Giles slowly tugged his front door open. It had been a tiring day of mind-numbing, day-to-day tedium at the shop, and he was ready for a relaxing evening. He stood, watching in annoyance for a moment as the two young men standing outside his door continued to argue. Knowing he’d regret it, Giles cleared his throat to make his presence known.
The two young faces finally turned and looked at him.
“Hey, G-man,” the brunette piped nervously.
Giles dropped his head to his hand and rubbed his brow. “Xander, I have asked you repeatedly not to call me that.”
The sandy blond next to him had a small smile on his face. “I’m so sorry we disturbed you, Mr. Giles. I was trying to convince Xander that the last thing you needed was him turning your evening into a circus.”
“Riley, you coward. What ever happened to never leave a man behind? What kind of soldier are you?”
The young commando laughed. “The kind that would never leave you stranded on a battlefield. But, when it comes to your own stupidity, I’d rather sit back a watch you go down.”
“They left him out just like us. I think he has a right to know when he’s being offended and get in on the payback.”
“You’re offended. I think it’s all perfectly normal.”
“Yeah, then why did you come with me?”
“Nothing better to do. Besides, sounds like you could really use some guys to hang out with.”
Xander took a breath to retaliate, but was cut off by Giles’ exasperated voice. “If you two ladies are quite finished sniping at each other, perhaps we could take this somewhere less likely to amuse my nosey neighbors.” He pushed the door open wider and turned, not really caring if the young men followed him inside.
“Look,” Xander whispered, “now you’ve got him all mad at us.”
“Please,” Giles put up a hand and leaned back against his desk. “Perhaps, if you start with who or what, besides yourselves, has given me cause for offence.”
Xander glanced over at Riley, who held his hands up in a ‘it’s your show’ kind of gesture. With a groan, he let out in a rush of breath, “The girls are having a party!”
“Oh, bloody hell,” Giles growled, swiping off his glasses and beginning to polish.
Xander winced, hoping this particular use of the familiar action wasn’t replacing the urge to hit him. “Since when do our girls have ‘girls only’ parties? We deserve to party too, Giles. A little downtime for the troops.” He did his best to stand his ground against the older man’s pointed stare, but failed to hide the touch of whine in his voice as he said, “They kicked me out of my apartment.”
Giles couldn’t help but wonder how the bloody hell he had gotten there. Standing in the hallway outside Xander’s apartment with the two young men. He was most definitely too old for these kinds of shenanigans. Crashing the girl’s party, indeed. As he looked at the nervous faces of his two companions, he wondered what their young, hormone driven imaginations were showing them. He himself, when presented with the term ‘girls only party’, could think of a multitude of possible activities. Ranging from high tea, to that night in the West End when he, Ethan, and Randall had picked up a few extra quid filling in for some male strippers at the… Giles shook the memory from his head, hoping his young friends didn’t notice the heat on his cheeks. Luckily, they were too busy listening to the voices drifting through the door.
“I hope I didn’t get it too hot.” Anya’s voice.
“Feels great!” Buffy’s. “You’ve got it just right.”
“I figured it was time for me to try this. It was good of you both to come to teach me how. Back in my pre-demon days men didn’t care if we did this kind of stuff.”
“This was a good idea, Anya. Sometimes we forget how much we need some girl bonding time.” Willow sounded happy. Giles smiled. It was good to hear the happy notes of her voice again.
“Yep! With mom taking Dawn to L.A. for the weekend, all I could think was, Buffy needs some girl time.”
“I’m surprised you managed to loosen up enough to let them go.”
“Buffy’s been know to loosen, Anya.”
“You are never to tell them this, but Angel and his crew are watching them like hawks for me. When I called him, he said that, if anything happened to them, I could send the Scooby of my choice out there to stake him.”
“And who among us has never wanted to do that?”
“Sorry, Buff. You’re right, no more boy talk. Girl’s night.”
“Yeah, let’s get this party stated. Who’s going first?”
There were quiet shuffling sounds for a moment. Then Willow’s voice came back. “I think, since it’s Anya’s first time, she should choose whether she want’s us to do her first, or she want’s to watch us.”
