the anderson cooper of e! (stoptocheer) wrote in ship_manifesto,
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stoptocheer
ship_manifesto

Giles/Xander (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Title: The Mind and the Heart: A Giles/Xander Manifesto
Author: Fleur (stoptocheer)
Spoilers: Right the way through to Season Seven.
Email: fleur@breaksforquidditch.net
Personal Website: bfq.net/f/
Note: I'm very, very nervous about posting this, but I really hope you all enjoy it.



The Mind and the Heart: A Giles/Xander Manifesto


It's a wonder, when you think about it, that Giles and Xander, two of the core four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, don't get slashed a lot more than they do.

Personally, it took me until The Pack (Season One, "Shoot me, stuff me, mount me") to jump on the Giles/Xander bandwagon, and I was quite blown away that more of the fandom didn't ship them, and demanded of all of my Buffy-fandom friends who on earth other people slashed. But that's not the point.

Everyone knows the two characters in question. For those of us in the studio audience who are just tuning in, we have Rupert Giles, middle-aged English librarian and Watcher, the guy who does what the others can't, the one who's sworn to protect this sorry world and everyone in it. The guy who used to wear an earring and be a "dark magic ticking time bomb guy", who plays a guitar and is shallow like the rest of them, because he owns a television.

There's Xander Harris, the one who sees. The one who keeps the group together and is always there when you need him. The construction worker. The demon magnet who was seduced by a preying mantis woman, and dated an ex-vengeance demon, a mummy-girl, and Cordelia Chase. Both of these guys are impossible to sum up in just a few sentences, so I'll move on.

It seems like when it comes to shipping the two of them, fandom members have two major objections to the idea. The first is that it's wrong because Giles is Xander's father figure.

Most Giles/Xander shippers, it seems, accept this as gospel and work past it somehow. Which is great, but I disagree with the concept entirely.

Xander has awful parents. This much is canon. But unlike Buffy (especially in Life Serial, and earlier in Helpless), I don't think that Xander is seeking to replace them. He accepts that they're awful. He makes bad jokes about them being burglars, he sleeps outside at Christmas to avoid their drunken fights. But he doesn't seem to seek parental guidance or any more authority from Giles - rather, in Revelations, he responds to Giles telling him what to do with a quick, "Hey -- you're not the Watcher of me."

As well as that, we have Restless:

GILES: Spike's like a son to me.
XANDER: That's good. I was into that for a while, but I got other stuff going on.


Admittedly, Restless (as I'll repeat later) is an episode open up to many different interpretations, but this one says, to me, that even if Xander did see Giles as a father figure once, he's moved on from that.

As well as all this, it seems unlikely that Xander would relegate Giles to the 'parent' category of people he knows. Xander doesn't know many - if any - decent people who are parents. He doesn't have many - again, if any - male friends who stay around, either, and it would be fairly illogical for him, in my opinion, to elevate Giles to the status of father, when he can have him as a friend.

Last of all, if Giles was Xander's surrogate father, there is no way he would have missed the wedding.

The other reason that people commonly give for not shipping Giles/Xander is that, apparently, Giles in canon shows very few signs of caring for Xander at all. That's the reason I find difficult to understand.

The way in which Giles shows that he cares for Xander manifests itself differently to how he shows he cares for the girls, which may be why people miss it, but in my opinion, it's still extremely obvious.

While Xander is at school, he seeks to be needed in the Scooby gang; to be important; to make a contribution. He isn't a Slayer and he isn't a whiz with computers or even anywhere near as smart as Willow. He's the zero part of the gang. And yet, Giles very often asks Xander for help with research; or Xander volunteers to come back after class to help out. Giles continually asking for help with the research allows Xander to feel like he's contributing to the group, and for Giles to do that shows that he certainly cares about Xander.

The most obvious instance of this, I think, comes in Season Three's Consequences, where, after Buffy telling Xander that Faith sleeping with him probably didn't mean a thing to her, a very flustered Giles informs Xander that he could use some help with research; an immediate and subtle effort to cushion the blow to Xander's ego.

In Season Four, when Xander comes back from his Great American Non Road Trip, and has no job, while paying rent on the basement, Giles pays Xander to help him organise his books; he gives him a place and helps him when the chips are down for him. In return, Xander is the one who stays with Giles all season, while the girls are away at college and the gang's very splintered.

