Is That Your Final Answer?

Grateful thanks to Sounding sea and Viciouswishes for beta reading this.

Andrew stared out of the corridor window at the swimming pool, blue in a shade water was never meant to be, but glittering, cool and inviting all the same. It was nice. They hadn’t stayed at places with pools very often but Mr Giles had been in a much better mood the last few days. Andrew had heard him telling Buffy about ‘contingency plans for disasters of this magnitude’ and then some terse comments about bureaucracy taken to extremes that had delayed ... stuff. Bottom line seemed to be that there was money again and they were all going to be fine. Mr Giles was going home, back to England, and – at that point Andrew’s thoughts cut off abruptly. What was he doing with these people? Where would he go? He didn’t even have a passport. Well, none of them did. He’d dressed for the battle that final day with no expectation of surviving and tucking a passport into his pocket just hadn’t occurred to him. Like a lot of other things, it was buried in the Sunnydale Crater. That was what they called it now. Wouldn’t be long before the tourists could have hats and t-shirts and postcards with that vast, sunken hole emblazoned across the front. Andrew felt vaguely pleased that the idea bothered him. It meant he was seeing things the right way now he was sure of it.

For a moment, he brightened, even considering going to his room and changing into swim trunks, joining the crowd clustered around or in the pool. Acting like he belonged so that maybe, just maybe, he’d get included in whatever was going to happen.

Then a hand fell on his shoulder and he felt sickness and excitement mix and burn holes in his stomach, acid sour and tangy sweet.

“Andrew. I haven’t seen you all day.”

“Hi, Xander.”

Andrew twisted out of Xander’s grip as if it had been a spider landing on him rather than a hand, covering his reaction by turning to smile up at him, as though that were the only reason he’d moved, so that he could see that ruined face. Not the patch; that was cool, really cool. No; it was the rest of Xander’s face that hurt to look at. Sad desperation and the knowledge nothing, ever, was going to fix what was wrong in his world. Andrew knew that look himself and he knew his face could fall into those lines without trying, but he wasn’t going to let it.

“Got a minute?” Xander said, his voice quiet and insistent.

“I was – I was going to go swim. You know; take advantage of –”

Wrong words. Wrong. That was what Xander said when the beer took away the last shred of dignity. How he’d taken advantage of her, how he’d used her body and never told her that he loved her, that he cared, that he wanted to try again if only she’d forgive him ...

Andrew saw the words register and Xander’s mouth open and he tried to squirm away. He couldn’t – it was too soon – it wasn’t fair.

“Can’t you just – please? One more time? That’s all. I won’t ask again, I promise. I’ll leave you alone –”

Liar, Andrew thought, snide, spiteful anger rising up, sickening him but giving him strength to resist. He’d believed that once, but no more. It was never the last time. Never.

Xander was taller than he, bigger in every way, but Andrew felt himself tower above him as he looked him full in the face. “I won’t do it, Xander. Not again. I’ve told you, I’ve told you everything I know.”

Xander’s face went blank. A scary, closed-off stubbornness thinned his lips. “You can’t have. It couldn’t have happened like that. You’re lying.”

Andrew braced himself but Xander didn’t touch him. “Why would I lie?”

“You’re a murderer. You killed your friend. Why would you tell the truth?”

Andrew flinched as the words shrank him down, diminished and shriveled him like salt on a slug. The others knew but they didn’t mention it. They couldn’t have forgotten but they didn’t seem to think he was worth fearing. Faith had come up to him once, swaying and slightly drunk, after a row with Principal Wood – Andrew couldn’t call him Robin, he just couldn’t  - and wrapped her arms around his neck, trying to make him dance with her as the others snickered and Wood looked on, eyes cold but somehow pleased. When he’d broken away, his face on fire, she’d drawn close, her lips brushing his ear, and whispered, “You think we’re alike because we’ve both killed?”

He’d shaken his head, wondering how she knew that, yes, sometimes he’d thought that, thought they stood alone, together, no, that wasn’t right –

“We’re not, you know.” Faith murmured. “Wanna know why?”

He’d nodded hesitantly, terrified because her eyes were burning bright. “See, you killed once and you’d never do it again, would you? Hmm?”

“Never,” he agreed, the word spilling from his lips, fervent and eager.

She’d smiled, he remembered, soft, full lips curved and amused. “I will. And I’ll get a kick out of it when I do.”

He’d believed her, he really had, and then Wood had laughed, appearing by Faith’s side and she’d turned and laughed with him, her face sharp and hungry and they’d gone off together without even looking at him again.

Andrew looked up at Xander. “I swear it’s the truth.”

“So tell me. Tell me again. Please?” Xander reached out then, his large hand tight on Andrew’s bare arm. “Tell me how she died.”

Andrew began to shake, the way he always did when Xander touched him. Wanted that touch, wanted it really badly but not like this. “I can’t – you know already –”

Xander swallowed, looked as if he was trying really hard to control himself. But his grip didn’t slacken. “I’ll fuck you, Andrew. All the way. Let you touch me, let you – anything. Do anything you want. Just tell me.”

Andrew wasn’t sure that he ever said ‘yes’ but Xander was pulling him, tugging him, taking him down the corridors that led to Xander’s room and Andrew wasn’t resisting.

The room was dim, curtains drawn, bed rumpled and messy. Andrew’s gaze slid around the room. Not that many empty bottles ... then he saw the whisky bottle and felt the panic swell like a balloon inside him, pressing out until he was waiting for it to pop, waiting for the noise and the explosion and the thin shreds of nothing much that would be all that remained.

Xander locked the door and turned to face Andrew. He came over to him and pushed him onto the bed and Andrew let him, let him do everything he wanted, let Xander strip him, suck him, shove shaking fingers into his mouth to wet them, into Andrew’s ass to wet that, let himself be fucked. He tried not to care that neither of them came and Xander didn’t even try to pretend it mattered. Because no matter what Xander said, he’d never let Andrew in that far, never let Andrew try to show him how he felt. And every time they did this, he cared a little less.

Then Xander pulled out of him and vanished into the bathroom for the longest time and Andrew waited, dressing himself with unsteady fingers that kept moving the wrong way and waited.

This time he’d do it. This time he’d tell Xander the right lie. This time he’d tell him Anya had died with his name on her lips.

“Tell Xander I love him.”

He could almost hear her saying it. It was so real, so clear in his head.

Then Xander came out of the bathroom, showered and slicked down and looked at Andrew, just looked.

“She died alone. I wasn’t there.”

“Get out.”

I wish I could, Andrew thought as he stumbled along the corridors away from Xander, the pool, these people. But I’ve got nowhere else to go.

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