“Wil’s right, your call.”
“I’m kind of nervous for some reason. And, hey, why didn’t Tara come. I did invite her, too.”
“She has a presentation due tomorrow. Besides, she did herself a couple days ago. I think she’s more comfortable with it that way. But she’ll come next time. No reason she can’t do her own while we take care of each other.”
“All right, Slayer’s decision. Anya’s going first. We just shouldn’t ruin the new experience by letting her know everything to expect.”
Giles glanced over. The two boys beside him were red to their hairlines and nearly bouncing with pent up energy. He could almost see their imaginations running wild.
Before he could react, the Watcher was grabbed and thrust through the opening door. “Giles needs you, Buffy!” Xander’s voice squeaked from behind him.
Three young ladies stood, ready for action, before him. Giles’ agile mind quickly took in their attire, the contents of the coffee table, and the bright, cheery mood of the room. He now knew exactly what was going on. A smirk spread across his lips.
“Buffy, Willow, Anya,” he nodded his greeting to each in turn. “Please be assured that nothing is wrong. I apologize for disturbing your evening, but it appears that I am what you might call… a cover, for the two cowards behind me. They were curious as to the kind of party you might be having without them. In my opinion, you should invite them to join in your… festivities.”
“That’s the second time I’ve been thrown under the bus tonight,” Xander hissed.
A smirk arose on each girl’s face to match his own, and Giles strode across to a comfortable armchair and sat down to do what he did best… watch.
“Why didn’t you say you wanted to join us?” Buffy said joyfully as she and Anya grabbed hold of their respective boyfriends. “We had no idea you two wanted to be part of our little waxing party.”
“What?” Xander’s eyes went wide.
“Waxing what?” Riley tried to reach for an escape.
“Of course you can be involved,” Anya chimed in. “Removing the hair from your bodies might be an interesting improvement to our sex lives.”
Willow smiled down at the onlooker. “Would you like a cup of tea, Giles?”
“That sounds heavenly. Thank you, my dear.”
“Now see what you got me into?” Riley accused Xander as the ladies were busy relieving them both of shoes, socks, and jeans. “This is all his fault. I told him to leave you guys alone. I told him to leave Mr. Giles alone. At first, I told him to leave me alone.”
“Third,” Xander growled.
Willow return with a steaming cup of tea and knelt beside Giles to watch. “I hope I got that right.”
“It’s perfect,” he sighed after taking a sip. “Exactly how I like it.”
Willow chuckled when Xander fell over trying to squirm free of Anya’s deft hold. “So tell me, do brilliance and cruelty always go hand in hand?”
This drew what could only be described as a snicker from the man next to her. “Only when he who is brilliant is so frivolously dragged away from his relaxing evening with a good book and tumbler of excellent scotch.”
Anya’s head popped up from the ruckus. “We don’t have any scotch, but there’s brandy in the cupboard if you’d like some.”
“The tea is fine. But thank you for your hospitality, luv.”
The ex-demon beamed a grin at him. She turned to Buffy, “So, now what do we do with them.” They were both sitting on a man, each wearing his shirt, boxers, and a very red face.
“You heard Giles. They want to join in our festivities.”
Anya thought for a moment. “Can you make sure they don’t escape while I go get something?”
“Slayer here,” Buffy smiled.
The Slayer’s hand clamped around Xander’s arm as his girlfriend climbed off him and ran for the bedroom. “Please Buffy. She kicked me out of the house. I just wanted to know why you guys were having fun without me.”
“And we’re gonna show you. We never want you to feel left out, Xand.”
“I’ve got them.” Anya came bounding out with a hand full of soft, flexible cords. “Willow, bring over a couple of those chairs from the table!”
The redhead glanced up at Giles and he smiled, “Go on. It’s your party.”
“So, where would you boys like us to start?” Buffy teased. “It’s usually the legs for us.”
“Giles,” Xander squeaked. “Are you gonna just sit there and let them do this to us? You’re a man. Doesn’t the solidarity of brotherhood mean anything to you?”
