Title: You Can Tell A Lot About A Man By His Hot Water Heater
Author: Laura Sichrovsky
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rating: PG or FRT
Warnings: None that I can think of unless plumbing scares you.
Season: After season seven.
Summary: This is…well, Rupert reflects on his life and his plumbing?
Spoilers: None really. Too vague.
Disclaimer: This is where I put the statement saying that I do not own Buffy, Giles (Heh! I wish!), Sunnydale, or anything relating
to the show. No one is paying me to do this and if you feel the sudden urge to send me gifts, you might want to talk
to someone about that. Joss Whedon owns all things Buffy and has not given me permission to use these characters
as I have so if you have problems with the story, please send the pretzel bombs to me, not him.
Author's Notes: This one is a bit odd. I had the weirdest dream last night. Rupert was sitting next to me on the couch and talking about
hot water heaters. I can't remember exactly what he said, but as I was waking up, I remember this sentence: "You can tell
a lot about a man's life by his hot water heater." I have no idea why that stayed with me, but here's what came of it.
Thanks need to be given, and here is where they go. Thanks to Joss for creating characters so fun to watch and
to borrow for a bit. Thanks to Tony Head for making Giles so amazing. I tried to fight it, but he was just too
remarkable not to fall for. To Janet, Laura (GStQ), Jen, Jessica, and Michelle for the betas. I appreciate it!
To Ann for everything. Your patience makes my writing as good as it is. You are the best and I love you,
dear! To Samuel for being Samuel. Thanks to my amazing husband who not only doesn't get upset when
my writing takes over, but who doesn't freak about the men who live in my head. I love him so.
You Can Tell A Lot About A Man By His Hot Water Heater
Rupert Giles realized that you could tell a lot about a person from their hot water heater. It sounded silly at first consideration, but as he stood looking at his current water heater he knew it was true.
He thought back to his childhood, to the house he had grown up in. It had been large, drafty, and decidedly British in its roomy design. It had been in Rupert's family for generations and while it was large for their family of four, there had never been any question that they would live there, although his mother would have preferred something more modern.
The water heater was old, although far newer than the house itself and Rupert vividly remembered the grinding noises that it made. When he was very small he'd been sure the noise was made by a monster. The heater had to cycle on and off to keep the water warm and the swooshing, grating noises would echo up through the floorboards at all hours of the night. Though it did its best, the heater could only keep so much water hot for so long and some of the clearest memories of his childhood were of the lukewarm water that came out of the tap when he poured his bath because he'd been the gentleman and allowed his sister to go first.
When Rupert had turned twelve, he'd been sent off to the Watchers' Academy and the boiler there had been huge, keeping water hot for over one hundred young men. The academy was not only a training facility, but a proving ground and not every boy who attended would go on to be a Watcher. Rupert learned early not to get too attached to classmates as any one of them might be sent home at any time. That lesson had been learned the hard way when his best friend had been deemed unworthy and sent away three months into term. Peter had told Rupert the news while they were washing dishes in the kitchen. It had been their chore for the week and while Rupert wasn't a fan of scrubbing pots, he could think of worse jobs. When he thought back on that moment decades later, he remembered that he had stood there so long in shock and anger, the water running uselessly over the plate he held, that the water was starting to go cold. And while such a thing was a rarity, to his adult mind it seemed somehow appropriate.
He remembered that the Council stressed that there were no secrets between Watchers and that all the boys showered in a large communal bathroom. It surprised him that the water rarely went cold after so many young men showered for so long, but he knew it was designed just for that. He only remembered seeing the boiler on a few occasions, usually when he was storing his empty luggage for the term. It was large, taking up half the basement space, and while it made noises, they never went beyond the basement. It was one of the things that took getting used to when he'd moved there; the nights were quiet and empty and he was miles from home.
Rupert shivered slightly as he remembered the tiny rusty water heater in the rundown apartment he shared with Ethan and Randal. It only allowed for ten minute showers and sometimes the water came out rust-colored, but they hadn't cared. They had been so wrapped up in their lives, their needs, the magic. Nothing else had mattered. Rupert knows he could never live in such a place and be comfortable now, but at the time he was so caught up in their games, his mind so befuddled by the magic, that he could have lived in a tent and not known the difference.
He thinks on a succession of small boilers in tiny apartments in London and California. The places were neat, organized, and soul-achingly empty. He never ran out of hot water as he was the only one using it. He washed the two or three dishes he used for meals, he showered quickly and alone and there was never anyone waiting for him to finish. Even in Sunnydale, though the children were a part of his world, they went home at the end of the day, leaving him in the echoing silence by himself.
Even moving back to his family home in England after Buffy's return from the dead hadn't so much connected him to his life as it had separated him from the people who needed him most. He had hoped for peace, a place to heal his bruised heart; he had gotten exile. The hot showers taken in the drafty bathroom hadn't soothed his soul; the hollow sound of the water in an empty room, an empty life, served only to remind him of everything he'd left behind. The rumbling sounds of the water heater through the floorboards didn't calm his churning emotions as they had when he was young. They only reinforced how completely alone he was, how barren his world had become.
When he came back to Sunnydale, bringing rescued young women to his Slayer, he had been pleased to be a part of something bigger again, to have something tangible to do in this fight, and to be tied to his surrogate family once more. When he had stopped his frantic runs across the world and had settled into Buffy's house, he had realized that not only was he one of the few males there, but that this fact put him at the bottom of the list for showers. He'd had one hot shower in the entire three months he lived there. But it had been a small price to pay. Watching her lead, become the woman he'd always known she could be, seeing her transform these frightened girls into Slayers had been worth all his sacrifices.
Now, three months later and half a world away, he stood in the basement of a drafty castle in Scotland looking at the hot water heater, watching Xander and Andrew tinkering with it. It was one of the largest Rupert had seen outside of an institution, holding one hundred and twenty gallons and yet they still had to shower in shifts. If it wasn't so time consuming it would be amusing to note that there was always someone taking a shower. Willow had even drawn up a schedule. But the constant strain on the boiler had taken its toll. They had been here for two months and this morning they had woken to find they had no hot water.
"Can it be fixed?" He asked, finally shaking off his thoughts.
"It just needs a new element," Xander replied, looking up. "But the thing is that we burned it out in only two months. If we keep going like this, the next one won't last much longer. A hundred and twenty gallons is large, Giles, but we have sixty-five Slayers now."
"So you suggest a bigger boiler?"
"That or a separate water heater for each floor."
"Would that be hard to do?"
"If we were still in America I'd say no. In Scotland? Let me make some calls."
"I appreciate it, Xander. If the water heater were possessed I could handle this myself. As it just seems to be broken, I'll need your assistance."
"I'll make the calls and let you know, G-man."
Before Rupert could respond, Xander and Andrew had left the basement. Rupert looked at the boiler, his thoughts wandering again.
Yes, you could tell all about a man's life from his boiler. And now Rupert's life had evolved to a place where he was making the decisions about things like bedrooms and boilers. He was the one responsible for the lives and comfort of so many people. So many people who had been pulled from their own secure lives and thrown into this nightmare world of duty and death. The least he could grant them was a hot shower.
He reveled in the now familiar feeling of being needed, of belonging and more importantly, being wanted. He was past a life of tiny hot water heaters for one and he hoped he'd never go back. After a few more minutes of quiet thoughts, he heard the laughter and joking coming from the kitchen above him. He shook his head to clear it and turned, climbing the basement stairs to join his family for breakfast.