There are many examples of Giles caring about Xander, and if anyone doubts it, they just need to turn to Season Five, The Replacement, when Xander is first hit by the ferula gemina. The look on Giles' face as he immediately rushes over to him says it all.

On the other hand, it's also very easy to show that Xander very much cares about Giles, and about what Giles thinks of him. When Giles snaps at Xander - and the two most obvious instances of this are in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and What's My Line Part One - we immediately get Xander looking absolutely shattered. In Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered he looks rather like a puppy who's just been kicked - it obviously means a lot to him that Giles snaps at him so badly.

I believe The Zeppo, as an episode, is told by Xander as an unreliable narrator - the events in the episode didn't necessarily happen as portrayed, but rather, they happened and were presented to us through Xander's eyes; a filter of insecurities. With this in mind, therefore, it seems to me that it's rather telling that Giles ignores Xander more than any of the others; he completely ignores everything that Xander says. In addition, Giles is the one to suggest they send Xander for another run for snacks - when, prior to this episode, we're only ever shown Buffy being the one to fetch them. Again, to me, this says that Xander cares very much about what Giles thinks of him.

Xander is also showed as being very concerned for Giles very often - most notably in Revelations, when he comes in and immediately puts aside his vengeance plans with Faith as soon as he finds Giles to be injured; putting caring for Giles ahead of taking care of Angel, who, at that time, Xander believes to be the one to have hurt Giles. Then, of course, there's the end of Becoming Part Two. After saving Giles from Angelus, at the end of the episode, there's little said, but body language and blocking seems to suggest that Xander has been looking after Giles since getting him out.

The last very significant piece of canon evidence that Xander cares about Giles may go without saying, but it's to be found in Season Seven's The Killer In Me. All it takes is one look at how completely distraught Xander is at the thought that Giles might be dead to put any thoughts out of your mind of Xander not caring about Giles.

As for whether they go well together, I think they do, and I think it's shown in canon quite a lot.

It can be argued quite easily, I think, that the two of them could be canonically gay or bisexual. Xander seems to be the character people struggle with the most, although, in my opinion, he has more canon support for bisexuality.

To begin with, there is, of course, Xander's stereotypical teenage-boy near-homophobic reaction to Larry coming out to him. As Warren says in Season Six, "Well, you know what homophobia really means about you, don't you?" - and Xander's directly reacting to Larry assuming that Xander is gay.

(Phases, Season Two)
LARRY: It's ironic. I mean, all these times I beat the crap out of you, it musta been because I recognised something in you that I didn't want to believe about myself.
XANDER: Larry, no, I am not...

BUFFY: So how'd it go with Larry?
XANDER: (defensively) What's that supposed to mean?
BUFFY: I think it's supposed to mean, 'so, how'd it go with Larry?'
XANDER: He's not the werewolf. Can't we just leave it at that? Must you continue to push and push?
BUFFY: I'm sorry. I was just wondering.
XANDER: Well, he's not.
BUFFY: Okay.
XANDER: Okay.

XANDER: What, it's not okay for one guy to like another guy just because he happened to be in the locker room with him when absolutely nothing happened and I thought I told you not to push!

(The Zeppo, Season Three)
POLICE OFFICER: He attack you?
XANDER: No. Just blowing off steam. Two guys rasslin'. But not in a gay way.


As well as this, there's Xander's uncharacteristic excitement in 'Earshot' when the jocks in the hall know his name, as well as some more fun moments with Larry, and Xander's minor freak out at Larry's offer to put a tasteful outing advertisement in the school paper.

Then there's Season Seven's First Date, where a frustrated Xander asks Willow to gay him up, and happily mentions that he's mentally undressing Scott Bakula. Interestingly, it's Giles who reacts badly to Xander saying all this; reminding them that quipping about sexual orientation is hardly appropriate.

As for Giles' bisexuality, well, of course, there's the heavily suggested history he may or may not have with Ethan Rayne. (Remembering, of course, that it was definitely insinuated that their old group participated in orgies.) That's another topic for another, already written and posted, essay, but there's certainly enough evidence there to cast doubts on Giles' sexuality.

