Minimal preparations were required for the ritual. Several witches placed additional bowls of smoldering herbs at the points and along the circle of the pentagram. Another opened Rupert’s shirt and painted what looked like mystical symbols across his chest, throat and forehead. While this was going on, Minerva took Buffy aside to explain the plan to her.
“Buffy,” Minerva began. “A curse has been transferred to Rupert. It created a darkness within him that will kill him if it is not removed. We will have to use magic to remove it. We will raise a shield around the pentagram and call the darkness out. With the spells and incidentals we will use, it will not be able to return inside him, and it will be trapped within the pentagram. Without a host, it will die.”
“Piece of cake, right?” Buffy said nervously.
Minerva smiled gently. “Strong magic is never a piece of cake, Buffy, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed. Hopefully, it will work. But if it goes badly, you must trust me, and you must follow my instructions to the letter, or you risk his life and his soul. The most important thing is that you must not, at any time, cross the pentagon, no matter what may be happening to Rupert. If the containment is broken, the darkness will be free to draw on our gathered magic and kill us all.”
“Got it, no crossing the pentagram. No matter what’s happening to my Watcher. Crap.”
“I know, my dear. But you’re a strong young woman, and you love your Watcher, and I know you will find the strength to do this.”
As Buffy pondered the meaning of "you love your Watcher," Minerva turned to the assembled coven once more. “My Sisters, we begin.”
The Sisters began to hum a low, monotonous tune. It was almost unnoticeable, but it was rhythmic, and Buffy could sense the power in it. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel when the shield was raised around the pentagram. She looked at Rupert lying peacefully unawares within. Whatever happened now was going to happen, and she couldn’t stop it.
“Oh Great Earth Mother,” Minerva intoned, raising her hands to the heavens. “We lay before you your son Rupert, our brother. We beseech thee, draw out the darkness from his body which impedes his service to you and to our sister Buffy whom you have entrusted to his care. Let it dissipate here within our hold and trouble no other again. Return to Rupert the strength he needs to fulfill his mission as Watcher, and to drive the curse of the demons from your breast.”
As Buffy watched, Rupert took a deep breath followed by a long exhale. Through her Slayer senses she detected something leaving his body and swirling around in the pentagram shield. Then suddenly it was gone, apparently having found no other host to sustain it as Minerva had said.
Buffy stood suddenly, but remained where she was as Minerva had directed her. Minerva herself moved forward and placed her hand on the shield, searching.
“My Sisters, you have done well. The darkness is gone. You may lower the shield.”The humming stopped and the Sisters began chatting happily to themselves on a job well done.
Buffy was puzzled. “That’s it? That’s all it took?”
Minerva knelt at Rupert’s side and looked up at Buffy. “What can I say? We’re good.”
“Buffy, my dear. It is only by our experience and restraint that this came off so well. Those things I warned you of, could have been. Thankfully, the magic and The Great Mother found Rupert worthy, and granted our request. We can be but thankful.”
Buffy knelt at Rupert’s other side. “Is he . . .”
Rupert’s eyes opened at the sound of his Slayer’s voice. “I am,” he replied softly, meeting her eyes.
Buffy took his right hand in hers and pulled it to her, and reached to brush back the hair from his eyes. “Welcome back, Watcher,” she said, trying not to reveal she was getting choked up.
Minerva interrupted. “Forgive me, but you two will have ample time to catch up with each other soon. Right now, it is critical that Rupert rest. While you are free of the curse, Rupert, you are yet very weak. You must rest to regain your strength and finish healing. We’ve prepared some herbs and supplements to help you mend. We’ll be taking you to the healer's cottage in just a moment.”
“Thank you,” Rupert whispered. “All of you.”
Minerva smiled and placed her hand on his forehead. Rupert barely managed a nod before he was swept into a deep sleep once again. The stretcher witches appeared and began to load him up.
Buffy tried to help, but Minerva pulled her gently away. “I know you want to be with him, Buffy, but now he needs to rest. His nature, his calling, is to give to you, and right now, he can not. All his energy must be directed to his recovery.”
“But I just want to be with him,” Buffy protested, as she watched Rupert borne away to the healer’s cottage.
“There is a bond between you that you have just begun to fully sense, just begun to learn to utilize. You are linked to each other by that bond, as Watcher and Slayer, as Teacher and Student, as friends. The bond is always there, even when you don’t sense it. Let him rest.”
“I don’t really understand, but I’ll do what you say – for him.”
“Good. And while he heals, there are things which you and I must speak of. I can help you understand things about Rupert, about yourself, and about your work together. There are things you need to know. You came late to your calling, and there is so much he has to teach you, and there is little time to do so between fighting off the demons.”
“I think he’s done pretty well . . .,” Buffy instinctively began to defend her Watcher.
“Dear Buffy, I’m not criticizing him. And I leave the order in which he wishes to teach you to him. But there are certain lessons I fear he will hold back from you, because he will not wish to appear to impose on you.”
“Well, that does sound like him. Mr. Proper. But why would you be doing this? Wouldn’t this be a Council thing?”
“Our coven has a relationship with the Council. Especially since the Fall, we have endeavored to work more closely with them, when they’ve allowed it, to the mutual benefit of humankind. We have good relationships with certain of the Watcher families – Rupert’s among them. I’ve known him since before his birth, as I knew his father and grandmother before him.”
“His grandmother was a Watcher?”
“One of the best. I think she had a bit of witch in her as well.” Minerva winked. "The real answer is that Rupert is special to me, and to this Coven. The Council has not always treated him well, nor treated Watcher/Slayer pairs as they should. The Council fears the bond between them, when they should be encouraging it. They fear losing control."
