Spoilers: Season 3 BTVS
Personal Website: Watcher Love
Introduction to the Pairing
Throughout both BTVS and ATS there are moments when, if events had taken a slightly different path, thousands of new possibilities would have emerged; there are moments when, if we had been able to see behind the scenes, seemingly insignificant gestures could have been indicative of bigger things. Both shows contain more depth, subtext, and innuendos than can be mapped by anything less than watching it all unfold.
I think the concept of 'the road not taken', as well as the idea that there is so much that we do not see, has helped to establish the Buffyverse as one of the larger fandoms. Both BTVS and ATS leave us with the sense that there was more going on than meets the eye and this sense is what creates in us the need to tell more of the story, to expound upon some small piece of the potential that went unrealized.
These two concepts are also the basis of the Giles/Wesley 'ship. The end of season 3 is filled with such moments, filled with so much going on behind the scenes that we receive only hints and are left to construct and extrapolate. Season three was also filled with so many moments of potential. From late nights spent researching in the library, to humor shared at the oddity of their situations, to rare moments of honesty and seeking one another's opinion.
This 'ship is about potential. Even the initial barriers between the two characters lend themselves to the 'ship. The frustration and loneliness, the similar upbringings and experiences, the shared senses of duty and purpose, all of which give these two the potential to bond in numerous ways. All that's needed, as with any 'ship, is a catalyst, something to make them look at one another and see past their initial reactions.
For these character studies, I'll be focusing on BTVS season 3, as this is the only time in canon during which Giles and Wesley interact. However, I'd like to note that the possibilities for later interaction are numerous, despite the need of an AU scenario. Weaving storylines into canon is quite possible and, when done well, quite illuminating.
Wesley watches them working together, watches the way they fit so well, words exchanged at a rapid pace. Too fast to understand and yet everyone knows their role, knows where they will be.
They are a team, and he watches in fascination as they plan. His words are ignored and he is left out of the team, his cautions unheeded. He watches as Giles keeps them focused, directing them inexorably toward the goal. That should be him, and yet he can't imagine being in that place.
He watches because he is a Watcher. He's never learned to do anything else.
Overview of Wesley's character development
When Wesley first appears on the scene, we are presented with a young man seemingly quite self-assured. However, the very fact that he clings to the Council's dictates, that he attempts to do everything exactly as it was taught to him, shows us that this is a man uncertain, out of his depth. When things get difficult, as when he and the Scoobies learn of Faith's murder of Finch, he runs to the Council; he seeks them out to handle the situation for him.
His failure to befriend the Slayers puts him, almost immediately, on the defensive. His solution? Retreat further into his Council teachings. Don't give the Scoobies anything they can use against him, and present to the Slayers a rational, well-reasoned front. Because who doesn't listen to logic, right? In short, Wesley pulls his authority around himself, uses it as a shield to keep himself from making mistakes and being hurt.
Wesley repeatedly demonstrates his genuine desire to do the right thing. He is concerned with his career as well, but also with saving lives. Twice ('Choices' and 'Graduation, part 1') we see him saying that one life is not worth many, even though he knows this will not be well received.
In 'Choices,' we see the first instance in which Wesley speaks the unpopular truth that, if their choice is between
However, as he becomes more comfortable, a bit, with the situation, we see him arguing with the very authority that provides him with his safety net. The Council cannot be happy with how the Faith situation turned out, and, consequently, with Wesley. This leads me to wonder why they allow her to remain and do not send a team after her as they later do.
Someone had to a) explain the debacle and b) work with the Council to reach some sort of deal that allows Faith to remain. Giles' influence with the Council is all but nil at this point, which leaves Wesley. It is never mentioned in canon, but someone had to have talked to them, persuaded them. In fact, as the Council is leaving Faith in his hands, he must have been quite persuasive, especially given his earlier mistakes.
