gwynnega (gwynnega) wrote in ship_manifesto,

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Giles/Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Title: Love, Magic and "Spurty Knowledge": the Willow/Giles Pairing
Author: gwynnega
Spoilers: Through "Chosen"
Personal Website:

Willow: Now I remember why I used to have such a crush on him.

-- "Where the Wild Things Are"

Back when I first got the Willow/Giles bug, I was an ardent Spike/Buffy shipper. Mostly I read Spuffy fics, though I'd been branching out into Spike/Xander and some other Spike pairings.

But every now and again, I'd get the urge to read Willow/Giles. Certain canon moments would intrigue me, like that scene in "Where the Wild Things Are" where Willow calls Giles's musical performance "kinda sexy" and confesses to having had a crush on him. And there was that peculiar scene in "I Only Have Eyes for You": Willow and Giles roll over and over each other down the stairs, with Willow landing full length on top of Giles (not unlike the position Willow winds up in when she lands on top of Tara in "Tabula Rasa"). Then, when they sit together on the stairs, there's an awful lot of mutual touching going on. (And why all this touching between Giles and Willow in an episode dealing with a teacher/student romance?) I'd see such scenes and want to investigate what fanfic writers had made of the pairing.

Because I was reading beautifully written fics by the likes of herself_nyc and eliade, I expected to also find beautifully written Willow/Giles fics. But with one or two exceptions (most notably, sophia_helix's brilliant post-"Grave" fic, with the lights out it's less dangerous), what I found mostly disappointed me. Not only were the fics not well-written, but the characters weren't well-drawn, to the point that they were virtually stick figures with Giles's and Willow's names scribbled on them - along with some red hair for Willow and some unlikely Britishisms for Giles. Rarely was much attention paid to their age difference, their flaws and insecurities, or the other people they'd loved. Instead, the two of them happily went at it as if they had no histories and no problems whatsoever. So I'd end my fic search, puzzled that there weren't gorgeous Willow/Giles fics on the level with what I was reading in other pairings.

Then, in the days immediately following the airing of "Chosen," I wrote my first Willow/Giles fic (and, incidentally, my first fanfic of any kind), The Mutual Admiration Society - at which point I fell completely in love with the pairing. I found that writing the characters and their relationship imbued their onscreen appearances with an extra radiance for me. I also discovered that once I'd started writing the pairing, its evidence in canon was all over the place. There were the numerous occasions Giles would lean very, very close to Willow at the computer (which he does as early as "The Harvest," and continues to do at least until "Listening to Fear," with a last little flurry of looking over her shoulder at the computer in "End of Days"). There were the hugs: the brief but intense one Giles lays on Willow in "Doppelgangland" (albeit played for laughs), the cute one Willow elicits with her "Hi Giles" signage in "Hush," and the emotional goodbye hug, followed by hand-holding, in "Bargaining I."

I saw Giles's transfixed, deer-in-headlights look and nervous throat-clearing when Willow says "Hey, look at those" in "Doppelgangland." I noticed how, when Giles confides his intention to return to England, Willow spends the bulk of "Buffy vs. Dracula" trying to convince him to stay in Sunnydale. The scenes between the two of them in "Lessons" and "Beneath You" in particular play as though the two of them are lovers - especially the doorway scene in "Beneath You," in which Giles's voice is small and tender when he says, "The taxi's here," and he kneels before Willow, his hands on her knees, and stares up into her face.

Giles: Passiflora caerulea. A native of Paraguay, if my botany serves.
Willow: Is there anything you don't know everything about?

-- "Lessons"

For a Willow/Giles shipper, of course, it may be only a small step from Giles leaning over Willow's shoulder at the computer, or researching with her in a secluded nook of the stacks ("The Puppet Show"), to full-on sex in the library, surrounded by the books they both love. Part of the appeal of this pairing has to do with the glorification of bookishness and learning, the sexiness of knowledge, which Willow rhapsodizes over in "The Freshman": "in high school, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon. You really had to work to learn anything. But here, the energy, the collective intelligence, it's like this force, this penetrating force, and I can just feel my mind opening up - you know? - and letting this place thrust into and spurt knowledge into...That sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in." And as Willow eroticizes knowledge, she's bound to find Giles, as librarian/Book Man, to be the sexiest of men. Many of my favorite Willow/Giles fics stray into the realm of "spurty knowledge." Books + sex = library smut.

