Author: Rose Williams
Disclaimer: Owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy et al.
Summary: A glimpse at Giles' early years
His father took him to the pub the day after his sixteenth birthday. The jukebox played There's Always Something There to Remind Me and Proud Mary. Vincent ordered them both a pint of the local ale and Rupert screwed up his mouth in disgust at his first taste. His father chuckled.
"You'd better get used to it," Vincent said. "You're not allowed to drink anything else."
Rupert nodded. It went down easier in the second time and he smiled.
"Have you given any thought to what you'll study next year?"
"Yeah, some," Rupert said. His adolescent recalcitrance was mostly feigned and he filled the silence his father left him.
Ethan produced the bottle from his jacket with a flourish. The light in the shed was dim, but the candle Deirdre was holding reflected of the shiny parts of the label. The triumphant booty was a bottle of not very cheap gin. Philip cheered.
Rupert rolled his eyes, hidden by the flickering shadows. He liked Ethan, and he was pleased that the others were beginning to be impressed by them. But he still felt like that they were playing at the occult. Deirdre had conjured a light for the room last time.
Rupert had done as much in a school classroom.
Ethan unscrewed the cap on the bottle and took a swig before handing it to Deirdre. Deirdre deliberately wiped the bottle before she took a swig. Philip giggled.
"So what are going to do this evening?" Ethan asked.
Rupert waited til he had swallowed his first mouthful of the gin. Then he reached for the book he had brought and chucked into the centre of the pool of light. The candle flickered ominously over the embossed demon face on the cover.
Rupert closed his notebook, dropped his pens into his satchel and pushed past the crowd gathering around Professor Robson. It was only half past four, but if he returned to his rooms he would spend the time til dinner not thinking about dead bodies and Ethan's smirk. So he went to the pub.
The boy, at least a year younger than Rupert and much less experienced in many ways, sat down opposite him twenty three minutes later. Rupert thought he'd been sitting down the row from him.
"You were at Robson's lecture, yeah? Did you understand what he was saying?"
"You have to take into account conservation of energy. Then the equation can be used for anything stronger than about point-three, if you remember to convert Wilson's constant," Rupert said.
He had had to rely on that more than once with Ethan's idea of what magic should be used for. The guy he was talking to now was not Ethan, and he looked more overwhelmed than excited by the thought of things he did not yet understand.
"Why?" he demanded. He seemed to feel that was rude and held his hand out across the table. "Michael Sullivan. Call me Sully."
Rupert shook his hand. "Rupert Giles," he said.
"And no one's given you a nickname?" Sully asked.
The name Ripper was immediately on the tip of Rupert's tongue. But he knew it would come out in Ethan's voice, so he simply shook his head.
"Anyway. You have to be careful, because otherwise things explode." Rupert drank half the rest of his pint and decided that he could like Sully. It wasn't particularly difficult to use, if one remembered that Wilson worked in metric measurements and vampires didn't have a body temperature.
Sully bought the next round and didn't ask too many questions about how Rupert had spent the last couple of years.
The pub was more crowded than seemed possible. Rupert was squashed into a corner on top of a pile of book bags and jackets. Victoria was pretty much sitting on his lap, so he didn't mind.
"Rupe!" Sully shouted over the heads of the others, and Rupert winced at the sound of the nickname. Victoria giggled at the way he moved and clung to him, and he smiled, generally good humoured. It was, after all, the last day of assessment. Now it was nerves until results.
Sully held his glass up with a questioning tilt of his head. Rupert nodded and then got to watch, amused, as Sully squeezed his way past and around people to get to the bar.
"I have to find some money," he told Victoria, slipping his hand between them to reach his backpack. She giggle again and reached around him for her own purse lost in the pile. Her breasts ended up pressed against his chest and she smiled at him. Really, Rupert thought, it was the best day ever.
Rupert rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes, ran his fingers through his hair and sighed loudly. It didn't change anything, so he look back at his notes. They were longer particularly helpful. He reread the page he was checking and frowned when it failed to sound groundbreaking.
Rupert picked up his glasses, cleaned them, put them on and looked at the clock. It was closer to one than midnight, now. And he still had eight pages to mark up before he sent his thesis to be typed.
Seven minutes of staring blankly at the wall had only brought the minute hand of the clock to quarter to one. Rupert pushed his chair back and crawled under his desk to fish out the crate he'd hidden back there when he'd moved into the room.
He didn't look at the titles of the books he dropped beside him -- carefully face down.
The bottle of gin was still there. It was very dusty. Rupert wiped the dust off with the end of his sleeve before crawling back out from under the desk.
A glass of not very cheap gin by his elbow, and his glasses sitting on top of the pile of abandoned texts, he went back to work. A mouthful at the end of each page should get through, he thought.
The graduation ceremony is a deceptively simple process. New Watchers have their name called, in order. They across the stage to sign their name in an ancient register with an ancient pen. Then they are given a silver ring. After all the nine new Watchers are sealed into the Council (that's the bit that isn't simply, but it's done by magic where no one can see) there is a gathering the dining hall with a speech.
Rupert actually listened to the speech. He suspected that Sully did not; but he found the words an easy distraction from the itch of magic knitting itself into his skin.
Everyone applauded. Rupert chanced a glance at his father, who was beaming with joy, and felt more nervous than he had sixteen. Then he had had some idea of what he was going to do next. He had been fatally wrong about that, and now, all his training over, he was going to be let loose on the world.
Rupert's grandmother, seated on the other side of his father, was turning her own silver ring over and over between her fingers. Rupert had never seen it before. He tightened his fist around his own ring with a brief flare of pride.
Grandmother caught his eye and her glass to him.
"Freedom," she whispered, with a smile and a glint in her eye.
Rupert smiled his thanks, and took a sip of wine in toast.
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