He dreams, the wrong sort of dreams wrapped in the certainty that no one will ever know. He dreams of his hands on peach flesh, his nose in golden hair, his dick in a warm cunt.
He wakes up with guilt and sticky pants and, yet, still the need for a cold shower.
He has trouble concentrating when she speaks. He watches her mouth forming words and sounds, little 'O's and wide 'aw's. He thinks of her lipstick smeared on his skin and his hands in her hair, of the warmth of her mouth.
She snaps her fingers in front of his face. "Hey. Problems there, Apollo?"
He doesn't get the joke he thinks she's making. "Nothing," he says eventually, mouth dry.
Her lips press together, tongue running along them as she watches him in bemusement. "You sure?"
He gets it. "All's a-go, Houston."
She grins and it doesn't take long for him to excuse himself.
He chokes her name out and it makes him happy not to be sharing a room with anyone anymore. The luck of Cleveland. He sneers at himself a little as he searches for the box of tissues on the nightstand. It's dark, but he doesn't want to put on the lights.
He finds the box and is tossing a balled up tissue into the wastebasket when a knock sounds softly on the door.
He doesn't answer and, after a moment, it comes again. Her voice calls his name through the door.
He swallows, thick and guilty around his tongue. "Hey. Come in."
She does, light spilling in from the hallway. She pauses in the doorway, framed by the yellow artificial light, before she closes the door behind her.
He thinks this is Unacceptable Behaviour. "Uhm." He wants to say something about opening the door, but that might just be weirder. "What's up?"
His eyes adjust to the light enough to tell him she's grimacing. "Carla snores like a freight train. I haven't slept in, like, three nights. And Willow and Kennedy are rooming, which'd be weird. Faith and Robin. I mean, normally I'd go see Buffy, but..."
He finishes the sentence for her, "But she has that street rat around lately."
She smirks but hides it immediately. "Pike isn't a street rat. He's just slightly...unkempt." She smirks again, though. "At least he doesn't own stock in hair gel."
He nods. "And he has a pulse going for him."
She nods right back. "Exactly. So, my problem is...I need a soft surface to lay my head."
He nods again.
She asks, after a silence he can't bring himself to break, "Think you could spare a foot and a half of mattress for the pathetic?"
He can't stop thinking that it would be a very bad idea.
She's on top of him, sliding against his cock and rocking against his hand with small whimpers. Her fingernails are digging red half-moons into his shoulders and her hair is hanging forward. When she leans forward, all he can see is her face and then, as her lips take his, her eyes. They're dark and shining. She smirks. "Dream a little dream of me," she says against his lips as he feels her tighten around him.
He wakes to find himself wrapped to her back, hand under her shirt and resting somewhere it shouldn't be. He pulls back slowly and, once disentangled from her lean and long limbs, slides out of the bed. "Such a bad, bad, bad idea," he mutters, hobbling to the door in a manner that is completely undignified. There's no sign of anyone in the hall, so he sprints to the bathroom.
The hot water of the shower pinpricks his back and he doesn't bother to turn it to cold, leaning against the back wall of the shower on one bent arm, head resting on his forearm. The other, he can't even pretend is hers because it is rough and large. Too square, too familiar.
Still, it doesn't take him much time to get off when he can remember the dream, the feel of her soft skin under his sleeping hand and the part of her lips in sleep.
He swallows around his orgasm. This is a very, very bad thing.
He doesn't look at the shrink. They all see one, once a week. Something Giles said about dealing with the trauma of blah blah blah. Still, he can't look at the guy.
"You feel as though you are betraying Anya in having feelings for this woman."
He shook his head at the typical answer. "No. Anya would fully support the pursuit of orgasmic bliss. No. I feel like I'm perving after my best friend's seventeen-year-old sister."
The shrink does that 'hmm' sound he's so good at. "Why do you feel as though this is perverse?"
He stared at the guy. "Because she's seventeen."
