’s been a little more than a week since you last saw Giles. He’s had some quality adjustment time and the doctor said it was okay to resume visitation. I know it’s going to be hard but it’s only going to get harder if you wait. Go see him, for us… for him.”
Buffy gave the punching bag a feeble nudge. “Okay, I’ll go.”
just the facts, man
The small office space was filled to the rafters with medical texts, looking much like a miniature library. The desk separating Buffy from Doctor Talbert was littered with medical forms and executive looking letterheads. It all gave her the sense that he was overworked. Then again, being a doctor on the Hellmouth, you’re job is definitely secure. She sat across from the doctor, arms folded sternly and staring forward at the politely smiling older gentleman, watching as he finished signing a few sheets off the imposing stack of paperwork. Like any challenge she faced, if she was going to do this right, she needed to be prepared.
“Look, doctor… I know you’re trying to spare me and my friends from disappointment or whatever. But I need to know the gruesome realities here. He doesn’t remember me. I get that. What else doesn’t he remember? For real, now. No sugar-coating, no bright-siding… just the plain, hard facts.”
Talbert let out a weighty sigh and set his pen aside. Following her lead, he sat back in his chair, crossing his arms before him in the most professional, detached exterior possible. They were both playing their parts well.
“Alright, you want the truth, here it is. Rupert has displayed a prominent deduction in cognitive skills. He can’t read and has difficulty exercising the most basic of logical skills such as arithmetic. He can reason but his comprehension is at the functional level equivalent of… say, a thirteen year old. His temperament and emotional responses have also been evaluated to be around that same level, often times seeming chaotic, irrational and even inappropriate.”
“You’re saying he’s a kid again.”
“In essence, yes. Fortunately, previous studies have show patients who’ve suffered similar trauma can relearn what they’ve lost at a faster pace than originally learned but it will take extreme patience and a great deal of time... years. And even with rehabilitation from highly skilled and licensed therapists, there are some things that will invariably remain a mystery to him. This is the real challenge for caregivers in this type of injury. To the rest of the world, he looks like a perfectly healthy, functioning adult man while in actuality, the lasting deficits appear… well, invisible.”
Talbert relaxed a little, recapturing some of his hope. “Surprisingly well, in that case. Rupert’s regained most of his motor functions which is remarkable considering the severity of the injuries and the coma. His verbal communication skills have improved considerably though his speech patterns are irregular and vocabulary somewhat limited. Even so, he’s incredibly bright and catching on fast. Doctor Konton is quickly winning a reputation as a miracle worker around these parts.”
Buffy didn’t recognize that name from the list that she’d mentally taken note of. “Doctor Konton?”
“I’m sorry. I thought you’d have met him by now. Apparently he’s a world renowned specialist in treating frontal lobe syndrome. Word has it that associates of his came upon Mr. Giles’ case file and the next thing we know, he shows up on our doorstep, waving all his usual fees, just to get a chance at working with such a unique patient.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “Sounds too good to be true.”
“Not really. Good Samaritan deeds by doctors often mask the less charitable motives behind them. He’s sure to get a prize winning book out of the deal. Favorable press can be far better than gold.” Talbert returned to skimming over and signing forms as he continued. “Anyway, Doctor Konton has been working with Rupert since his second week under our care. I must admit, I was skeptical at first. But I verified Konton’s credentials and they are undeniably impressive. Besides, Rupert seems to have taken a liking to him. Pleasant fellow. Quite the charmer and though rather eccentric in his techniques, his results speak for themselves.”
“Hope I get to meet him sometime.”
“You’re bound to, I'm sure.”
again, for the first time
“You’re doing very well, Rupert,” the nurse gathered the various wooden shapes cluttering the small table and tossed them within a plastic storage container. “I think we’ve just about exhausted elementary shapes and colors. How do you feel about moving on to tackle…”
She paused with notice of the nervously creased brow on Giles’ face. She turned to see what was causing his anxiety when she saw a petite blonde standing just beyond the doorway, looking on and reflecting his worry.
“Can I help you?” The nurse asked with a friendly smile, quickly triggering the blonde stranger to fidget fretfully.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to interrupt. I’ll come back… come back later.” She turned as if to walk away.
“Wait… you must be Rupert’s friend, Miss Summers?” The nurse stood and hurried to the door, offering her hand.
“Yeah… Buffy. Call me Buffy.” She nodded, returning her gaze to Giles. His green, glassless eyes never left her.
“I’m Nancy. No need to come back later. Just give me a second to get this mess cleaned up.” Buffy watched as the young, twenty-something, redheaded nurse continued collecting the shapes, returning them to their bin. “You’re early. We had you down for…”
“2:00, I know. Just came from a job interview that ended a bit earlier than expected.”
“Ah, congratulations, Buffy. What lucky employer snagged you up, then?” Nancy asked cheerily.
“Actually, I didn’t get it.”
Embarrassed, Nancy quickly returned to her tidying. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Buffy shrugged it off. “Don’t be. Getting used to rejection. Kinda my theme song at the moment.”
“Oh… well, hang in there. I’m sure you’ll find something,” Nancy assured her as she twisted the blinds open to allow more sunlight to come streaming in. “There, that’s better. I’ll get out of your way now, and let you two visit.”
“Thank you.” Buffy forced a smile.
“I’ll see you later, Rupert. We have a dinner date, remember?” Nancy said flirtatiously as she glanced back over her shoulder to Giles.
“A d-date?” Giles stammered, eyes set wide with panic.
“Watchin’ the Wheel together, aren’t we big guy?” She reminded him with a mocking Vanna White gesture of turning invisible letters.