Sometimes, of course, Giles tries to slow Willow down in her quest for knowledge (i.e., putting certain magical texts where he thinks she won't find them, and, much later, rebuking her for resurrecting Buffy). Knowledge leads both Giles and Willow into perilous places, and she repeats his youthful magical missteps with a vengeance. Killing people as a result of their access to magical secrets is something they have in common, which is one of the reasons Giles takes responsibility for Willow's rehabilitation after "Grave." Just as Willow is the one who figures out how to destroy the demon that plagued Giles's youth, so it is Giles who helps Willow to deal with the aftermath of her violent magical spree.

Giles: If anything should happen to you should be killed, I should take it somewhat amiss.

Willow: You'd be cranky?

Giles: Entirely.

-- "Anne"

Willow: What's he gonna do over there by himself? I mean, he never talks about people from England. What if he's lonely?

-- "Bargaining I"

Willow: Now I finally have you all to myself.

-- "Grave"

Willow, by her own admission in S4, had a crush on Giles in high school, and we see evidence of this in the photograph of the two of them she has in her locker in "I Robot - You Jane" and "Nightmares." While she seeks him for protection or rescue frequently enough early on - such as running from Hyena!Xander into his arms in "The Pack" - she is also fiercely protective of Giles. She saves him from Darla in "The Harvest," and jumps on the back of a vampire he's fighting in "What's My Line pt. 2." A particularly interesting moment occurs in "The Dark Age," when Willow is attempting to figure out how to defeat Eyghon. She drinks from one of Giles's tea cups - his tea pot is on the library table amid the research materials - and when Xander and Cordelia fight, she bursts out that they don't have time for this, and that "if you two aren't with me 110%, then get the hell out of my library!" She attempts here to take on Giles's persona, in a sense to be Giles.

Although one might think Willow's feelings for Giles become entirely platonic when she has full-fledged relationships with Oz and Tara (not to mention her fling with Xander), some of her comments in "Grave" tell a different tale. She refers to their "Flooded" argument as "that little spat we had before you left," and she is clearly still hurt that he left Sunnydale: "You were jealous. Still are. Just couldn't bear that I was the one with the power. That's why you ran away." And after Buffy leaves the Magic Box, Willow exults that she finally has him all to herself. I would argue that there are strong parallels between the Spike/Buffy house destruction and sex in "Smashed" and the Willow/Giles Magic Box fight in "Grave" - and not only the destruction of property in both. Instead of the overt Spike/Buffy sex of "Smashed," Willow puts her hand on Giles's chest and drains the magic from him, but their expressions in that moment look fully as ecstatic as Spike's and Buffy's.

This violent encounter nearly results in Giles's death - and yet, in "Lessons" and "Beneath You," the Willow/Giles relationship seems to have deepened. They spend the summer in England, apart from the others - and for the first time, Willow really does have Giles "all to herself." He has seen her at her very worst, and he still accepts her. She trusts him with her feelings of guilt, her fears of screwing up again. When she has her vision of the Hellmouth, he holds her and helps her through her terror. He trusts her enough to send her back to Sunnydale.

In "Doppelgangland," Giles refers to Willow as "truly the finest of all of us." Through much of BtVS, he demonstrates a tenderness towards her beyond anything he shows for anyone else - in such scenes as the one in which he watches her sleep and gently wakes her in "What's My Line pt. 1" and the aforementioned doorway scene in "Beneath You." I find his forgiveness of her late S6 behavior and the understanding he offers her in early S7 to be a particularly compelling testament to the depth of his feelings for her.

Xander: Tara's your girlfriend?

Giles: Bloody hell!

-- "The Yoko Factor"

When I began writing Willow/Giles stories, my first fics were set after S7. I found it easiest at first to write the pairing with Willow as a grownup - and even my post-"Chosen" Giles was disturbed at the notion that he might have had feelings for the underage Willow. Later, though, I would write lengthy S2-S3 Willow/Giles fics. There are different challenges to writing the pairing, depending on when the fic takes place.