Other than that, we're left to silly little clues like his stray thoughts in Earshot about Buffy's fashion sense, when of course, it's a very cliche of gay men to be overly concerned with shoes and the like. It doesn't take much suspension of disbelief to take Giles as at least bisexual, which is why most writers consider Xander to pose the greater difficulty.

Now that the two have been established as potential partners, it's worth looking at whether they'd make a good couple, and why.

First of all, the two each fit the other's 'type'. Giles tends to go for women with dark eyes and dark hair (Jenny, Olivia, Ms French; who he at least had an attraction to) - Joyce is an exception, though an argument can be made for that being a candy-influence. Xander fits the dark-eyes-dark-hair stereotype, as well.

As for the other way around, well. First of all, Xander has a typical-teenage-boy attraction to authority figures; his teachers, Joyce in his Restless dream. As well as that, after Anya, it's clear that he has no problem with his partners being intellectually older than him either.

On paper, additionally, I think that Xander and Giles really work as a couple. Xander, we've seen in canon and most blatantly in Restless, is seeking comfort. Not a conquest, like Ms French or Cordelia, who both presented challenges to him, but comfort. (Anya, in my opinion, fits in neither category.)

We know that Xander finds comfort with Giles; in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, he seeks Giles out when he knows he's screwed up. Partly to get help in fixing it, definitely - but it's partly for comfort, or he wouldn't be so very hurt by Giles snapping and sending him home.

Additionally, there's a lot of Season Four to show that Xander seeks comfort from Giles - when the girls have gone to college and left him behind. A lot of Season Four has Giles and Xander together; usually at Giles' apartment, but occasionally in Xander's basement. It's obvious that aside from at the season's beginning when Giles is paying him to be there, Giles and Xander are each seeking out the other's comfort; and better yet, they're both providing that comfort. It's good to see and I think it's definitely a major reason Giles would be good for Xander in a relationship.

The other way around, meanwhile? Giles is searching for somebody who can understand and accept every side to his life. Olivia left because things got a little bumpy in the night for her liking, and even Jenny, at first, was more than a little spooked by things - Eyghon in particular, and understandably so. And to paraphrase Xander, Giles wouldn't have to break the embarrassing news of having been a librarian to him.

A larger part of this, however, is that Giles seeks somebody who can understand and accept both sides of him; who he used to be, and the man he's become. Xander, who agreed on principle with Giles about killing Ben, would be the ideal choice to understand and accept all of this - he's the heart, after all.

Not only do we know that Xander knows and accepts Giles for all of this; we know that he's comfortable enough with Giles' past to joke about it.

(Beer Bad, Season Four)
XANDER: Well excuse me, Mr "I spent the sixties in an electric Kool-Aid funky Satan groove".
GILES: It was the early seventies, and you should know better.


As well as this, I think there's a lot of canonical support for the pairing.

There are times where Xander can be interpreted as being paralleled with Giles' partners. His relationship with Anya certainly, at times, is a mirror of Giles' own with Olivia, from what we're shown of that. And, of course, there's the direct mirror with Jenny.

(The Dark Age, Season Two)
JENNY: I'm lying, Rupert. The book's fine. I just love to see you squirm.
GILES: Yes, well, I, uh... trust I gave good... squirm.

(I Was Made To Love You, Season Five)
GILES: There's an enormous amount of research we should do before -- no, I'm lying. I haven't got squat, I just like to see Xander squirm.
XANDER: Funny. Charming and funny.


An almost exact rehash of a line that was an obvious sexual allusion the first time around, and then Xander calling Giles charming and funny - when the context of the scene has, largely, been about Anya's jealousy issues. Not only is it a nicely drawn comparison, it's also an extremely slashy moment.

As I said before, Giles/Ethan, in many circles, is considered the next best thing to canon. With this in mind, there's one scene that draws a parallel between Xander and Ethan, albeit in a light sense.

(The Initiative, Season Four)
XANDER: Well, how about this? We whip out the ouija board, light a few candles, summon some ancient, unstoppable evil. Mayhem, mayhem, mayhem. We show up and kick its ass.
GILES: Wee bit unethical.


That can be taken as Xander being a light-hearted version of Ethan; it's easy to say that, too, can be seen as Xander being shown as a mirror of one of Giles' (possible, not strictly canonical) partners.

