Chapter 21 – Not So Gentle Persuasions
Chapter 21 – Not So Gentle Persuasions
Sunnydale General Hospital
Saturday, March 13, 1999, Morning
Dr. Russell walks into Xander’s room, surprised to find it full so early in the morning. “Morning, everyone. Rupert, I received your message. What’s this about?”
“Good morning, Matthew. I’m glad I was able to catch you. You must release Xander from the hospital immediately,” Giles informs him.
“Why? We discussed keeping him in for a couple more weeks at least,” Matthew protests.
“I realize that and under normal circumstances, I’d agree that would be the best course of action. However, things have recently changed and it’s best if he’s released sooner rather than later.”
“Okay, why?” Matthew repeats.
“It’s best if we not discuss this now,” replies Giles.
The doctor eyes Jack and Daniel, then says, “Rupert, may I speak to you in the hall for a moment, please?”
“No,” Jack responds, “you may not speak to him in the hall for a moment. As Xander’s uncle I’m demanding you release him now.” The Scoobies all wince at Jack’s words. Even Daniel closes his eyes with a pained expression.
Matthew’s back immediately becomes ramrod straight and his face takes on a hardened expression. “With all due respect, Colonel O’Neill-”
“Why is it whenever somebody uses that phrase, it means they’re about to be very disrespectful?” Jack cuts in.
“As I was saying, Colonel, you may be Xander’s uncle but you are neither his guardian nor a doctor. You have no say in whether or not I release MY patient.” Addressing Giles, he continues, “It is still my medical opinion that Xander requires attention which can best be provided here. Now, I realize I’m merely a doctor and not a colonel or a librarian but that is my medical opinion and unless you can provide me with some reason that my patient would benefit from removal from the hospital, I’m going to have to refuse your REQUEST that he be released, gentlemen.”
“Easy, doc. Nobody’s questioning your professional know-how,” Xander says trying to soothe the irate doctor. “Look, you gotta forgive the Alpha dog pissing contest, they don’t know any better and as soon as the newspaper comes, Buffy’ll whap them both on the nose, okay? But, thing is I really do need to get out of here and not just for my benefit, if you catch my drift,” Xander implores.
Looking somewhat mollified, Matthew (completely ignoring both Giles and Jack) asks, “Are you telling me that you’d be safer somewhere else, somewhere less…public?”
“Yeah, doc, that’s what I’m telling you. And I think your other patients would appreciate it, too.” As Dr. Russell still looks doubtful, Xander pulls out his trump card. “I’m eighteen, Matt. I can sign myself out whenever I want.”
Sighing in defeat, Matthew cautions, “You still need to be careful, Xander, and I want to see you every day.”
“Every week,” Xander counters.
“Every other day.”
“Twice a week and that’s my final offer.”
With another heavy sigh, Matthew agrees and, sticking his index finger in Xander’s face, demands, “But you call me if anything changes. I mean it. If you wait and I find out about it, whatever else is going on will be the least of your worries, got it?”
Smiling, Xander nods his head. “Got it.”
With a final shake of his head and a last frustrated sigh, Dr. Russell heads out to begin the paperwork for Xander’s release.
“Wow. Way to go. Piss off the guy with the medical knowledge right before we go into battle. Is that some kind of advanced military strategy we don’t know about?” Buffy asks Jack.
“Quite right,” adds Giles.
“Hey, Matt isn’t exactly about to send you roses any time soon, either,” says Faith causing Giles to look properly chastised.
Saturday, March 13, 1999, Early Evening
Xander sits back in Giles’ couch with his left foot propped up on a small pillow on the coffee table. “Man, am I glad to be out of that room. I think I was starting to get claustrophobic. I mean it wasn’t too bad considering it was a small box but this is better. Plus, the food’s better, too,” he says as he casts an expectant glance behind him towards the front door.
“Considering he just left, I don’t think Giles has had enough time to make it to the restaurant and back yet,” Daniel reasons, then adds, “or to his car.”
Xander grins at him sheepishly. “A guy can dream, can’t he?”
“Depends what kind of dreams you’re talking about,” Jack says as he enters the living room from the bathroom. “If you’re talking about naughty dreams, I say go for it. I don’t recommend psychedelic dreams. They keep messing with your head long after they’re over.”
Xander stares at him for a moment. “Wow. I just had a very enlightening and very terrifying look into my future.” A chuckle escapes from Daniel before he can prevent it.
Jack frowns at them both. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
Daniel and Xander share a look, responding, “Okay.”
“Hey, no fair ganging up on the old man,” grouses Jack.
“All’s fair in love and war, Uncle Jack.”
Jack tilts his head contemplatively. “That’s not true, you know.”
“It’s just an expression.”
“A cliché, actually but I digress.”
Xander huffs, uttering, “I knew it was too easy.”
“We’re worried about you, Xander,” says Daniel.
“Yeah, well considering I live on the Hellmouth, probably not a bad thing.”