Giles calmly sipped his tea. “You are quite right, Xander. However, as a man, I am not at all opposed to the younger members of the ‘brotherhood’ learning first hand exactly what women go through for our benefit. You should consider yourselves lucky these ladies are in such a fine mood. The night Diedre and her friends got a hold of me they were harboring a grudge against our entire sex.”
“You’ve been waxed, Giles?” Willow laughed.
“I was lucky to get out with the hair on my head.”
“Wow. Total Brazilian style. How’s that sound, boys?”
“Buffy,” Riley pleaded as both men were hefted into chairs, “I’m about to go visit my folks. I can’t go home completely bald. My cousins will eat me alive.”
“Think about this,” the slayer whispered in his ear. “If you are bald, I might have more fun eating you alive.”
“Here. Get their hands behind them,” Anya shouted. “Use these to tie them up so they can’t squirm so much. Xander and I picked this kind because it won’t leave marks.”
“Anya,” Xander barked out as she tied his arms behind him, “they don’t need to know that. And stop tickling me, Willow, that’s a form of abuse.”
The girls were having so much fun, even their victims couldn’t help laughing with them as they tried to fight free.
“Hahaha,” Buffy teased with a mock sinister laugh. “We have ways of making you talk.”
“Just do what we do, embrace the pain, you big, strong men,” Willow giggled.
Everyone was laughing so hard they could barely breathe, until Xander glanced up and his laughter died in his throat. “Willow,” he whispered hoarsely, “Willow, you have to untie us. Do it now.”
“Not on you life…” she began, then followed Xander’s gaze.
Giles had put his cup down and was hunched forward, his head down and hand rubbing his eyes. She could see the sweat beading on his forehead, and the slight rocking of his body.
“Now, Willow! It’s the chairs and the ropes.”
“Oh God,” Willow eeped. “Untie them. Both of them, now!”
Buffy and Anya where highly confused, but couldn’t argue with the urgency in their friend’s voice. Willow crossed the room like a shot, and slid to her knees in front of Giles.
“I-I’m f-fine,” he murmured, not looking at her. His voice shook.
“You’re not fine, and we both know it,” Willow kept her voice low and calm. “Look at me. Tell me how bad.”
Giles slowly let his eyes meet hers. “It- it’ll pass. Just give me…” He reached slowly for his tea, but his hand trembled so badly both of them knew it was not going to happen.
Willow gently took his hand and soothed it back into his lap. She reached up, careful to not make any fast movements, and pressed her fingers to his neck. Xander quickly appeared and knelt down beside Willow.
“His heart’s racing,” she whispered. “Do you still have any…?”
The young man nodded, “I keep a stock for him. Anya, Hun, go get the EWOA bag. There’s a bottle that says ‘Giles SOS’ on it.”
Anya wanted desperately to know what was going on, but her need to help was overwhelming. She ran for the bathroom without comment.
“What’s happening?” Buffy shouted. “What’s wrong with him?”
Xander glanced back at her. “Shh, Buffy,” he said quietly. “Try to stay calm. We know how to deal with this. Just keep your voice as low as you can.”
Riley put an arm around her shoulders. “It looks like some kind of panic attack. They’re right, try to keep calm.”
Willow was talking to Giles. “Why didn’t you tell us this was still happening? We would have never been so stupid.”
“I… I didn’t know. It’s been over a year since, since the last. I’m… p-party k-killer.”
She smiled at his attempted joke. “You’re just fine.”
“I got them,” Anya returned with the bottle.
“Good. Can you please get him a glass of water… and that brandy couldn’t hurt either.”
“F-fine. Stop fussing over the s-stupid, old git.”
“You know the rules,” Xander showed him a smile. “We’re the nursemaids, you’re the patient. The grumpier the patient gets, the more the nursemaids will fuss.”
He thought he saw a shadow of a smile, but it disappeared as Giles seemed to wilt and the trembling got worse. The two nursemaids looked up to see Riley standing over him, saying something about having training and being able to help.
“Back off,” Xander barked. The young soldier started and jumped back.