“Ah… yes. That will be good, thank you.” Giles nodded, contentedly remembering.
“Wheel of Fortune?” Buffy’s lips curled to a disbelieving smile. She couldn’t imagine Giles ever watching that.
“Good for letter recognition and word comprehension. Nice to meet you, Buffy.”
“Nice to meet you too, Nancy.” Buffy said quietly as she stepped a few paces within the room. When the door shut behind her, Buffy realized that they were finally alone and she immediately got the overwhelming feeling of being trapped. The awkward silence between her and her companion made it obvious that he was feeling the very same way.
“I’m… I’m sorry,” Giles said softly, folding his hands to rest in his lap.
“Sorry? For what?”
“The j-job interview.”
“Oh that. Really, it’s nothing. Didn’t want that job anyway.”
She remained near the door flashing a faint smile which Giles tried his best to return, though uncertain. Overall, he looked healthy and surprisingly good, with only a small bandage now protecting his wounded forehead. Instead of the completely unflattering flower pattern gown from before, he was mercifully wearing something more fitting his style, loose fit jeans and a slightly frayed but comfy oversized grey sweatshirt. Buffy recognized it as Giles lounging-about-the-flat wear, what he would slip into when doing chores around the shop after hours or around the house on cleaning day. She couldn’t believe how good it felt to see him in something so familiar and was so amazingly glad she’d had the presence of mind enough to drop the clothes off, even if she didn’t remember a second of picking them out.
It almost looked as if his hair had grown out a little on the top or maybe it was just the absence of the bandage giving it that illusion or maybe the shaved backside. Either way, longer unruly curls jetted out in all directions. If she didn’t know any better, she’d actually think he was trying to keep with current trends in fashion. Buffy had to admit, he looked kinda cute in a messy, unkempt childlike way. Even though his appearance was comfortable, he obviously wasn’t. He sat painfully straight in his chair, stiff and tense like he was ready to dart from it at any sign of trouble. It was up to her to unwind the stress in the room.
“So you like Wheel of Fortune, huh?”
“No,” he responded frankly.
“Why do you watch it, then?”
“I don’t. I wait for the others to be w-watching then I sneak away. I like to take walks around the… the north wing. I return before the end of the show.” Every word he spoke was slow and deliberate, but with a gentle confidence.
“Walks?” Buffy wondered if this was some surrogate patrol activity. Maybe he remembered it somehow. “Ever get caught?”
“No. I’m real quiet.” There was pride in his quirky smile.
“Bet you are,” Buffy grinned, remembering how he used to suck at stealth training. She always got the best of him. “So… whatcha been up to?”
“Oh… um, recovery mostly.”
“Ah, yeah, well I guess you would be… right… um… yeah.” She moved forward, trying to act as casual as she could and took a seat across from him at the intimately sized table. Why was this so darn hard?
“Colors,” Giles blurted out, catching Buffy completely off guard.
“I know p-primary colors now. I mean, I guess I knew them before so that would make it again, wouldn’t it? So I know primary colors again, for the first time.”
“’Primary Colors’, what… like politics or something?”
“Red, yellow, and blue, actually.”
“Hey, how about that. I didn’t know those were primary colors. So what does that mean exactly? Are they all bossy like around all the other colors… bullying around orange, stealing purple’s lunch money and giving a wedgie to green?”
“I… I don’t think so.” He looked confused.
“It was a joke, Giles… I was just… just kidding.”
“Ah… yes.” He nodded. “All other colors are made up of just those three.”
“Not really. Still doesn’t explain the color of the doctor’s shirt. I can’t quite figure that one out.”
“Primary colors, huh.” Buffy saw the return of that proud smile form on Giles’ lips and it made her want to smile. It felt good. “You learn something new everyday.”
“Or something old,” Giles amended.
Buffy grinned. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“It’s all quite boring. Don’t know why I need to know any of it.”
It was scary how much that sounded like Dawn. “I used to ask the very same question through most of high school. So what other homework are they giving you?”
“Ick! I hated geometry.”
“It’s not so bad once… once you get to know them.” He relaxed a little in his position, slouching down and spreading his legs, claiming all the space and beyond that his chair had to offer.
“Know them?” Buffy raised a curious brow.
“Shapes,” he clarified and thought for a moment before continuing. “Squares are the friendliest but can be rather… um… blunt and p-perfectionist. Rectangles are strongly opinionated but their arguments are shallow. Triangles are narrow-minded but can be quite sharp witted.”
Buffy snickered at the strange observations. “That’s some mighty fine geometry. Who taught you that?”
“Doctor Konton, though he doesn’t like it when I call him doctor so I guess he’s just Konton, then.”
“I keep hearing about him. Sounds like an interesting guy.”
“I like him.” Giles smiled as he traced an invisible circle with his finger along the tabletop. “Ellipses are my favorite.”
“Why is that?”
“Because they are never what they seem. No beginning or end and they can appear perfect while being flawed.”
Buffy smiled. “What’s your opinion of an octagon or polygon?”
“Reruns of the others, like the p-plots of those silly soap operas the day shift nurses like to watch. Though I am rather fond of 'Passions'.” He glanced over to the door then out the window, looking restless.
“Um… I have a while before I need to go pick up Dawn. Would you like to go for a walk, Giles?”
“Yes please, Summers.”
It hurt at first, hearing him refer to her in that way, so informal. But Buffy quickly stopped herself from letting it get to her. This was just a new beginning to an old friendship. “Call me Buffy.”
“Okay, Buffy. You can call me Rupert.”