Sunday morning was flooded with sunshine, without a cloud in the blue sky. The air was filled with mating calls from birds and cries from squirrels.

Xander stood on the balcony of the second story of the Domus Augustana to watch and listen. A loose-fitting silk robe of gold was belted at the waist over a white shirt. A chain of gold hung around his neck.

Footsteps clang across the marble floor. Xander's heart became lodged in his throat as he turned and saw Buffy.

A purple dress stretched across her slim shoulders that went down to her knees, the mid-chest showing abundant cleavage, both of her breasts shown clearly.

"Hello," Xander said. "Nice day isn't it?"

"It's beautiful," she murmured. "We got the whole place to ourselves, huh?"

"Yes. Also the Domus Flavia or whatever it's called. But that's just for state meetings. How are you doing, Buff?"

"Good," she declared with a decisive nod. "I'm going to need to check on the others to see if they're awake."

"Come on Buff. We need to spend some alone time. Remember when we walked around the city ourselves? Made love at the Baths of Titus?" There was a smile in his voice as he turned to face the view he had, overlooking the city of Rome from Palatine Hill. "We need to do that again."

Buffy watched Xander overlook the city, commenting when Xander turned to look at him, "If we had the same anonymity, yeah. But Xander, you're the Emperor."

"It would be nice to be anonymous again." Xander glanced back at the city. "You know, I want to get out of this place. Even though I like it, we need to go out. I feel trapped here."

"Very well. You might need to ask the guards to join us," Buffy said, looking at two uniformed large men standing at the corner, observing them.

Xander looked at the guards and motioned them with a tilt of his head. "Alrighty. Where would you like to start our tour?"

Buffy had no preference. "You're the Emperor."

A wicked look stole over his face. "Yes. Emperor of 50 million subjects, so I'm told."

"That isn't what I would call me. How about Empress?" she responded with considerable excitement.

Xander directed his gaze at her lips to watch them form the words of what she said. "Okay. We'll start our tour at the Coliseum. I wanted to go there since I first saw it." Xander turned his body towards the guards who were approaching and finally looked away from Buffy.

Willow approached Cato and said his name softly. Cato stood inside the garden inside Domus Augustana, located in the center of the Palace and on the first floor, directly below where Xander had stood on the second floor.

"Cato," Willow said again.

He didn't respond to Willow at first, then turned to stare at her dully.

"I need apples," he said.

"You know we're part of Xander's entourage. You can just ask for them."

"I miss my old garden," Cato said, his voice soft.

"You know I've been meaning to tell you..."

"Tell me what?"

"How appreciative I am for how you took care of Buffy and Xander and then how you took care of me, Brittany, and Dawn."

"It's no problem."

"I have to give you a better thank you than that," Willow said, taking Cato by the elbow and steering him away from the apple garden and toward the complex of corridors.

"But..." Cato said, looking back at the apples.

"You want the best apples, don't you? We'll get some."

"Okay," Cato said meekly, allowing Willow to guide her towards a cafeteria.

Brittany wrapped Dawn in a blanket and handed her a cup of tea. She was shivering head to toe, despite the fact it was around seventy degrees outside.

Dawn tried to get the mug to her lips, but her hands shook, and Brittany moved in and took it from her, holding it gently up to her lips so she could take a sip.

"I overheard what you told Xander the night he gave the speech."

"I meant what I said."

"It's okay. I'm over him now. But it's just weird... You, Buffy, and Willow. All want Xander."

"Well only one can have him."

Brittany was silent as she pondered what Dawn had said. They stared at each other. Brittany couldn't interpret what Dawn was feeling. Was she really in love with Xander?

"Dawn, maybe you should just get over him too. It would be better-"

Dawn took a deep breath. "Look, Brittany. If I could force myself not to like him I would, but I can't. You know, I'm cool with him having me and Buffy." She threw off the blanket and stood up, moving until she was face-to-face with Brittany. "I mean I have a fever and could die at any moment. This is not Sunnydale anymore. I can't wait for another guy. We only get one life to live."

Brittany was silent for a moment. "So what are you saying? You're going to tell Xander you love him. Didn't you do that?" Brittany said, stepping around her. She picked up the blanket and wrapped it back around her shoulders.

"I'll be careful. I know he won't refuse me. You have to keep it a secret from everyone though... Willow, Cato, and especially, Buffy."

"Hey, if Xander agrees to it, I will. But I know he won't."

"We'll find out. How long did you go out with him?"

"Six months."

Dawn shook her head as she stared across the bed chambers at servants cleaning the room. "You shouldn't have let him go."