“It’s the looming,” Willow explained. “He can’t take it right now. Please, either get down or stand back.”
Riley nodded his understanding and returned to Buffy’s side. “What happened to him?” he whispered to her. “From what I’ve seen, it’d take some serious trauma to do this to a man like Mr. Giles.”
Tears began to pool in the Slayer’s eyes. “Not now,” was all she could force through her constricted throat.
Willow was tenderly rubbing the back of Giles’ hand, trying to get him to loosen it enough for her to take his glasses from him before he squeezed them so hard they cut into his palm. “We’re here,” she murmured. “Remember? You can feel four hands touching you now. That’s me and Xand. Drusilla can’t do that. She might make you see us, but she only has two hands.”
Giles nodded his understanding of the old reassurances.
“Here,” Anya stopped short, and suddenly dropped to her knees before finally approaching. She handed Xander the pill bottle and water.
“Thanks,” Xander whispered. “All right, Big Guy. You know the drill. Two of these to suppress the adrenaline and slow your heart down.” Giles groaned. “That was the deal. We take all our pills if you’ll take yours. I’m still holding you to it.”
Willow gave him a concerned smile. “Take ‘em for us… for me,” she pouted.
Giles knew he was out classed and out gunned. The little pills were placed into his trembling palm. They were thrown back and downed with the water. Anya poured a glass of the brandy and placed it on the table beside his tea before backing away.
“It’s almost over,” Willow said, loud enough for the benefit of the whole group. She continued to whisper soothingly to Giles, “Almost done. We’re in this together,” until Anya tapped her shoulder and handed her a hand towel, damp and cool. “Thank you,” Willow nodded, touched by the thoughtfulness.
Xander backed away and stood beside her. “That’s my girl,” he grinned. At the concern plainly etched on her face, he whispered into her ear, “I’ll explain it all later.”
As Willow ran the cool cloth over his hands and face, Giles visibly calmed. “I feel a right fool,” he groaned. “Behaving like a child in front of you lot.”
“That’s nonsense, and you know it,” Willow countered. “If it wasn’t for the stress we constantly put on you, this would never happen. It’s good for us to remember that you’re not as invincible as we think you are.”
He couldn’t help leaning his head into the soothing fingers stroking through his sweat-dampened hair. “Just an ordinary man, hmm?”
Willow grinned, “A man, yes, but far from ordinary.” She was rewarded with a blush that had nothing to do with anxiety.
“I…” Giles cleared his throat and looked up at the group. “I apologize for wrecking your party. I-I seem to have this way of chasing the fun from a room.”
“Sorry?” Xander chuckled brightly. “For your brilliant plan to rescue us from the clutches of these evil females? Worked like a charm. Thanks, G-man!”
Everyone groaned, and Xander was playfully smacked from multiple directions.
“Hey, I say we make this a real Scooby affair,” Xander continued. “Anya and I got a couple new movies. We’ll get some pizza over here and fire up the VCR.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Willow agreed, her eyes sparkling up at Giles.
“Yes, it does,” he sighed, relenting to her subtle plea. “First, however, I do have one question. Whatever is an ‘EWOA’ bag?”
“Oh,” Anya bounced on her toes, “that’s the ‘Escape With Our Asses’ bag.”
Half an hour later, Giles was seated on the couch, open pizza boxes spread on the coffee table and a silly comedy playing on the television. On his right, his Slayer had her head resting lightly on his shoulder, her outer arm draped around her faithful soldier. Willow had neatly tucked herself under his left arm. She curled comfortably against his side, sharing her warmth with him and, he had no doubt, covertly monitoring his heart rate. On the floor, Xander and Anya lounged, each propped next to one of his legs.
Giles blinked the moisture from his eyes as he assessed his situation. There he sat, cocooned by love, surrounded by his family. Each as willing to accept him in his weakness as in his strength. It was times like these when he could tell himself that all the sacrifices and all the pain were truly worth it. These special young people… Everything he would ever do with them or for them would always be worth it.
Laughter rolled through the room. This was even better than an evening alone with a good book and an excellent scotch.