There are many, many moments in canon that point to them being a couple, or at least having romantic possibilities. Giles' posessive posturing when Anya comes in and demands to talk to Xander in Season Four's The Harsh Light Of Day. Xander's complete lack of respect for Giles' personal space in Season Five's The Weight of the World, when he's helping him into his jacket in the hospital.

For me, personally, the clinching factors come in Restless. As I said before, this is an episode that opens itself up to an infinite number of interpretations. However.

The first moment that does it for me is Giles' speech in French to Xander. What he's telling him, he's said, is vitally important, but Xander, unfortunately, doesn't understand a word of it. The clearest part, however, is that Giles calls Xander an idiot. Which, of course, brings to mind a much earlier moment in the show.

(Some Assembly Required, Season Two)
BUFFY: You might wanna leave off the 'idiot' part. Being called an idiot tends to take people out of the dating mood.
XANDER: It actually kinda turns me on.


Shortly after this, Xander is taken away. Primarily by Giles and Anya, each taking one of his arms and pulling him. This also seems significant in that they could be considered to be each tugging him in different directions.

But to me, the largest piece of canon support for the pairing in Restless is the following exchange.

XANDER: Got the suckin' chest wound swingin'. I promised Anya I'd be there for her big night. Now I'll probably be pushing up daisies, in the sense of being in the ground underneath them and fertilising the soil with decomposition.
GILES: She's doing quite well.
WILLOW: (to Giles) Do you know this is your fault?


One interpretation of this part is that Xander, with his sucking chest wound, is talking about letting Anya down on the wedding night ("I promised Anya I'd be there for her big night.") It's foreshadowing, in my opinion, for him leaving her at the altar and her possible return to vengeance leading to his horrible and bloody death.

And Willow says it's Giles' fault.

Xander, we've seen in canon, often belittles his partners. He did this to both Cordelia and Anya; his two major relationships shown on-screen. He doesn't belittle either Buffy or Willow to the same extent, but he does do the same sort of thing to Giles, for example:

(Surprise, Season Two)
GILES: Is everything in order for the party?
XANDER: Absolutely. You ready to get down, you funky party weasel?
GILES: Here comes Buffy. Now remember: discretion is the better part of valor.
XANDER: You coulda just said 'shh!'. God, are all you Brits such drama queens?

GILES: Still, best to be, uh, on the alert. If Drusilla is alive, it could be a fairly cataclysmic state of affairs.
XANDER: Again, so many words! Couldn't you just say 'we'd be in trouble'?
GILES: Go to class, Xander.
XANDER: Gone. Notice the economy of phrasing: 'gone'. Simple. Direct. (Points at Giles.)


Another major moment of Giles/Xander in canon comes, of course, during Becoming Part Two. Giles has just spent hours being tortured by Angelus and fooled by Drusilla into seeing Jenny and giving them the information they need, and suddenly, Xander turns up.

GILES: You're not real.
XANDER: Sure, I'm real.
GILES: It's a trick. They get inside my head, make me see things I want.
XANDER: Then why would they make you see me?
GILES: You're right.


"Make me see things I want", not "things I want to see", note. Even Xander takes that as meaning that Giles wants him, not just wants to see him - because after hours of torture, of course Giles would want to see someone. But Giles' first instinct is that after Jenny, the vampires would make him see Xander.

In Season Four there are a lot of examples of evidence for the pairing; mostly very married-couplesque bickering in episodes such as The Initiative and Beer Bad. In my opinion, however, the biggest Giles/Xander moment in Season Four is in A New Man.

Giles wakes up in A New Man as a demon, courtesy of Ethan Rayne. Upon finding that he can't use the telephone or even really get dressed, Giles runs out of the house, and appears again in Xander's basement. He doesn't try to contact the girls first; his first instinct takes him to Xander - who, it must be said, would be nobody's first choice out of the Scooby gang for help in a crisis.

It can be argued, of course, that Giles went to Xander because he would have no chance of getting to either Buffy or Willow on the UC Sunnydale campus. However, it's equally true that Giles is most definitely not thinking clearly in this situation - he just woke up as a demon. And his first instinct takes him to Xander's side.

There's another very nice piece of Giles/Xander in Season Four, when the group is watching Giles sing at the Espresso Pump.

(Where the Wild Things Are)
ANYA: His voice is pleasant.
XANDER: What?!
WILLOW: Oh come on, he is kinda sexy.
XANDER: I'm fighting total mental breakdown here, Will. No more fuel on the fire, please?