When Angel is poisoned to distract the gang (in Graduation, part 1), Wesley tries to talk the Council into helping and they refuse. This is yet another moment when Wesley feels he must say something that is unpopular, a reprisal of the 'one life for many' attitude we see in 'Choices'. It is because of this that Buffy quits the Council.
Wesley is apparently very upset by this as Cordelia says that he could 'barely speak on the phone'. Yet he still volunteers to help Buffy and the others, not as a Watcher, but because it needs to be done. Here Wesley insinuates to Cordelia that, had he a reason to stay in Sunnydale, should they win the day, he would.
Giles was deep into the text, hardly noticing the others around him. The children talked, their words flying back and forth too fast for him to pay much attention, even if he'd wanted to. Their voices created the low background hum to which he'd become accustomed, though at times it still grated.
"Perhaps," he said when it became too much, "we could remember this is a library."
That, of course, brought on a flurry of objections. Giles sighed, looking up to ask, once again, for quiet. His gaze caught Wesley's and together they rolled their eyes at the children's protestations.
Overview of Giles' character development
Giles, during the end of season three, is in an interesting position. He is no longer an official Watcher, yet is not only duty bound to the Slayer, but also emotionally bound. Regardless of what the Council says, Buffy is his Slayer. It must be an interesting twist of fate to him. He didn't want to be a Watcher at all, and now he's not, but he has to stay, wants to stay.
Enter Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. His replacement. A young man who seems to think he knows everything about a job Giles has been doing for a long time now. Wesley's barely out of schooling and apparently thinks he has it all down. Not only is Giles bitter with the Council for their treatment of both him and his Slayer, but also with their thinking they could replace him with a Watcher barely out of tweed short pants.
Wesley's attitude certainly does not help. He's condescending, prissy, and critical. Giles fears the man's attitude and lack of experience could get the Slayers killed. Perhaps he's even reminded of himself at a much younger date, before the 'Ripper Years'.
As things progress, Giles seems to relax a bit more, sure that Wesley cannot take his place with the Slayers, and perhaps seeing the use of having a link to the Council's resources. The snark runs rampant between them, but we do see them cooperating more. Giles takes the lead, going so far as to assign an unresisting Wesley research and such. He seems oddly interested in including Wesley in the research, in much of the planning, things that are important, but not vital.
He begins to treat Wesley as he does Xander, though with less obvious affection. He is thoughtful when Wesley speaks, though, of course, always supports his Slayer's final decision. This is perhaps a mistake in a few instances. In 'Choices' Giles does not take sides between Wesley and Buffy when they're arguing as to what to do, destroy the Box of Gavrock or trade it for
It is with help from later episodes that we see what he would have likely chosen. He would kill Dawn or Ben, or Spike, to save the world. And Willow as well. Here is another thing the two have in common, the duty-driven willingness to look at the big picture. This is something that is pointed out to us repeatedly. Giles' function is often to do what Buffy and the others cannot, as is Wesley's.
Being that kind of support must prove lonely in and of itself, not to mention that Giles, like Wesley, has no real friends (beyond the Scoobies) in Sunnydale. He is much older than those with whom he spends his time and has a very different frame of reference. Especially so soon after the events of season two (Jenny and his own torture) Giles must be in a fairly difficult mental position and has no one to whom he can speak.
Giles/Wesley and Why I 'ship
We've seen how both men are stuck in situations that must be disconcerting for them. Their emotional states are both very uncertain. Both of them tend to bury themselves in work; both are focused on the Mayor and Faith's situation. Both want to help, but come to loggerheads over how. They share a good deal in common, however. They have the same, or similar, frames of reference; they share their training and their willingness to put the world above their own personal feelings.
However, these similarities also set them both apart from their groups. No matter how much they are included, they will never be wholly integrated. They will always be support, always be the ones that Watch, that keep an eye on the situation and take whatever action is necessary and right. They do this even if it hurts them, even if it follows them for the rest of the lives, even if it kills them.
