Buffy/Giles: Another pairing that gives me the heebies if I think about it in terms of canon, because Giles reads so much like Buffy's father to me. There are some ironies in that; more willing to go there in fan-fiction, I'd still want it to have a canon feel. Also, Buffy and Giles *aren't* related, so why is it I'd find a romantic relationship between them harder to take than one between, say, Simon and River? I think it's maybe because B/G gives me no mixed signals; Giles seems genuinely paternal, and Buffy shows no sexual interest in him that I can see. Simon and River on the other hand give me some seriously weird vibes. I mean sure, I've been known to feed my own brother fruit, popping it between his surprised lips with my sticky fingers, and when I do he always gives me that sexy little look of delight, but it's not as if...uh, where was I.
Anyway. Like so many other proposed pairings, I tend to think that season four sets up the best prospects for Buffy and Giles. Anything set before that--before Buffy was of age, before she was out of the mentor/pupil relationship--would never fly on network TV. You could start building up to it earlier though; in fact, you'd need to do it from the beginning, step by tiny baby step, until it was possible to take things to a new level. The B/G dynamic would have to be shifted away from the father/daughter one. At first Buffy would try to fit him for that role, as her own father's influence in her life wanes, but Giles would tell her more than once, and in so many words, that he can't be a father to her. It's not what a watcher is there for. And this version of Giles would be more Ripper-y; harder, more sharply edged. You could make him more of a Michael to Buffy's Nikita. A handler. She thinks, from his behavior and candor, that he's scrupulously reliable and trustworthy. It turns out though that as the representative of the council of watchers he's in possession of many secrets, not all of which he can reveal--not at first anyway, until they start to move beyond the traditional watcher-slayer boundaries.
So he's a darker figure, and this is a darker universe; more morally ambiguous. A universe where the council looms over Buffy's life, its shadow extending all the way across the ocean to Sunnydale. It's more Masonic, a kind of Illuminati, and its agents are more active, prone to turning up in Sunnydale to carry out some new intrigue. And Giles isn't Buffy's only watcher; Wes is also there from the beginning, foil to Giles. During Buffy's high school years, Giles and Wes--a darker, less trustworthy version of Wes--are in charge of her training; Wes does most of the weapons stuff, Giles the research. They have very different ideas about her training; or at least, they start out on the same wavelength and present a unified front, but one of the big arcs of the first season or two is how Giles's feelings about his job, the council, and his assigned slayer change--classic stuff where he toes the party line at first, but comes to realize how limiting and cruel the council traditions are to slayers, how they use slayers and use them up. Plus, he comes to trust Buffy's instincts more than he does those of his fellow watchers. Her moral compass points true north. So Giles's views gradually diverge from Wes's. Wes holds strict, loyal council sentiments. They clash over how they should handle Buffy and there's all kinds of cool background stuff explored between them.
It would be complex to carry out over a period of three seasons, but I think a neat idea would be to have Buffy gradually fall for Wes, not Giles. At first, she's just got a kind of controlled crush; Wes has turned her advances down, probably sometime in season two, by quoting regulations. Yet he also equivocated about his own feelings, leading her to think he might return her interest, so she's biding her time and dating other guys, hoping to spur Wes's jealous affections. (This would be an Angel-less universe.) She and Wes become involved in her senior year of high school, much to Giles's harsh disapproval. Buffy sees Giles as the bad guy, and Wes, Iagolike in his machinations and not at all the concerned and loving watcher to Buffy that she thinks he is, is happy to play that up and foster tensions between her and Giles. For some reason Giles's hands are tied--he can't put a stop to the relationship and it will take him a while to oust Wes, but at the end of season three he manages to trick Wes into revealing his true colors to Buffy, who is deeply betrayed. Soulsick and angry, she rejects the council entirely, "firing" both of them. Giles takes his medicine, willing to be rejected if it means that Buffy is safe from Wes (and perhaps from whatever fate Wes had been planning to carry out for the council, which is now thwarted? hmm).
Blah blah summercakes, it's season four, and Willow and Xander commiserate with Buffy as she starts college. She's still wounded from realizing that the past several years have been a series of lies, layers of deceit designed to manipulate her. Giles is still around, because the council doesn't allow itself to be rejected by its slayer, but relations are cool, at least on Buffy's side. However, some plotty event soon happens that restores Buffy's faith in Giles and makes her realize he was always on her side. Their friendship restored, she allows herself to represent the council again. The romantic arc of season four is a subdued, ambiguous one (rather like Willow and Tara's is in canon) in which Giles's feelings for Buffy are revealed to us bit by bit; the point of view of the audience kind of parallels Buffy's own post-graduate maturity: we are finally allowed to see those feelings for what they really are, foreshadowing and hints from earlier seasons at last taking shape. Giles won't allow himself to show them to *Buffy* though, and won't let himself act on them, especially with Wes as a bitter object lesson, and because Buffy sees him as this old man, this father figure.
Giles suffers and tolerates Buffy's collegiate romances until the day comes when Buffy tearfully questions her own worth after some dating disaster; the repercussions of Wes's betrayal combine with other bad relationships and make her feel unlovable, fated to die an early death as slayer, alone, never knowing real love. Giles is driven to comfort her, trying to navigate between her needs and his own feelings, but he betrays himself with word or look. His heart is ripped out and displayed on his sleeve and Buffy, though she'd had no inkling, is not as shocked or horrified as he expected. She's open to him, ready to give herself over to someone like him, into the hands of someone she trusts. He's no longer like a father to her, not the stern parent; she's gotten past his defenses and knows that he has many sides to him, even a gentle one, and his age and principles and character are attractive. He's not like any of the boys she's been with, no callow youth; and his sophistication is more true than Wes's bright, glossy veneer. Giles has too much wearying experience to pretend or play nice; he's darker, rougher, more bitter. But she likes his edge, and accepts how he drinks a bit too much, and now she moves across the room, takes the glass of whiskey from his hand and sets it aside, moves into his arms while he tries to resist. But he can't and she's kissing him and it's all good at last.
Too bad the council assassins are going to shoot him next year!