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Professional Life

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There they sat in the otherwise empty library. Two Watchers. Two men. Alone together at last. Neither pleased to be so. The dashed hopes of the previous weekend seemed a cruel joke. Neither Giles nor Wesley wished to know the other as well as he did, heaven forbid any better. What they both wanted now was to forget about Friday night and its revelations altogether, to relate to one another on a purely professional basis.

Awkward silence prevailed for few moments. Within a quarter of an hour, Giles dearly longed to have those moments back. From the second the fool Watcherling found his tongue, he never stopped talking, covering his nervousness with pomposity, as such men do. Explaining things. It was appalling. Embarrassing.

Had he ever been such an ass? Yes, certainly. But at a much younger age, long before he finally submitted to his destiny and became a Watcher. Wesley spoke with a conviction of his own infallibility more becoming to a lad of seventeen than a man of twenty-seven.

Something had to be done to stop his incessant prattling. He was explaining what a “Hellmouth” really was (and why it was truly nothing a prepared Slayer or Watcher should fear) making reference to the writings of Herodotus in doing so. A globe had become involved. And he had used the word “commence” in cold blood.

“All that may be well and good,” Giles assayed diplomatically. “But when you actually begin to come to grips with the events and creatures that feed on the demonic energy of this place—”

“Yes, well,” Wesley cut him off, “I shouldn't wonder if actual contact with the supernatural tended to rattle the young Watchers of your generation, what with the... unfortunately limited—which is not to say backward, but limited none-the-less—nature of the training you were given...”

“That's not the point,” Giles insisted shortly, getting a bit hot under the collar. “What you are failing to take into account is that no amount of training can prepare you for the reality—”

“Yes, yes,” Wesley casually waived his concern away, “No amount of study, no books and lectures can prepare one to come to grips with the Enemy. But, of course, training procedures have been updated quite a bit since your day. Much greater emphasis on field work.”

“Really,” Giles sighed, or perhaps huffed. There was no telling this fool anything. It was just as it had been Friday night, when he'd insisted on following Grim into the men's room. … Then again.... “I suppose you did make rather short work of our 'Grim Reaper',” he admitted, half grudgingly.

But Wesley did not know how to take a compliment in good grace. “Precisely,” he declared with a smug little smile. “You see, it's not all books and theory nowadays. Before coming to Sunnydale, I had already faced two vampires. Under controlled circumstances, of course.”

“I see,” Giles said, beginning to thaw a bit. Perhaps, in spite of his youthful arrogance, this Wesley chap would turn out to be a decent Watcher after all. Perhaps there was something to the new training regimen. Still, “Well you're in no danger of finding any more of those here,” he half joked, smiling warmly in spite of himself. Maybe, if they worked together, the two of them could help Buffy more than either alone could have. Maybe, once in a great while, they might even find a little time to get to know one another, as they had failed to do Friday night.

And yet... “Vampires?” the fool asked. Totally shocked. Missing Giles's meaning entirely, never mind making any reasonable assessment of how serious he wasn't.

Giles shook his head, his silly hopes evaporating. Wesley was still looking at him pointedly. Earnestly. Waiting for an explanation. “Controlled circumstances,” he obliged finally with grim amusement.

Wesley's brow knit as he tried to work out whether or not he had just been insulted. The poor dear seemed to have had his sense of humor surgically removed. It had seemed so on Friday night as well, but Giles had just assumed he was nervous, being so clearly out of his element.

Mercifully, Buffy walked into the library and rescued them both from the tedious conversation in which they had become engulfed. “Well!” Wesley declared, his eyes shining with something surprisingly like awe. Too long a moment passed before he followed that up with the inevitable, anticlimactic “Hello”, extending his hand to her.

Buffy looked Wesley up and down skeptically. “New Watcher?” she asked, clearly addressing Giles alone.

“New Watcher,” Giles agreed, unable to stop his inflection from indicating his very doubtful assessment of Wesley's suitability to that role, the recent demise of the Grim Reaper of Wilkins Street notwithstanding.

“Wesley Wyndam-Pryce,” he introduced himself levelly, hand still extended, his smile uncertain but hopeful. Buffy continued to stare at him intently. “It's... very nice to meet you,” he tried again, his smile faltering just a little as his eyes darted to Giles for guidance. Considering the rather lengthy discourse he had been giving all morning about his entire lack of need for any assistance from his predecessor in any capacity what-so-ever, Giles did not feel inclined to throw him a line.

“Is he evil?” Buffy asked, still ignoring the proffered appendage. The two young people batted that concept back and forth for a few moments. Having perhaps the shallowest philosophical debate on the nature of evil in the history of all mankind.

Giles's mind wandered just a bit. If Mrs. Post hadn't been what she was, and if not for that bloody test, the Council clearly intended that two Watcher's be assigned, one to each Slayer. Why was it that they now felt the need to assign only one? Especially this one? Were they truly opposed to his carrying on his work with Buffy unofficially, or were they counting on it?

Two Watchers for the price of one and extra leverage over the one who had already proven himself most difficult, though also most valuable? He certainly wouldn't put it past them engineer such a situation, to take advantage of his devotion to Buffy even while hobbling him to someone far more devoted to the Council. It would be the best of both worlds for them, to be able to keep making use of his knowledge and experience and yet to keep him on a much shorter leash.

“Is he evil?” Buffy repeated after hearing everything that Wesley had to say. Making a show of having been in no way impacted by even a single word that he had said.

“Not in the strictest sense,” Giles admitted with a small smile. Her humorless dolt of a Watcher whined and snarked his way through what he seemed to think was a dignified response to the indignity of being thus discussed. Feeling a slight prickle of guilt, Giles prompted Buffy to discussed her latest patrol with Wesley, in proper respect of his new position. Which went all right up to the point at which he tried to give her 'orders' and was actually fool enough to call them that.

Not that Giles could say much about that, he realized, considering how he had first approached her in his early days on the Hellmouth. Dear God, had it really only been two years? Yes, in fact, slightly less. He kept thinking back to those days and feeling that he ought to be able to cut young Wesley just a bit more slack. But it was difficult to do that when he kept working so damnably hard at being such a pompous ass.

Still, in spite of Wesley's ham-fisted methods, there was never any real danger that Buffy would fail to do her duty. Faith, on the other hand, was another matter. She shocked Wesley to his toes when she dismissed his authority with a simple, “Screw that,” as large parts of both Giles and Buffy would have liked to have done, if it wasn't for the small matter of the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Wesley seemed only a little relieved when Buffy agreed to go fetch Balthazar's Amulet, just as he'd asked, and to attempt to bring Faith back to task in the process. Well and no wonder. A strong-willed Slayer like Buffy, one who didn't take kindly to being told how to complete a mission, was one thing. But a truly insubordinate Slayer, one who felt that every mission was hers to accept or reject for as slight a reason as not particularly caring for her Watcher, was quite another. This situation with Faith, if left unchecked, could quickly become very dangerous.

Giles worried over that possibility a moment, trying to decide how seriously Faith had meant her off the cuff rejection of the Council's new man and how likely Buffy was to be a mediating influence. He only realized that he had begun absently cleaning his glasses when he caught Wesley doing the same. He stopped immediately, but it was too late. Wesley has already noticed his Brother Watcher's identical nervous behavior. Their eyes locked. They stared, each into the unfathomable depths of the other's gaze, for much too long a moment.

“Well, you can take the boy out of the Academy...” Giles said, smiling sheepishly.

At this tacit admission of commonality between them, even Wesley smiled a little. Proving that he was not absolutely without a sense of humor after all.