"And how old were you when you began your sexual voyage?"
He can't help but feel both pathetic and justified when he answers, "Eighteen."
"This young woman is less than a year from that."
He blinks at the guy. "She's seventeen."
"I'm not condoning you to consummate your attraction. However, seventeen is of consensual age in Ohio. Even if you never consummate your fantasies, there's nothing perverse about having them."
He blinks yet again. "She's seventeen. She's still in school. I'm pretty sure she's never done more than kiss a boy." He shakes his head. "Is my fifty-minute hour over yet?"
"You've only been here twenty minutes, Xander.” His pen scratches on paper. “Why don't you tell me about your relationship with your mother?"
It is a very bad idea for him to answer when she knocks on the door so he pretends to be asleep.
The door cracks open, anyway, and closes soon after. "Hey. Mind if I crash in here again? No?" The blanket lifts up and she says, as she slides under it, "Cool. Thanks."
He holds stiff, even though the way his one arm is wrapped under his head is becoming uncomfortable.
She sighs and then there's a warm hand resting across his belly. "Night," she bids in a drowsy tone.
Her breathing evens and she burrows against him, head on his shoulder. Her forehead rests against his neck and her breath flutters evenly over his chest.
He tries to think brotherly thoughts but his dreams tell him he has failed.
She's gone when he wakes up at noon. It's Saturday, but she has study group for her Latin class. It's just the kind of realisation that sends him straight to a cold shower.
She's in the bathroom when he goes to brush his teeth for bed, but waves him in anyway. She has a toothbrush tucked in her cheek while she brushes her hair.
He grabs his own toothbrush and she hands him the Crest. "Ah. Thanks."
She nods, putting down the hairbrush and starting to scrub her own teeth.
He concentrates on his own image in the mirror. Heather, one of the Slayers, slides in and grabs Dawn's brush before disappearing. Another pokes her head in before sighing heavily and, presumably, heading to the half-bath downstairs.
She spits and rinses and there's nothing about it he finds the least bit sexy, for once. "There are too many chicks in this house for only having one bathroom." She starts pulling things out of the medicine cabinet: orange bottles and blue bottles, a white bottle and a pink disk that almost makes him sputter. "Sorry, one and a half," she corrects herself, quickly and efficiently uncapping bottles, extracting pills and returning the caps, then the bottles. She's on allergy medication, sleep aides and, apparently, birth control. He doesn't know the rest, but she puts two of the pills in a medicine cup. "We should put in more, or just buy an apartment complex like Andrew said." She takes the rest of the pills with a sip out of the tap, including the one from the pink disc. "You could be our super and Giles could be our not-a-racist-Asian-stereotype landlord."
He spits into the sink. "Ah. Yeah."
She smiles. "Faith and Robin could be the upstairs neighbours who have inappropriately loud sex at all times of day. Carla and Shane could be the rule-breakers, hiding cats and smoking cigarettes. Ooh, Andrew would be the weird guy with all the locks on the door and Buffy could be the mysterious lady from the top floor that all the guys hope to run into in the lift, but then they don't say anything."
He spits out his rinse water. "Why couldn't that be you?" He completely did not mean to say that out loud.
She doesn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary about the comment. "Well, the mysterious lady from the top floor is always either blonde or has very dark hair and is never freakishly tall. Buffy fits the bill by being a blonde midget."
She looks at him in a way that makes him distinctly uncomfortable. "You've been weird lately."
"I have?" he asks and tries to ignore the decided squeakiness.
"Totally." She puts a hand on his shoulder. "You know, if you need to talk to someone, I would completely listen. I know I'm not a guy or anything, but I'm surprisingly good at grunting sympathetically."
He looks down and mutters his thanks as he leaves.
He comes to the conclusion that there's only one answer to his problem. He needs to get laid.
The problem is everyone he knows is either taken or about fifteen. Except Dawn. This is probably why she's the focus of his issues.
