Summary: There isn't any choice but for Wesley to see the situation Giles' way.
Rating: PG-13 at most (potentially disturbing content, adult/highschooler attraction)
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Characters: Giles, Wesley, Cordelia
Title, Author and URL of original story: Attention, by entrenous88
He has had nightmares like this.
Cordelia in a plaid miniskirt, barely brushing the tops of her thighs. A fine, tailored, white blouse, almost translucent. Those ludicrous American "penny loafers". The perfect picture of a nineteen fifties naughty pinup, if only she had a lollipop.
He wills himself not to think about lollipops.
To think instead of the idiotic way Wesley is staring at her, and the fact that Cordelia knows exactly the effect she's having on him. (To hope that Cordelia does not know the effect she's having on certain other males of the species.) To think of the best way to approach Wesley, to warn him off Cordelia without making the tension between them worse than it already is. Wesley will have noticed Giles' own interest, will accuse him of hypocrisy. The conversation – disagreement – argument – is already laid out. Predestined to go horribly wrong.
Predestined not to happen, when Cordelia flounces and preens too close to Wesley, and he jumps, his fingers catching at the saucer and flipping the china teacup to the ground where it shatters.
'Encore!' calls Xander, from the other side of the library, but Willow begins to whisper, and Xander's attention is distracted.
Giles' throat, tightened by worry, is loosened. 'I do hope none of that tea landed on our books.'
'It's not as though it's exactly a priceless collection,' snaps Wesley, but his face is red as he bends down to gather the piece of teacup. Cordelia crouches with him, brushing her fingers against his hands as she helps him, and his skin grows even more red.
'Wesley,' Giles says, trying to sound calm and polite, 'When you're finished there, may I have a word?'
'Of course, Mr Giles,' he says, after a moment's hesitation. That silky-smooth, cultured English voice, determined to prove that a gentleman of his background would never aspire to being a greengrocer or anything else so common. Calculated to overawe. Well, Giles has been in America long enough now to outgrow certain techniques of intimidation.
'I think you'd better go home,' Giles says to Wesley when he presents himself.
'Mr Giles,' begins Wesley, in what can only be described as a huff, 'I hardly think that's necessary!'
Giles tilts his head, looking over the top of the rim of his glasses. He rarely does so, but finds the technique useful on certain, recalcitrant students with long overdue books or unreasonably loud indoor voices. 'Indeed.'
'Miss Chase… I mean…' Wesley flounders. 'Perhaps it might be better if I absented myself temporarily,' he ends.
'After all,' says Giles, 'You are not an employee of this school. Questions could very easily be asked.'
Wesley draws in a breath. Squares his shoulders. 'Quite.'
When school is over, the Scoobies (insidiousness of teen-speak, even he calls Buffy's companions the "Scoobies" in his head) dismissed for the evening, and Buffy dismissive of his support for the night's patrol, he makes his way to Wesley's rooms. The Council have provided an upscale townhouse for his replacement: Giles feels he ought to be grateful they haven't seen to his own eviction following the Cruciamentum.
He knocks on the door, but Wesley takes his time in answering.
'Oh, it's you,' says Wesley, a glass of something – undoubtedly alcoholic - in his hand.
'Were you expecting someone else?' Giles asks.
'No. It isn't as though I know many people here,' says Wesley.
'I shouldn't have thought so. May I enter?'
Again, Wesley hesitates. Then he steps back. 'Be my guest.'
Wesley follows him back, into the lounge of the townhouse. They stand awkwardly, taking each other's measure.
Giles coughs. 'May I have a drink?'
Wesley sips at his own. 'Scotch?'
'Neat, thank you.'
Wesley fusses at the glasses and bottles for a moment, and then passes Giles his drink. 'To what do I owe the pleasure?' he asks, leaning on the final word.
'To your behaviour around Cordelia – Miss Chase – these past few days.'
'My behaviour? Not hers?'
'She is a high school student. You are an adult, and therefore the person more responsible for your actions.'
Wesley flops into a leather-covered chair. 'I'm surprised you have the gall to tell me this. You've been enjoying her displays as much as I have.'
'Which makes it all the more important that they stop. Wesley, do I really need to tell you how inappropriate this all is? She is a pupil!'
'As you pointed out this afternoon,' retorts Wesley, 'She is not my pupil. I am not employed by the School Board of Sunnydale.'
'And yet you hang around the library like… I honestly don't know how to describe it.'
'"Hang around"? Mr Giles, perhaps you have been in this country too long.'
Giles glares at Wesley. 'The current slayer – slayers, if we are to count Faith – are American. As have a number of her – their – predecessors. Has it ever crossed your mind that young women of non-British cultures might need to be handled somewhat differently to the Council's age-old traditions?' He pauses. 'I ask you this only because it seems obvious to me that the Council itself has no comprehension that there exists a world beyond the English Channel…'
Wesley sniffs. A curious sound and gesture: shoulders, jaw, cheeks and lips all shifting, subtly, to express disdain and disbelief. An intake and output of air, through nose and lips. 'We have our traditions.'
'Can you not see that those traditions have failed? They failed with Nikki Wood, they have failed with Buffy, and with Faith…'
'That is your opinion. And as far as the Council is concerned, your opinion is worth less than the paper it is written on. Especially as you have not yet mastered the art of electronic mail.'
Giles still hasn't sat down. Wesley is lounging in his leather chair.
'None of this is relevant at the moment,' says Giles. 'I'm not speaking now as anything to do with the Watcher's Council – '
'Convenient,' muttered Wesley, 'as you currently have no authority on those grounds.'
'But as the Librarian of Sunnydale High School. You must make it clear to Cordelia that her behaviour must cease. Immediately.'
Belligerent is the only way to describe Wesley's expression. 'What if I don't want to?'
'Then I shall ban you from school property and inform security accordingly.'
Wesley stops lounging and leans forward. 'Won't you miss the way Miss Chase dresses and behaves?'
It takes two swallows and a deep breath to answer the question, and Giles knows that Wesley sees his efforts. 'No.'
Wesley leans back. 'In any event,' he says, 'there's less than a month to graduation. You can show yourself out, by the way.'
Wesley can't actually stop Cordelia Chase from doing as she wishes. Giles is, however, confident that Wesley acceded to his wishes.
And as Wesley says, there is less than a month to graduation. And Cordelia (and Buffy, and Willow, and Xander, and Oz) know that just as well as Giles does.