"Ishkath Demon: Large, blue, poisonous tentacles. Ah, this looks promising. Paralyzes its victims and drags them to its lair…lives strictly in large cities on the east coast." Wesley Wyndham-Pryce shut the book before him in disgust. "Blast."

The British man ran his fingers through his normally immaculate dark hair in a frustrated manner before rolling back the sleeves of his dress shirt. The suit coat he had worn earlier was draped across the back of one of the chairs around the library table along with his tie, long abandoned. The soft light of the after-hours Sunnydale library did little to ease his nerves. He looked at his watch with distaste. Little wonder he was so tense; it was edging on past two in the morning.

He'd been warned that the hours of a Watcher were horrendous, but what he hadn't expected was the sheer monotony of it. He had come expecting constant action, always something to research or a Slayer to train. Instead he found that much of his time here consisted of waiting. While he did have plenty to research, more often than not he found that Buffy wasn't interested in what he had to say. Or, even more often, Giles simply beat him to the punch from memory before Wesley had even opened a book.

Yes, that was what the problem was. Or rather who the problem was. Rupert Giles. Even now, the man sat in his office. Wesley wondered if he ever went home. The older Brit was at his desk, looking through a book and making connotations in his journal. His shirtsleeves were rolled up as well, and the first two buttons of his shirt were undone. It struck Wesley that it was the most casual he had ever seen the man.

Wesley simply didn't understand how Giles could wear a suit (albeit a tweed one) to this place every day and look as though he belonged here, and yet Wyndham-Pryce himself wore spotless, well-fitting dress wear and stuck out like a sore thumb. It wasn't fair.

Now that he'd started, the new Watcher found it hard not to start a list of everything that wasn't fair about his situation. It wasn't fair that Buffy simply refused to listen to him, despite his firm stance on her training and his constant attempts at establishing his leadership. It wasn't fair that Buffy's friends (friends, for heaven's sake! Civilian friends!) insisted on showing up and mucking about in what should be strictly Watcher/Slayer business.

And it certainly was not fair that no matter how hard he tried to install his authority, every blasted one of these teens, including the two Slayers, looked to Giles for direction. It irked Wesley to no end, both because it was a blatant disregard of the Council's wishes…and because he knew that no matter how hard he tried, that would never change.

He watched Giles through the window of the office with a mixture of emotions spanning anger, resentment and not a small touch of jealousy. This man had everything that Wesley wanted. Well, just the one really: Buffy's respect. That was something Wesley hoped to still achieve. No, he amended silently. Not quite all. There was something else, something that the Watcher's Academy had never mentioned in regards to a Watcher/Slayer relationship, but something that Wesley was slowly coming to understand as a vital part of that bond: affection. It had never even occurred to him that a Watcher and a Slayer could like each other. Work together, certainly. Battle side by side, save the world, train for hours. But…to have affection for one another? Even, it appeared, be friends?

It had never occurred to him. Yet every time Buffy and Giles looked at each other, the care in their eyes nearly caused him to throw his hands up, pack his books and go straight back to England.

They'd told him back home that once he got here and met his Slayer, the bond would form. It would take time, and it would, of course, depend upon their personalities and how well he made it clear who was in charge.

That first day when she had walked into the library and looked at him, he had waited for a signal from her end--some emotion he could use to sound out how to approach her. Then she had glanced at Giles, and they had given each other that look, and he'd realized quite suddenly that he didn't have an icicle's chance in hell of breaking those two apart.

As if by its own accord, Wesley's gaze was once again drawn to the occupant of the library's lamp-lit office. Giles had finished the book he was reading. Carefully marking his place, the librarian closed his journal, threw his glasses to his desk and rubbed his eyes in a gesture born of long habit. No doubt he was getting a headache from staring at such small words for such an extended period of time.

Wesley considered going in to ask if he'd had any luck on this demon Buffy had encountered last night (for he had no doubt that that was the object of Giles's research), but as he stood from his cramped position on the hard chair, a movement from the office stopped him.

Instead of putting his glasses on and continuing his work as Wesley had always seen him do before, Giles let his head rest on his hands, fingers splayed into his already ruffled hair. The man looked exhausted. More than that though, he looked…lonely. He looked like he wanted nothing more than for someone to come into that office, smooth his hair away from his forehead, refill the empty teacup on his desk and tell him that everything was going to be alright.

It was such an utterly vulnerable moment that Wesley felt as if he was intruding upon the man's privacy. Yet he could not tear his eyes away. Why did Giles insist on putting himself through this, day after day and night after night, for a Slayer that was no longer his responsibility?

The answer hit him like a church bell resounding in his head. Because Buffy was Giles's Slayer. And, as the bell echoes rang through his mind, Wesley realized with a certain sense of finality that she always would be.

They had been through too much together. More than that, if they weren't together then they weren't…whole. That, Wesley realized, was the bond that Watchers were taught about at the Academy. Not the academic, commander and instrument version. The real, breathing partnership of two people who, despite their almost completely opposite views on just about everything, needed each other to truly be themselves.

In that moment of absolute stillness in the Sunnydale library, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce had a revelation. As he stared at Rupert Giles through the office window and the other man opened another book, Wesley understood why Buffy hadn't acknowledged him as her Watcher: she already had one. And Rupert Giles would still be her Watcher whether the Council said he was or not, or whether Wesley was there to get in their way.

Respect, regret and still that tiny tinge of jealousy washed through him again. Finally he moved, but not directly towards the office. Wesley knew that he would quite probably never be accepted here. That it all probability, they would always view him as a hindrance. Suddenly that didn't matter. What did matter was keeping the Slayer and her Watcher in the best shape they could possibly be, because they were this sorry world's only shot at living past graduation.

Giles looked up in surprise when Wesley knocked once on his office door before entering with a steaming cup of tea. "You looked like you could use it." He set it carefully on the desk before Giles, picking up the empty mug next to it. Giles stared at him for several moments, completely thrown by this unexpected generosity. "Oh! Yes, thank you."

He picked up the tea and closed his eyes in bliss as the steaming liquid soothed his throat. He swallowed and looked up at Wesley, expecting a snide remark or an interrogation on his research. Instead the younger man gave him what was probably the closest thing to a genuine smile Giles had seen from him. "I'll just get out of your way, then."

Giles considered him a long moment…and made a decision. "Actually, I could use a hand getting through Yalman's Demon Codex, if you'd be willing. I can't seem to work past all the footnotes."

Wesley recognized the olive branch for what it was. He sat in front of the desk, gesturing for the large, leather-bound book. "The trick is to ignore everything within an inch of the margins. Have you looked at Fyarl demons yet?"

Giles nodded. "I'm afraid they don't fit the color criteria. What varieties have you eliminated?"

Wesley stood. "Let me grab my notes. Maybe between us we can eliminate a few subspecies, hmm?"

As he gathered his notes from the library table, Wesley looked to the office again. He would never be Buffy's Watcher. But that didn't mean he couldn't be a help.

As far as Wesley was concerned, that was enough.


Author's Note: Thanks for reading. This was just an idea that hit me earlier this week, so I took a few minutes away from "Those Loved and Lost" to write it. I love the Wesley character, and it always bugged me that Joss waited until after he'd left Buffy to turn him into someone not only smart, but likable. So this little thing was just my version of how season 3 should have gone. Hope you liked it.