“You care about Faith a lot,” Jack states.
“I care about all my friends. They’re my family, remember. We already went through this.”
“Not many people would be willing, and actually agree, to take their family out if they became a danger,” counters Jack.
Daniel concedes, “Of course, not many people have to worry about their family becoming a danger.”
“Faith killed a human. Yeah, it was an accident and totally understandable but still it happened. That changes a person.”
Frowning, Jack inquires, “Have you?”
“Killed a human? No, not yet,” answers Xander.
“Not yet,” Jack repeats.
“You see Sunnydale in the light of day and it looks like just another small town in Anywhere, USA. But it’s not. We’re fighting a war here. Yeah, okay, it’s under the surface but it’s still a war. People die in war…because other people kill them. Most of the things we kill are just that - things, demons. But some, like the guy Faith took out, are human and they’re on the other side. They chose to be on the other side.”
“And it’s that simple for you?”
“I didn’t say it was simple. It just is what it is.” Xander looks into Jack’s troubled eyes. “I don’t get why this is so difficult for you. You’re a soldier, a frickin’ Colonel. No way you got there without taking at least a few lives along the way.”
“The same damn thing,” Xander interrupts him. “I’m old enough to enlist. Say I did. What’s one of the first things they would teach me how to do? Kill.”
“No, survive,” Jack disagrees.
“No, it’s completely different.”
“Yeah, because I know who, or rather what, the real enemy is.” After a moment’s pause, Xander says, “You’ve been giving Giles a hard time.”
“-thought I didn’t notice?”
“Now wait just a minute,” Jack says defensively. “We weren’t talking about me. We- What are you smiling at?” he asks suspiciously. Xander’s grin widens. “You rat! This is just a distraction to get me to stop asking questions.”
“Deflection is one of the first things Giles taught us. It’s one of our most useful skills.”
“Yeah, well, it still needs work,” Jack says pettily.
“Sure, okay,” Xander humors him.
“So, you don’t actually believe all the stuff you were just saying?” asks Daniel.
“Oh no, I totally believe it.”
“This have anything to do with the casualties of war you mentioned this morning?”
“All I said was that Finch was a casualty of war.”
“It seemed like more than that to me. You seemed to be speaking from experience when you said it. Wanna tell me what happened?” Jack asks gently.
“Oh,” says Xander as he gets a far away look in his eyes. He’s silent for a few moments obviously lost in his memories. “We’ve lost some people, some really good people, along the way. I lost one of my best friends since I was in kindergarten, almost lost both of them. Jesse and Willow were really the only two friends I had. I mean, I wasn’t a social outcast or anything – that didn’t happen ‘til I started high school – but they were real, my bestest buds. We did everything together, actually we almost died together, too, but Buffy saved us. She tried to save Jesse too but we were too late. It hit her real hard, almost as hard as it hit Willow and me.”
“So now you feel you have to repay that debt?” asks Daniel, trying to place himself in the boy’s position.
“No. That debt’s been repaid. That’s not what this is about. This is about losing as few people as possible. Look, we get that we can’t save everybody but does that mean we shouldn’t at least try to? If there’s one less son or daughter, sister, brother, friend who suddenly ‘disappears,’ isn’t that a good thing? How are we supposed to do nothing when we know what’s really going on? Could you?”
“No, which is exactly why I can’t let you kids continue. I can’t turn my back and let you fight and possibly die in this war. I don’t have it in me, Xander,” Jack earnestly explains.
“We’ve been doing this for three years now.”
“You’ve gotten lucky.”
Nodding his head, Xander agrees, “Yeah, we have.”
Surprised at Xander’s ready agreement, Jack presses his point. “Okay, then. You’ve done you’re bit. I’m not trying to minimize that but it’s time to let someone else take over.”
“Someone more qualified? Someone who knows what they’re doing?” Xander asks.
“Someone who’s been trained to fight,” Jack says. “Be a kid Xander. You’re only innocent once then it’s gone and there’s no getting it back.”
Xander looks down at the floor for several minutes contemplating his uncle’s words. As Xander begins to nod his head ever so slightly, Jack, sure he’s just won, picks up his cell phone ready to call in reinforcements until Xander raises his head and Jack looks into his determined eyes.
“You’re right. Once it’s gone you can never get it back. We don’t have it anymore, not any of us. With every attack, every death, every big bad, another bit of it went. We’ve been doing this for three years. We are literally standing over the mouth of hell. We’ve been the first and last line of defense against apocalypses, the real deals, and check it out. We’re still here, the world continues to turn and people continue to live their lives in relative safety. That’s gotta count for something, even in your book.”
Jack studies Xander finally, truly seeing the young man he is, not just the boy he remembers. He snaps his cell phone shut. “You’ve got one week to convince me not to call in reinforcements. If you can’t do it by then all bets are off, deal?”
Realizing he isn’t going to get a better offer, Xander extends his right hand saying, “Deal.” Now all Xander has to do is figure out how to pull off a miracle.