Patience Personified

“They talk about you at the Academy, you know.”

Giles glanced across the library table at Wesley. The new Watcher – well, he’d been around for several months and was as unofficial as Giles now, but Giles suspected newness, like shyness, was something Wesley would find hard to shed – sounded as pompous and insufferably superior as ever, but there was a tinge of curiosity in his voice that puzzled Giles.

“Really,” he said, keeping his voice neutral. “I’m deeply honoured.”

Wesley smirked. “Oh, I don’t think that’s exactly the appropriate reaction,” he said. “They weren’t being terribly complimentary, you know.”

Giles would have rolled his eyes, but Wesley provoked that response so frequently that it left Giles with a headache if he allowed himself to give into the urge. He rationed himself; a ten minute conversation could have two eye rolls, one exasperated sigh and three subtle digs at Wesley’s complete lack of success with Buffy. If the conversation extended beyond ten minutes, Giles reserved the right to walk off, leaving Wesley’s mouth hanging open foolishly. He glanced casually at his watch and prepared to endure, still finding it difficult to completely discard the polite conventions. Wesley was, after all, a colleague, even if both of them had been sacked now.

“I’d be astonished if they had been, Wesley, but as I’m sure you’ve discovered for yourself, they have about as much grasp of the situation out here, on the front lines, shall we say, as the banana you ate for your lunch. That being so, I’m inclined to dismiss their opinion of me and I suggest, for the sake of our working relationship, you do the same.”

The silence dragged on for thirty seconds as Wesley sat, silent, one eyebrow lifted slightly, until Giles cracked and snapped, “Well? What do the ungrateful, hidebound bastards say then?”

Wesley sighed faintly, as though the effort of keeping quiet had exhausted him. “They say you became – fond – of your charge. That you were willing to ally yourself with her.”

“Well, one would hope that the entire Council were allied with the Slayer. And as for being fond of her, I don’t deny it. I’m attached to all of them.” He paused. “In moderation.”

“No,” Wesley said. “Not in moderation. There’s not a one of them you wouldn’t die to save. Willow, Xander, Oz...” His voice faltered and he swallowed audibly, “Miss Chase.”

“Cordelia,” Giles said tightly. “You may call her Cordelia, it’s quite in order. Tell me, Wesley, did you have a point at all?”

Wesley stared down at the table, his folded hands resting upon it, the fingers interleaved and relaxed, the nails perfectly manicured. Giles looked at them too and wondered why it still seemed rather as if Wesley’s nails were chewed and ragged and the skin over his knuckles taut and pale.

“What about me?”

Giles frowned. “What about you?”

Wesley looked up. “Would you save me, Giles?”

Giles looked at him. “It’s not your place to be saved, Wesley,” he said, more gently than he’d ever spoken to him. “You’re a Watcher – yes, still. Both of us are. You do the saving.”

Wesley refused to back down and let the conversation die. “I can’t.”

Giles shook his head in exasperation. “Of course you can. Cordelia told me how you faced up to Willow’s vampire self that time. I was...impressed.”

“You mean you didn’t think I had it in me,” Wesley said, his voice tight. “I was bloody petrified. I didn’t even know Cordelia was there and I – God, I nearly ...”

Giles stood and walked round the table to Wesley. He looked down at him for a moment and then leaned against the table, curling his fingers around the wooden top. “You think I’ve not felt like that? Or that the Slayer has never been scared, or her friends, who have every reason to be terrified because they know exactly what the dark is hiding in this town? We’re human, Wesley. We get frightened. You’ll find yourself better able to cope with it as time goes by, trust me.”

Wesley looked up at him, eyes dark and troubled. “But they have you,” he said simply. “All of them. You wouldn’t let anything happen to them –”

“Tell that to Jenny!” Giles said harshly. “I kept her so very safe, didn’t I? Tell it to the children who’ve died in this school whilst I’ve been here, or the teachers. I’m not a shield, I’m not armour, Wesley. I’m just – I do what I can. And it’s not enough. It never is.”

Wesley stood, getting to his feet in an awkward rush. “I don’t agree with that,” he said. “I’ve seen you. I’ve...watched you. I came here expecting to find a failure, a pathetic rebel who’d lost sight of what was important –”

“They really don’t like me back home, do they?” murmured Giles.

“And you’re not,” Wesley said quietly. “You’re something I wish I could be and you’ve got something I fear I’ll never have.”

“And they would be?”

“Confidence and friends,” Wesley said.

Giles sighed. “Wesley  -”

Wesley held up his hand in a sharp, abrupt gesture. “No. I’m sorry. I really don’t know what brought this on.”

“The prospect of imminent death at the graduation ceremony?” Giles suggested.

Wesley shrugged, turning to the papers strewn across the desk. “I am a little concerned, of course,” he said, prim once more.

Giles watched Wesley try to rebuild what a few words had demolished beyond repair and felt a small pang of sympathy.

“I’m sure you’ll live to fight another day, Wesley,” he said, striving for a light tone of voice.

“With or without your help,” Wesley said sharply, his look daring Giles to contradict him. “Don’t think for a moment that I mean to hide behind you.”

“You’ll be fighting beside me,” Giles said firmly. “That’s where you belong.”

The rigid look vanished from Wesley’s face leaving it achingly vulnerable. “I –I’ll do my best.”

He continued to tidy up his papers and Giles watched him, a suspicion beginning to flower. “Wesley? ‘Do your best’? What do you mean exactly?”

