by KindKit

So loud, loud as the greensharp crack of a branch. Loud as breaking glass. Loud as shattering. Loud enough that Giles can hear it above his own screams. His screams full of edged shards, full of broken words. Humpty Dumpty words, fallen and ruined, nothing but brittle shell and oozing liquid, and Giles will never put them back together again.

"Giles. Wanted to see if . . . sorry, stupid. Course you're not OK."



Such a brisk sound, a quick clean sound, over as soon as it begins. Over almost too soon to hear it. But inside the sound time folds on itself, travels its Mobius round, advancing and circling. Always forward, never forward. So beautifully compact. Infinite time inside every snap. The bone wrenches tectonically, splinters open slow as a faultline, juts up as gradually as the Himalayas rising above the plains. Pain builds, pressing up through the capillaries, red and liquid as magma. Seethes, surges, flows heavy as stone. Every snap is an era. Every snap unmakes the globe of Giles' body, reshapes his continents and empties his oceans, brings glaciers and deserts. Brings extinction.

"Know you're pretty doped up. But, can you hear me? Can you open your eyes, maybe?"



Giles knows this sound. He's heard it once before. Loved it then, the crunch of Ethan's bones under Giles' fists and boots. Sweet as the crunch of apple-flesh to the teeth. Sweet as fall and redemption, sweet as knowledge, sweet as the first liberating sin.

Sweet as the scrape of a key in a lock, as the metallic groan of manacles loosening from galled limbs. Ethan broke, and Giles was free. The world began.

And now the sound is sweet as lies, because the key never turns, the gates never open, the perfect iron O of shackles never splits, never budges. Not here where time folds, where worlds are unmade, where the beginning is not the word but the sound of bone breaking. Breaking is alpha and omega, world without end. The end is here already, forever.

"You're safe now, Giles. I promise."



So loud. Louder than anything but the sound of his voice. He speaks loud as a hammer, loud as a knife on skin, loud as a bullet spiraling in air to bury itself in broken, unwilling flesh. Loud as a fissioning atom, loud as a bomb blast. Loud enough to unmake the world, to bring on the poison and the endless winter and the radio silence.

The torturer speaks loud as his hands, and those hands are full of snaps and cries. Every touch sends another one shrieking out.

The torturer speaks. Sends words stroking over Giles like knowing white fingers. Playing, seeking, finding the screams under Giles' skin, in the marrow of his bones, and twisting them free.

"Why, I think you're speechless, Rupert. What's the matter, not feeling like yourself? Because usually you talk, and talk, and talk, and you never. Ever. Shut up."

Giles has no words. He has them. His hands have taken them, pulled them loose as broken joints, tugged them free of their sockets. His hands have disarticulated Giles, bone by bone and word by word, have broken him to dangling syllables. Giles has only the empty shapes where words were.

"Can you hear me, Giles? Can you talk to me?"

No words. Words belong to the other world, the one before. But Giles' eyes open to the agony of light, the searing atomic flash.

Spiky hair, pale face, but not him, not the torturer, no. The other, the one before. The one who. Who.



The torturer has everything. Has the words, the knowledge. Has the world. Is the world.

"You never shut up, but you like to keep secrets, don't you?" The hands touch Giles' face, glide over his eyelids and lips, looking for the screams.

Looking, finding every unspeakable thing. "I could smell your secret. Always smelled the boy on you. The one you were fucking."

Everything. The torturer has got inside, opened Giles and sliced out every hidden word, hung them on wires so Giles can see them. Spine and ribs, femurs, scapula, all his fullness and frame, and now nothing but a carcass. A dead language.

Hardly any words, any bones left in Giles, except his other hand. The one he's touching now.



"Who'd have imagined? A respectable man like you. A virtuous man. Shocking. But I understand. After all, I had Buffy. And then I had her."



"Know what I figure? You're just like me. You lost your soul with the first fuck."



"Haven't smelled him on you lately. Did he leave you? Bet you miss your boy. So pretty and so young. So fresh. Did you like the taste of him? Did you love him, Rupert?"



"Sure you did. Still do, just like I love Buffy. Love her down to the last drop."



"I know all your secrets already, Rupert. All the ones that matter. You can't keep anything from me."


"Hey. You're awake."

It's not him, it's the other one. The one with the kisses. The one with the lies. Who was there after every word was gone. Kissing him, there at the end of the world.

"Kinda, kinda thought. That I might never. Never. See you again."

Ghost kisses, phantom kisses. Phantom boy. Not real. One of the torturer's lies.

"I was so scared, Giles."

Never real. There was never a world, never a kiss. Never a Giles.

"Love you."

Hands on his broken ones, so gentle over the bandages. Hands that don't move even when Giles starts to cry.

No words, no world, no Giles, only the torturer's hands.

"It's okay. You don't have to say anything."