And you said you always had my back
Oh but how were we to know
That these are the days that bind you together, forever
And these little things define you forever, forever
All this bad blood here, won't you let it dry?
It's been cold for years, won't you let it lie?
-Bad Blood, Bastille
Rupert’s return to the Watcher Academy was less humiliating than it could have been. He wasn’t lying to Ethan, he had changed since the last time he was here. As suspected, he finished his training quickly and passed his certifications with flying colours, even if his tendency toward smart-arse remarks didn’t endear him to any of the elder Watchers who were evaluating him.
He was less rank-and-file now, but the work wasn’t as demoralising, either. He had access to an incredible collection of research and literature, concerning everything from demons to deities. It wasn’t unusual for him to wake up with the sun streaming through the windows of the Council library, having fallen asleep at a desk or in an armchair the previous night. Rupert buried himself in his studies to forget Eyghon, forget Randall, forget Ethan. His failures.
He would get a phone call or postcard from Dee once in a while, at first. He’d always answer, but listening to or reading her descriptions of her life forced him to recognise what was missing. That bubbly, beautiful girl he had loved was tinged with something else now. Not outright wistfulness, but a kind of contemplative worldliness, a loss of innocence, and Rupert felt he was responsible for that, too. The letters and calls became fewer and far between, and eventually he was speaking to her for the last time without either of them knowing it.
Sometimes he thought of reaching out to Ethan, an olive branch of friendship at least, but the longer he went without doing so, the harder the idea was to stomach. Suddenly years had passed by and he had no idea where Ethan was anymore. He couldn’t be certain, but Rupert suspected he would feel it if Ethan were dead. With that unpleasant image looming over him, he had decided that no news was good news.
It shocked Rupert more than anyone when he was selected as the Watcher for the Slayer. His less than perfect track record in contrast to other members’ decades of experience made him suspect perhaps they just wanted to ship him off to California to be rid of him. There was also the unsettling fact that the girl’s previous Watcher had died so shortly after her Calling, despite being far more experienced than Rupert was. Whatever the Council’s motivations for choosing him, he was determined to do a good job.
They’d set him up with credentials any high school would be lucky to employ. He’d reorganised the school library and familiarised himself with the curriculums, knowing he’d be expected to be a librarian to the entire student body, not just a Watcher to one girl.
His expectations had been rather dampened by the end of the first day. The single student who visited the library was the Slayer herself, a blonde, cheerful sprite of a girl. A great feeling of purpose filled his chest when he brought out the Vampyr compendium and launched into his introduction. This was the moment he’d trained for his entire life.
And then it wasn’t. The unimpressed Buffy (what kinds of things did Americans name their children these days?) had rejected him, rebuffing the Council and demanding to be left alone. Lost for what to do, Rupert had spent most of the day absentmindedly dusting and re-dusting the same shelf as he considered calling the Council and asking what to do about a Slayer who refused to slay.
As grotesque as it sounded, a dead body in the locker room was a near-miracle in his eyes as it spurred the Slayer into action, sending her back to his library of her own free will. Before long there were others as well, though Rupert grew anxious as the circle of people aware of Buffy’s calling grew. Eventually he found himself mentoring a small collection of misfits, without the slightest idea of how it had happened. They called him by his surname.
Rupert’s personal life had rather come to a standstill, first from his own tendency to deny himself anything that would bring him joy, and then from an utter lack of attractive possibilities. He hadn’t spent time with many people outside the Council when he still in London, and now that he was stuck in a high school, his romantic prospects were even more limited. The only physically appealing person on staff was the computer science teacher, and he rather thought her antagonism toward him precluded the possibility of actual romance.
For as much as he’d been trained to see Slayers as tools, he hadn’t quite expected to have a headstrong teenager challenging his every instruction. The stubbornness of youth secretly delighted him sometimes, reminding him all too much of a more carefree time in his own life. He still endeavoured to display exasperation at their antics, lest they think him too lenient.
The Council checked in on him less often than he’d expected, though still more often than he would have liked. Rupert had as much freedom as he could want to train Buffy as he saw fit, but he knew the day would come when she would be tested to the Council’s standards, and he was the only thing preparing her for that challenge. They continued to value Buffy only as a weapon, and despite his best efforts, he’d come to truly care for her as the strong, humorous, passionate person she was. He could almost hear Ethan saying I told you so.