Wesley glanced around and bent his lips into a smile. “To fight well, of course; what else could I mean? Really, you mustn’t –”

“Wesley. You have work to do, despite the fact that, like me, you’re no longer employed. If you’re planning on a heroic death, I’ll be obliged if you’d change your plans.”

Wesley flinched as Giles’ voice rose. “I won’t court death, but if it happens – it’s what we’re trained to expect. It’s not just the Slayer who’s at risk.”

Giles grabbed Wesley, his hands fisting the expensive jacket Wesley refused to take off, creasing it, crumpling it. This close he could smell Wesley’s body, warm and clean and male. “Trained to expect death? No, I don’t think so, Wesley. Trained to fight it, to evade it, to bloody well kick it where it hurts and dare it to come a step nearer. Is that what you were planning to teach Buffy? Tell my Slayer her death’s inevitable and not to bother trying too hard to avoid it?”

Wesley shook his head slowly, his eyes wide, staring at Giles as if he couldn’t bear to look away.

Giles pushed Wesley away. “Fool,” he muttered.

Wesley hit him. His fist struck Giles’ mouth squarely and Giles made no attempt to dodge it. To say he’d seen it coming would have been as redundant as saying Willow was fond of studying. Wesley’s face telegraphed every emotion and the punch had been too slow and from entirely the wrong angle.

But it had hurt. Giles winced and reached up to run his fingers over a swollen lip and brought them away wet.

Wesley stared at the blood on Giles’ fingers, his mouth open, his eyes wide with horror. “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean – oh God.”

Giles caught his arm as he turned away. “Stay,” he said. “Sit down, I’ll get us both a drink and we’ll talk this through.”

“No,” Wesley said, trying to tug his arm away from Giles. “We can’t waste time – more time – on my, my weakness. There’s too much to do. I’ll take some books, go back to my room –”

Giles lost what little patience he had and gave Wesley a look that he’d perfected in his time in Sunnydale. “Wesley. My lip is giving me considerable pain. Don’t make me repeat myself. Talking hurts I’m going into my office and I’m coming out with a bottle and two cups. When I return, I expect you to be sitting right here.”

“Cups?” Wesley said. “A cup of tea would be –”

“They’re for the whisky, Wesley,” Giles said with a sigh. “Snyder sees me drinking alcohol and he’d leap on it as an excuse to chuck me out. A china cup is exactly what he expects to see and I don’t let him get close enough to see the contents.”

“Do you drink a lot in the day, then?” Wesley asked anxiously. “It’s really not a good idea.”

“I never used to,” Giles said. “Recently, however...”

Wesley gave him a small, puzzled smile and Giles allowed himself an eye roll and went into his office. He came back to find Wesley sitting as he’d been told and passed him a cup, taking a swig from his own and hissing as the alcohol stung and burned the cut.

Wesley eyed him and said tentatively. “Would you like me to bathe it? I could –”

“Kiss it better?” Giles suggested, not smiling to save his lip from stretching, but far from serious.

Wesley glanced at him, a sideways flash of blue eyes, before the light above them reflected from his glasses and blanked them out. “I can do that. If you like.”

Afterwards, Giles was to tell himself many times that he’d hesitated to say the words to keep Wes in place out of shock, but it was a lie. He waited, held in place by a flash of curiosity and a pang of arousal so intense it hurt, waited to see for himself just what Wesley would do.

And what he did was stand, his chair scraping against the wooden floor, the sound loud and yet irrelevant, fading away to nothing, because all that Giles could hear was his heart thudding in his ears. Wesley was looking at him with an anxious query that Giles could not, would not, answer, and taking silence for assent. Wesley was coming close and leaning forward, his hands loose at his side, his head tilting in a slow, short arc so that when he leaned in, his body still inches away from Giles, not touching at all, his mouth came to rest against Giles’ with none of the clumsy, nose bumping awkwardness Giles might have expected.

Wesley’s mouth was cool, deliciously so, like a dock leaf laid over a nettle sting but when his lips brushed against the cut, they did so with a deliberate pressure of teeth, followed by a flashing lick that jolted Giles into a sound he hadn’t thought he’d ever make outside a bed, a small, sound, caught and trapped within a throat gone dry, a sound of need, pure and primal.

It wasn’t even a kiss. Giles’s lips had not moved, not opened, not pursed, not spread for a tongue nor trembled in response. Wesley’s mouth moved over the hurt again and again, ignoring the rest of Giles’ lips, face, throat...brush, scrape, lick, brush, scrape – until Giles’ fists were clenched and his eyes wide and staring forward, dark hair hovering on the edge of his vision, but Giles could not move.

If Wesley had touched him, swayed forward enough for Giles to have more than that single point of contact ... but he didn’t.

And when, after endless moments, Wesley pulled back and swept the ball of his thumb across moist, wet skin, Giles was still unable to move.

It took Wesley turning his back, shoulder slumping, to release him and then Giles moved without thought and without volition, hands reaching out, tugging Wesley to him and holding him close. Giles dropped one hand, demanding and imperious and ran questing fingers over Wesley’s cock, hard enough to make his lips tighten in satisfaction. He let his hand drift up to cup Wesley’s face and then slid it down and back, until Wesley’s neck curved his palm and the heavy weight of Wesley’s head lay in his hand.

“Wesley...” he whispered. “You didn’t hurt me there.”

If he’d had to push – but he didn’t. Wesley sank to his knees before Giles had chance to kiss him – and when he eventually did, Wesley’s mouth tasted familiar, tasted good.

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