Andrew looks up at him from a bowl of something that he seems very intent on. "Just a mo. If I whip this too much, the cheesecake will crack. I don't want a lot of air in my eggs."
Xander nods in understanding and leans against the fridge. Andrew is very methodical in stirring and blending the eggs into the batter without beating them.
Dawn bounces into the room. "Ooh, pudding?"
"Cheesecake," Xander answers. "He needs to concentrate."
She lights up. "Well, yeah, he doesn't want to aerate the eggs." At the look he gives her, she explains, "I spend a lot of time with Andrew."
Andrew smiles serenely, scraping the batter into a foil-wrapped spring form pan. As soon as he has put it in the oven and Dawn has taken custody of the bowl and spatula, he looks at Xander. "What can I do for you?"
He pauses and looks at Dawn, licking cream cheese filling off of her finger. This, he realises after a moment, is a Bad Idea.
"Oh," she says, looking up. "Guy talk? Want me to vamoose?"
It takes him a moment to make himself nod as she licks her lips.
She shrugs. "Whatev. I have college applications anyway." She bounces out of the room, bowl in hand.
Andrew is staring at Xander, eyebrows high on his forehead in question.
It takes Xander a minute to remember his goal. "I was wondering what you can tell me about Emmanuelle."
"The waitress at the bakery?"
Andrew looks confused. "You want me to set you up with her?"
"No. I was just...wondering if she was...single."
Andrew sighs and makes his way to the door, closing it. After a moment, he turns back to Xander. "Emmanuelle is my friend, and you're my friend. You two would be precious together. But I can't help you date her."
"Uhm." His mouth feels dry and Andrew looks like he knows too much. "Why?"
"Because she is my friend." He looks unimpressed with the question. "And I won't set her up with a guy who's hung up on someone else. That isn't fair to her."
Xander looks very intently at the door behind Andrew's head. "I'm not hung up on anyone. I'm working through it, but I'm moving on from Anya."
Andrew tsks. "I meant Dawn."
"What?" he sputters. "I'm not hung up on Dawn."
"She licked some filling off her finger and you looked at her like a porterhouse steak." Andrew crosses his arms. "You can't spend more than five minutes in the same room. That is, unless she's snuggling up in your bed. I like Emmanuelle and I won't help you get her if you don't want *her*."
He blinks. "I'm not hung up on Dawn."
"Oh, please. The only person who doesn't know is Dawn. And Buffy, but that's because none of us want to bury you."
"She's like my little sister," he insists in a tone that fails to convince Andrew, himself or the potted plant on the window sill.
The look Andrew gives him hits it home.
"I need to go."
"You have an assignment, Xander," Giles scolds over phone lines, an ocean and the Eastern seaboard.
He lets out a deep sigh and recites the words he has practiced. "There's more I can do, Giles. I know there is. Besides, there are enough people here. I think some of us need to move on eventually."
He can swear he can hear Giles polishing his glasses. "You very well know that Willow and Kennedy are headed to South America in not a month."
"Short term, then they'll be in New York," he reasons. "There are girls all over the world, Giles. Shouldn't we be a little more global?"
"Why are you so intent?"
He shrugs in an effort to get flippancy in his tone. "I just feel like I'm sitting on my hands. We could have groups of girls all over the world, being found and trained."
"Robin is headed to Africa in the autumn. He doesn't seem overly pleased about it," Giles offers.
"I'll do it."
A pause fills the line.
"You're rather serious, aren't you?"
He sighs, holding the phone between his ear and shoulder and ignoring the sounds of Andrew watching a film in the next room. "I am." He confides, playing to Giles' romantic sense, "I'm not going to get over her here."
"This is about Anya?" he asks and Xander sucks in a breath. People never say her name and it punches him in the chest. "Xander?"
"Yeah." He nods. "Yeah, it's about Anya," he realises.
Another long pause fills the line before Giles offers, "We'll discuss it."