This feeling of personal responsibility is true of both, even when they are no longer official Watchers. They both continue the fight because they know it is the right thing to do and their duty. While Wesley is obviously inexperienced, and such a cute dork, in season three of BTVS, he still shows these characteristics, and he speaks up whenever he feels he must, as does Giles.
Their backgrounds form a common thread between them and makes for such wonderful possibilities. Shared experiences, both far from home, both brought up in Watcher families, knowing their paths were laid out for them; Giles and Wesley have a common foundation to start with. The facts that both are intelligent and well-educated, share a love of knowledge, language and books and a sense of uncompromising duty and morality, only adds to their ability to understand each other.
However, they also compliment one another well. Giles' more practical and less idealist look at the life (and their lives as supporters in the fight especially) would have been of extreme help to Wesley had the two been able to get over their differences in the beginning. Moreover, much later this practicality is something they share. They have both suffered; both have had to do what their compatriots could not in order that others did not suffer.
Both their tendencies to take on the role of 'caretaker' would lead them to do so with one another as well, providing something both are essentially lacking in their chosen groups.
There are problems, of course, perfect fodder for stories. The tendency to be 'caretakers', added into the stubbornness of both men, might also lead them to argue over who gets to do what for whom. Wesley's dedication to Angel, whom Giles obviously dislikes, would be a sticking point between them. Not the mention the many, many repressed emotional issues surrounding the two. Wesley's love/hate relationship with his father, Giles' habit of blaming himself for the mistakes and missteps of others, not to mention the issues created by their initial power struggle, all of which provide excellent facets to explore.
As a reader I enjoy the pairing because of how they relate to one another, how their experiences bring them together and their allegiances (Wesley's to Angel, for instance) affect their relationship. Both characters are so versatile, easily moving between extremes. Both capable of extreme feats of caring and bravery and each able to see and recognize the loneliness in the other.
As a writer, I enjoy throwing them into situations and watching them work together, or learn how to work together. They appeal to me because there is so much potential in the characters for a relationship that both has its problems and is not necessarily doomed from the very start.
Each has strengths and weakness that offset one another. They need not worry that the other won't understand their sense of duty, because they both share it. They need not worry that the other will take one look at a demon and run for the hills. They've both endured and risen above the chaos of their lives, and they both understand what it is to sacrifice for what they believe to be right. They share similar senses of humor and frames of reference, they both insist on doing what is right.
My background in G/W
The first Fanfic (of any sort) that I ever read was Tea and Biscuits by wesleysgirl, byrne, and Magpie. I loved the dynamic between Giles, Spike, and Wesley. They fit so well together, though they needed a catalyst to see it.
Why should readers be following the pairing?
I think the main reason anyone should follow any pairing is that it speaks to them. If character driven plot or just introspection is what you're looking for, I highly encourage the Giles/Wesley pairing. Because of their initial dislike of one another, one must start the story with something that would make them stop and take new stock of one another. It is a pairing that, for me at least, lends itself to introspective, character-driven Fanfic. For the two to believable come together, one must dig into them and show the reader how they come to find one another.
I don't mean that established relationship fic doesn't work for these two, because it does. The very fact that the characters are so versatile means that one can find a wide range of genres and fic types involving the characters. They easily lend themselves to schmoop, angst, PWP, and almost any kink. Plot-driven fic is a low in the pairing, unfortunately, but they, by their very natures, lend themselves to that as well.
I've tried here to assemble as large a sampling of Giles/Wesley fic recs as possible, including what I consider the best in many different genres and styles.
Tea and Biscuits by wesleysgirl, byrne and Magpie
Fading the Bruises by janedavitt
Imperative by glimmergirl
Taking the Biscuit eloise_bright
Coming Home by theferretgirl
Say it with Flowers by vampirefever
Fear of Music by glossing
Websites, LJ Communities, Etc
Sadly, there isn't much to rec in this department.
watcherlove - LJ Community for the Giles/Wesley pairing. Co-modded by glimmergirl and myself.
Watcher Love Mailinglist