Watching me, watching you, by dutchbuffy2305

Spoilers: none

Timeline: BTVS, season 3

Rating: PG

Author's note: This fic was written for the second Lyric Wheel. This was the hardest story I've ever written, because the lyrics did not speak to me at all! The lyrics are 'Hand of God', by Julia Ecklar.

"Allow me to introduce myself. Wyndam-Pryce, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."

Giles hasn't seen him come in, being completely concentrated on a fascinating prophecy in the Pyromaniac Codex, and besides has his mouth full of messy home-made sandwich. This puts him at a disadvantage, something the other man is clearly taking pleasure in.

Before Giles knows what he's doing, he's wiping off his mouth with his hand, wipes the hand on his trousers and offers it to the young man who's patiently standing there. Who takes it, after only the most minimal of hesitations.

"Rupert Giles," he says when he's managed to get rid of his mouthful. He's not pretending to be 007.

Of course Giles knows, rationally, that they will replace him. He's been fired, after all. Still, it's an incredible shock when within the week there's a nondescript but impeccably referenced young man standing in front of him in his own library, all new and shiny, just in from Blighty. The resentment he fetches from his mind is still fresh, he used it only a month ago when the other new Watcher came in, with an almost identical superior attitude and thinly veiled contempt for him and his methods. She was a woman, and evil, but they're still cast from the same mold, smooth upper-class accents, reminding him that his own is not quite natural, assessing him and everything around him with their haughty eyes.

Giles' resentment progresses in stages. At first he feels underdressed, the new Watcher's charcoal tweed versus his brown. In the back of his mind is his father's voice telling him, a gentlemen never wears brown, and him buying a brown suit anyway because it made him feel unconventional. His tie loosened, his vest unbuttoned, his jacket hanging on the back of his chair, all tiny concessions to the age of his pupils and the Californian weather, are now revealed as sloppiness, the man in the field gone renegade. His stomach suddenly seems big and his hair needs a trim. What hair he still has, that is. Wesley has a full head of hair.

"Of course, training procedures have been updated quite a bit since your day. Much greater emphasis on field work." There is absolute certainty in Wyndam-Pryce's voice.

"Really," he answers.

"Oh yes. It's not all books and theory nowadays. I have in fact faced two vampires - under controlled circumstances, of course."

This is the first bit of light coming from behind the dark clouds. Can the young fool actually be meaning this?

"Well, you're in no danger of finding any here," he says, planning to have Buffy take Wesley on patrol as soon as possible.

That is the second stage; faint hope. It lasts until Buffy comes in, looking, as she often does this year, like a young fifties matron about to go to a cocktail party, instead of a seventeen year old on her way to class. The way she stands close to him, asks him permission to report to Wyndam-Pryce makes Giles perk up and take stock again.

Now he watches the pontificating figure of his replacement, Wyndam-Pryce, with different eyes, and for the first time in his life feels self-conscious in tweeds. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and looks at Buffy. He feels the insane urge to ask her, did I look like that? Did you think I was that kind of Watcher when you met me? Of course he doesn't ask it. He would never ask it, but he hopes for some sign of her continued regard for him, a look or a few words that will say, you're not like that. You're different.

She rolls her eyes at him and walks off after Faith. Giles sighs with relief, he's still in. He takes out his glasses to clean them, until he notices the damn fellow doing exactly the same. He immediately vows to get contacts. He loosens his tie a little further and untucks his shirt a little bit. It isn't much, but it does set him a little bit apart from the stuffy figure of the other man. He thinks that he might have a pair of jeans somewhere in an old trunk, left packed ever since his arrival in Sunnydale. Then he'd found it of paramount importance to stress his Englishness, his otherness, still in a kind of culture shock at the complete and utter alienness of California. The sun, the casual friendliness of the people, which meant absolutely nothing, the clothes, the lack of decorum, the vagueness of his job description – everything had insulted and aggravated him.

Intellectually he knew exactly what was going on, had even written a little monograph on it, based on a fortnight's stay in Paris. But this was nothing like France. Americans were aliens, and they looked different, too. One half of the population was tall, tanned and beautiful, the other half seemed determined to become as fat as humanly possible. The helpings of the food were too big, and everything contained sugar. He couldn't sleep in the too soft beds and longed for the Times and tea.

The library in the High school, at first another irritant, became his sanctuary. He lovingly catalogued books on neat yellow index-cards, and was happy to discover there was no infernal machinery at all. His heart had sunk in his shoes when he'd welcomed his Slayer, happily placing a huge volume on vampire lore before her, and she'd made absolutely clear she wasn't going to cooperate. He couldn't pinpoint exactly when his view of her had started the great change towards liking, towards love, but it hadn't taken all that long.

Giles loved her rebellious spirit, at first secretly, chiding her for her sloppy training, her lack of interest in book learning, her intuitive approach towards planning, but all the time hoping she'd go on, win out, show a shadowy them that she didn't need to be a tin soldier to prevail. His inner rebel responded to that freedom of spirit in her, but he kept up a front of stern disapproval at first, feeling a need to stick to the Council precepts that he had devoted the second half of his life to.