High school fics, of course, must deal with Willow's age (although I have found that British Buffy fans find this less of an obstacle than U.S. fans, since the age of consent in England is sixteen). Some readers are squicked by the age gap - although age difference is a somewhat shifty concept in a verse in which Buffy dates guys hundreds of years her senior. Other readers are made uncomfortable by their sense of a power inequity between Giles and the teenage Willow - although a careful viewing of the early episodes shows a complex relationship, in which Willow not only rescues Giles as often as he rescues her, but her opinion carries so much weight with him that when, in "Reptile Boy," she tells him he's killing Buffy with the pressure, he quickly takes her advice to heart. Another good example of the amount of influence the teenage Willow has over Giles is in "The Dark Age." When Angel strangles the Eyghon-possessed Jenny, Giles says "He's killing her!", but Willow holds him back and says, "Trust me! This is gonna work!" - and Giles takes her word for it.

Fics set later on must tackle Willow's gayness - although one can make a case that, given her earlier relationships with Oz and Xander, she's bisexual. (One might also say that Giles is bisexual, since his relationship with Ethan is nearly as canon as Willow's with Tara). However a writer chooses to deal with these issues of age and orientation, it's generally best to tackle them head-on. For example, stories set in mid-S4-S7 that don't at least glancingly address Tara will not be credible - and her absence from Willow's mind will be like the proverbial elephant in the room. The same is true of fics set soon after "Grave" that don't deal with Willow's violent actions and her grieving the loss of Tara. My feeling is that Willow's love for Giles goes so far back, that it is plausible for her to be involved with him at the same time as loving Tara or grieving for her - but ignoring Tara entirely not only strains credibility, it also makes the story less powerful.

On the other hand, I've read Willow/Giles fics that dutifully address these kinds of issues: Age difference, check. Lesbianism, check. Having gotten these obstacles out of the way, the writer gleefully brings on stick figure Giles and Willow, devoid of everything that shaped them. In other words, paying lip service to this stuff isn't the point. Engaging with such messy issues as age difference, sexuality, violence, power, and loss can make Willow/Giles fics that much more interesting, even in the schmoopiest or purely smuttiest of contexts. There's so much rich material to explore in this pairing - and, especially if the later seasons are dealt with, so much love and anger, hurt and forgiveness between Giles and Willow - all of which makes them, for me anyway, endlessly compelling to watch, read and write.


Happily, there is nowadays a good deal of excellent Willow/Giles fanfiction being written. Here are some fic and vid recs (including a few of my own). Many of the following (and a lot more) are available at, the archive I co-run with trkkr47. In addition, check out the master list of the Willow/Giles ficathon.


Axis Mundi by sophia_helix. Willow misuses magic to try to put things right with Giles in this unforgettable story.

Willow Weeps by Gulessable. In canon S1-S4, Giles struggles with his feelings for Willow.

This Will Be Our Year series by gwynnega. This post-Chosen series includes the "Willow/Giles slash fic" Mandrake and the time-traveling-to-S2 fic Back to High School.

Little Savage by gwynnega. Sequel to "Back to High School." In an alternate S2 (which closely follows the canon episodes), Willow and Giles embark upon a secret affair.

Belonging by doyle_sb4. A charming post-"Chosen" romance which manages to avoid Kennedy-bashing.

Philos by voleuse. Set in S5, this is nearly a friendship fic, with just enough UST. Willow's chats with Giles about her college classes are especially delightful.

Magic and Old Books by justhuman. Giles and Willow do a spell to unlock the mysteries of the scythe. NC-17ness ensues.

Corpus et Sanguis by trkkr47. WIP. A Willow/Giles mpreg fic. (Yes, mpreg! but really good!) One of the best S5 Willow/Giles stories I've read.

A Teeny Tiny Temporal Fold by wisdomeagle. Post-"Tabula Rasa," Willow goes back in time and meets a pre-Ethan Rupert Giles in this wild ride of a fic.

In Patience Possess by janedavitt. Soon after "Grave," Giles and Wesley attempt to deal with an unrepentant Willow. Very dark yet hopeful, with a wonderfully complex look at the Willow/Giles relationship.


This Will Be Our Year by gwynnega. Sort of a Willow/Giles canon primer, S1-S7.

Disarm by Xandra. A fascinating look at the parallels between Willow's and Giles's experiences with dark magic.

I Put a Spell on You by gwynnega. Another look at Willow and Giles and magic, with generous helpings of UST.

Tags: buffy the vampire slayer
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