“What do you want me to do?” Buffy asked.
“Spend time with me over the next few days. I believe I can share with you some information that will be helpful to both you and Rupert.”
“I can do that, I guess. Especially if he’s going to be sleeping.”
“Very well then. Shall we go make some tea and begin?”
“When you were asking the other members of the coven about whether or not to try to use magic to help Rupert, you said something about him knowing darkness in his youth.”
“I was wondering when you would ask me about that,” Minerva replied. “I’m afraid that is Rupert’s choice to speak to you of that, when and if he chooses. But I can tell you this. There are some events in Rupert’s life which some on the Council say tainted him.”
“But you say . . .?”
“They prepared him to be the man you needed to be your Watcher.”
“I plan to bring Rupert out of the deep sleep tomorrow morning, Buffy. We’ll keep you two here for another day or so, just to observe Rupert and make certain he’s fully recovered,” Minerva explained.
“God, I can’t wait to see him up and about again,” Buffy replied. "I keep thinking something is going to go wrong – I just can’t shake the feeling.”
“I know, but this time has been good for both him and for us.”
“Yeah. I agree. It’s been good to be here, talking with you and the others. It’s so peaceful here. I kind of hate to leave it.”
“Once Rupert is awake your Calling will return.”
“I know - I mean I guessed. And we’ll go forth and kick vampire butt again. I’m just sayin’ . . .”
Minerva put her arm around Buffy and gave her a hug. “I have some things for you to take with you.”
“Oh?” Buffy inquired.
“In this satchel here you will find healing herbs to restock Rupert’s supply, plus a few he doesn’t know about. I’ve written a note of instructions for him.”
“Thank you. Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but isn’t that satchel a little heavy looking for herbs?”
“There is also some reading material for you, Buffy. Excerpts from the Chronicles, selected Watcher’s Journals, and other texts which I’ve chosen to help you understand some of the less martial aspects of your “Slaying Business” as you call it.”
“Am I going to be able to read it?” Buffy asked, uncertain.
“With Rupert’s teaching, and our few lessons we’ve had together, plus a small translation spell I’ve placed on the words, I believe you’ll have little difficulty.”
“Thanks, Minerva. I don’t know what to say.”
“You could say that you’ll take care of my favorite Watcher, but then, I know you’re going to do that already.”
“You can count on that.”
After breakfast, two days after Minerva revived Rupert from the healing sleep, he and Buffy made preparations to leave.
“You know,” Buffy began, “I kind of hate to leave here.”
Rupert raised his head from his packing and turned towards her. Buffy put her hands up.
“Wait, wait, before you start. Yes, I have a sacred duty. Yes, we need to get back out there and kick demon butt, etc.”
Rupert smiled. “Actually, Buffy, I was going to say I agreed with you. But you are right, we are needed to keep the world from sinking into a ‘demonic cesspool of evil’.”
Buffy stared at him wide-eyed for a moment, then pulled a pillow off the bunk in the cottage where she’d been sleeping and whupped him upside the head a moment. “You skunk! You did hear my big noble speech of selfless loyalty!”
Rupert put up his arms to defend himself from her mock onslaught. "Yes, the one where you . . ." whap "threatened to bring me back . . ." whump "just to kill me again!”
“Yeah, the one where I was like, totally noble, and used big words so they would click into your big ‘ole brain.” She whapped him again with the pillow. “Tell me it was noble, or face the consequences!”
“It was noble!” he shouted, but the pillow found its mark anyway. He lost his balance and they both went down laughing, goose feathers drifting lazily around them. The pillow fell to one side and Buffy found herself lying atop Rupert’s chest, her arms around his shoulders, his hand stroking back her hair.
“I’m sorry, Buffy.” Rupert said when he’d recovered his breath. “It was a beautiful speech, and I did appreciate it very much, but I’m afraid not much more than my ears were working at that point in time.”
“S’okay,” Buffy’s muffled voice said into his shirt. “I’m just so glad to have you back now.”
As if on cue, they both abruptly realized the position they found themselves in and cleared their throats simultaneously and scrambled to their feet.
“Well,” began Rupert.
“Uh,” began Buffy.
“We should . . .”
“ . . . really finish packing.”
After many, many hugs and good byes and thank you’s and scritches to Belle’s nose, Buffy and Rupert took their leave of the Devon Coven, having been made to promise to return soon.
Rupert was glad to be alive and free of the curse, and looked forward to spending time training with Buffy again – especially on that left shoulder drop. He puzzled over the difference one year had made in their relationship. She’d gone from not wanting anything to do with him, and almost getting him killed, to being willing to sacrifice her life for him. She’d accomplished so much, and he was so proud of her. He prayed the Fates would grant him a long time at her side as her Watcher.
Buffy, also, was lost in thought as they walked together. Minerva had given her many insights, both on life and on her Slayer role and Rupert’s place in it. She felt the comfortable weight of the enchanted manuscripts in her satchel. She knew she would have to find time to read them. Rupert had to sleep sometime, and she didn’t sleep as much as he, so she figured she’d manage somehow.
Minerva gazed over the fence as Watcher and Slayer headed down the path that led away from the coven’s enclave. “Not away on the path,” she thought to herself, “Forward.”
She sensed the senior healer at her side. “D’ye think she’ll do the reading, Minerva?”
“Time will tell,” Minerva replied cryptically.
“D’ye think she’ll lay her claim to him?”
“Time will tell.”
“D’ye think ye’ll give me a straight answer anytime soon?”
Minerva smiled. “Time will tell. But I have a sense Time may be feeling talkative sooner than later.” She winked at her fellow witch, and turned back to the main building and the day’s work.
Thanks for Reading!!
Summer of Giles 2013