Why, then, had he been so foolish as to obey that man Travers about the Cruciamentum? Why? When he looks at that young man standing over there, so ridiculously pleased with himself and his training, he can't for the life of him understand why he'd ever followed a council order. If a clueless young prat like that is deemed Watcher material, what does that say about him? What does it even mean, being a Watcher? Looking out for his Slayer, that means something. Seeing to her going out with the best information, well trained, motivated! Not the 'you'll be told if it matters that you understand' Watcher to Slayer attitude, but two independent adults with different, valuable skills discussing strategy.

And if that means allowing a rag-tag troupe of assorted misfits to tag along, so be it. It's all worth it seeing her here, still alive, against all the odds.

He hasn't really wanted to dwell on it before, what exactly he was going to do here in Sunnydale when he was no longer a Watcher, but it's all very simple now. One doesn't just stop being someone's Watcher. It's almost like parenthood, a responsibility that never ends.

When the vampires from the El Eliminati-cult storm into the library and take Wesley and him hostage, he stands tall and takes on the role of the heroic one, growing calmer with every sign of panic from the other man. How odd, that someone else's behavior can so affect one's own. He starts his own line of Buffy-like defiant banter when facing the disgusting creature Balthazar. When Angel and Buffy come to their rescue, at least the boy has sufficient sense to duck when he tells him to. He wasn't sure of it at the moment he threw the sword, but feels that the young man's cowardice doesn't rate him more consideration than one shout.

The successful sword fighting and the feeling that he still knows how to handle himself liberate him from the last lingering feelings of inferiority and obsoleteness he's been harboring since Wesley strolled in, wearing his perfect suit and his witless smile. Giles has got Wesley's measure now, and he will not forget these moments.

His self-worth goes up another notch as he notices the interaction between Wesley and Cordelia. He pretends to be oblivious, finding and stamping the books the girl wants, but inside he's howling with un-Watcherly glee. Has he ever made such an utter ass of himself, even in school? No, indeed not. Poor fellow obviously has no experience whatsoever with women, and lacks the sense to see that Cordelia is too young to be legal, and a little bitch to boot.

Giles is starting to think this might even be fun. Whatever the council thinks of him, he's a good Watcher. The fact alone that Buffy's alive testifies to that. He's more determined than ever to stick close. He can't leave Buffy, even if he'd want to. Wyndam-Price would get her killed within the week, he's sure of it. And while he's not the only factor in Buffy's success – he reluctantly has to concede points to Angel, and less reluctantly to Willow and Xander – he tells himself he's needed. As a Watcher, but as a surrogate parent as well.

He's not going to slink off with his tail between his legs as the Council and Wesley himself are probably hoping. Buffy needs him. And he's the one with the Green Card and the official librarian job, isn't he? He's going to stick around, make an embarrassment of himself if need be. He's not going to leave Buffy. He's never going to leave Buffy. His life is here, with her. The council may have fired him, but he's the one taking his oath seriously, to serve and protect the Slayer. To send her out to die, if need be. You need to love a Slayer if you're going to kill her.

He sighs and looks up from his texts to check on the other Watcher again. What are the odds that young Wesley will ever amount to anything? What can possibly break through that armor of self-satisfaction? Nothing, Giles decides, that won't kill him first. He'd bet his second-best sword on it; Wesley is and always will remain a wittering fool. Unconsciously, he straightens his tie and buttons his vest. He has no need anymore of outward signals of difference from Wesley, it's what's inside that matters.

FINIS

*************

Hand of God 
by Julia Ecklar
 
You stood simply regal, all shadow and ire,
More distance between us than that of the fire,
For difference is wrong and I'm different from you
And you crush what you can't understand
 
You've taught me that sheltered we're destined to stay
You claim that it's right we should cower this way
For Man must never question what Nature has planned
You said it was all by God's Hand
 
And we're all in the Hands now of God
From here on mere mortals have failed
No matter the cost or the cause
The strength of the Lord must prevail
 
He shows us the wrong and the right
Forbids us to speak and forbids us to fight
Protects us from dangers that prowl through the night
For we're all in the Hands now of God, now of God,
We're all in the Hands now of God
 
We're just two legged rabbits hid safe underground
Afraid to admit that we've long since been found
If we ignore death it just might go away
And leave us back where we began
 
Just deny any questions outside a small range
Feel safe all our lives for our lives cannot change
We'll be told if it matters that we understand
And be led to the end by God's Hand
 
For we're all in the Hands now of God
From here on mere mortals have failed
No matter the cost or the cause
The strength of the Lord must prevail
 
He shows us the wrong and the right
Forbids us to speak and forbids us to fight
Protects us from dangers that prowl through the night
For we're all in the Hands now of God, now of God,
We're all in the Hands now of God
 
So behold here the triumph God's wisdom has won
Behold here the damage that can't be undone
Stagnation is good, and we're good to the core
While faith rots us like salt rots the land
 
If your God helps the helpless may He help you all well
I'm bound for the outside to find my own Hell
If defiance means death I would die before stand
Like a sheep to be thrown to God's Hand
 
But we're all in the hands now of God
From here on mere mortals have failed
No matter the cost or the cause
The strength of the Lord must prevail
 
He shows us the wrong and the right
Forbids us to speak and forbids us to fight
But I'll no longer run from the sounds in the night
Leave it all in the Hands now of God, now of God,
We're all in the Hands now of God