This could easily be interpreted as Xander being worried about 'more fuel on the fire' because he definitely does find Giles sexy.

There are too many moments between the two of them to list them all. There's married-couple bickering (in Season Four especially; Beer Bad, The Initiative, etcetera), there's Xander being unimpressed that Buffy's the Watcher's Pet instead of him, there's a lot of blocking (particularly in Once More With Feeling) that sets up Giles and Xander on the other side of the shot from an established couple; most commonly Willow and Tara.

There's Giles getting angry when Xander jokes about his sexual orientation. There's the way they're both terrible with computers. There's moments in episodes like Season Three's Doppelgangland, where after Giles hugs Willow, Xander's hand lingers on him far too long; until they're out of shot completely. There's Xander's affectionate nicknames for him, which he may bestow on everyone, but which also show how comfortable he is with Giles. There's Xander betting with Willow on how long it'll take Giles to crack open his books. There's more of the Xander Doth Protest Too Much, maybe, as he freaks out about 'Giles' and 'orgies' being in the same sentence.

There's the conversation on the stairs in 'All The Way', when Giles seems to be purposely scaring Xander about married life, and before that, when Giles cleans his glasses to try and block out 'Xander's vigorous use of his tongue'. The way Giles is very protective of Xander in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered as he snaps that what the girls are feeling isn't love at all. There's Xander saving Giles' life in The Puppet Show. There's Xander beginning to raise his hand about Faith finding Giles cute being 'ew', but hiding it by scratching his cheek.

Of course, there's also the way Giles slowly adopts Xanderisms. In The Initiative, he's seen reading comic books in Xander's basement, and by The Yoko Factor, Giles knows enough to recognise and respond to a Batman comment of Xander's. In Chosen, Season Seven, we see him playing Dungeons and Dragons with Amanda, Andrew and Xander. In addition, when Xander loses his eye, we're told that Giles responded with a joke about that being the end of the fun and games for him - and joking in the face of danger, we've come to know, is very much a Xander thing. In Listening to Fear, Giles calls the Monster of the Week "a killer snot monster from outer space".

Additionally, there's joking in Season Five's Blood Ties between them about how Giles already owns a dress like Buffy's at home. There's Xander's mother referring to Giles as Xander's little friend. The way they agree on things when the girls don't; such as in The Gift, when Xander's the first to suggest killing Ben, while Giles is the one who actually does it.

Overall, I think of unconventional pairings, Giles/Xander is one of the ones with the most canon support, and I definitely hope that this essay has shown you at least a little bit of that.

Fiction

The best place to go for fic with this pairing is, of course, No One Knows, the archive that soft_princess maintains.

As well as that, we have the gilesxander livejournal community, which is posted to with regularity.

For individual recs, some of the most popular fics are:

Act of Nature by janedavitt and wesleysgirl. Known for converting a lot of reluctants to the pairing. It's long, but worth the read.

Personally, along with many other pairing fans, I'm incredibly partial to realmitzvah's Stay A Spell, Hands Clean and Hands-On-DIY Project for Beginners, though it uses a couple of fanfic cliches I don't like - it's a fantastic little tale, and the surprise character in the first is absolutely adorable and well-written. I'd rec all her fic, really.

There are also some fun little fics like andrewsee's 'Ho Lord, which is one of the first G/X fics I read, so I have to say I still have a bit of a fondness for it.

doyle_sb4's The Wake is a really well-written post-Chosen fic. Interestingly, post-Chosen is a big setting for this pairing.

I also really like Seven Highly Effective Uses of the Word 'Fuck', by flurblewig, which is set in a Wishverse AU with a human Xander.

glossing's Present Tense is another of my favourites; a nice little post-Graduation tale.

It's obviously well worth having a good read through No One Knows. Personally, I guess my fics that are most used for getting people into the pairing are One Twist Too Far (post-Chosen) and The Art of the Rather Possible, If You Use Magic (a G/X/E/A fic that's heavy on the Giles/Xander).

I really hope this helps get you all a bit of a head-start into Giles/Xander.

Dialogue taken from buffy-vs-angel and the Buffyverse Dialogue Database.

Tags: buffy the vampire slayer
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