"You mean he shouldn't have let me go."

"He's not an ordinary guy. Anyone who becomes Emperor of the Roman Empire is someone special."

Brittany nodded, her eyes darkening, her intent serious.

"What if I said I wanted to get back with him, too? I mean if you're-"

"But you said you were over him."

"So what?" Brittany asked and put up her hand as Dawn began to interrupt, "I'm not a girlie girl who fawns over the guy. I'm a mature woman. Xander is the only guy here really. I don't want to take any chances with any Romans."

"You got to step down," Dawn said, moving back toward her. "I know you still like him. But I am sick because I want Xander and right now, I can't have him."

Brittany looked at her and saw genuine regret and hurt on her face. They stared into each other's eyes, neither one speaking for a minute.

"Okay, you tell Xander how you feel. Let me know how it goes. If he's okay with having the Summers' sisters, then I'll keep it a secret."

Dawn smiled as she considered what she said.

Xander and Buffy stared at the city they had just entered. It was huge, buildings lining and stretching for miles, but two places stood out: the Coliseum in the distance, where the huge wonder pierced the sky, and a large Colossus of nero statue towering adjacent to it.

"So this is Rome..." Buffy whispered in awe. It was breathtaking, but she somewhat felt used to the crowded streets. Xander felt the same, in awe of the city but had an underlying comfortable feeling, like they both belonged in a crowd. He grabbed Buffy's hand and pulled her forwards.

Weaving through the crowds, they drew the attention of everyone. They were drawn to Buffy's beauty and Xander's handsomeness, in part due to his golden attire. Men and boys looked at Xander jealously, making him proud, while women stared in envy over Buffy's figure, making her feel powerful. She was going to let go of his hand until something caught her eye. She saw the same vendor she and Xander had met that morning after they had been released from prison.

"It's the same vendor we met before, Xander..." She whispered. "Don't look, but it's amazing how far we've come since that day." She noticed the vendor had turned his head in their direction. Then Buffy spoke quickly, "Xander, kiss me."

Xander blushed, making her blush too. "W-W-What?" He stuttered.

"If he recognizes us, he's going to harass us!"

Xander blinked. She said that all in one breath. He was about to dismiss the notion of kissing, but several people in the crowd began to speak amongst each other in hushed tones./

"This is the new Emperor and his woman! I mean, they aren't even Roman! The blonde haired one looks too much of a whore, how can she be with the Emperor?! At least they haven't had kids yet. We don't want any of their offspring becoming Emperor!" It was a man's voice, and he seemed pissed.

"Hey, don't blame the blonde one! She's seems like a good woman! But your right, they shouldn't have kids. I bet they won't even last as a couple. I hear the Emperor had an affair with the late Caesar's wife!" Said a second voice, also a man.

Who would guess that the gossipers in Rome were men? Xander didn't want to listen to the ramblings anymore, as he now began to hear the women speak.

"Buffy, I'm tired of all this talking." He whispered to her ear. Not even waiting for a reply, he crushed his lips to hers.

"Oh, my!" Buffy and Xander heard the crowd of a hundred of so gasp. "They're doing it! Oh my!"

His hands slid from her shoulders up her neck to her chin, tilting her face to receive his kiss. The pressure of his mouth was as light as the sun touching the earth. Soon the desire that was ever-present between them urged their mouths together in a kiss that left Buffy clinging to one of the two guardsmen to stay upright.

"Well?" he asked hoarsely, spreaidng kisses around her face, ending at her forehead.

She kept her eyes pinched shut. "That was... very... nice."

Xander smiled and pulled back. Buffy looked surprised for a split second as she opened her eyes, but then she realized the attention they were getting. All around the sides, the crowd was scanning them, and she could swear men were undressing her with their eyes.

"Let's go to the Coliseum," Xander said slowly. "I'll make sure it's just me and you." Xander heard a grunt from one of the two guardsmen. Xander turned to the guardsman and gave him an apologetic look, then looked at Buffy. "And the guards, but act like they're not there."

She nodded, laughing at Xander slightly for his sense of humor.

"Those apples were good, huh?" Willow asked Cato. "No need to go picking them."

"And that was the only thing you wanted to do? Thank me?" Cato probed.

"I heard you are 59. You must have taken good care of yourself to live that long here." And then Cato grinned.

Cato eyeballed her for a moment while he considered the grim truth- that he was one of the lucky few in Rome who have lived past fifty. "So you came here to talk to me about death?" he asked, shaking his head. "I've had enough talk about it."

"No. I wanted to talk about the kiss we had at the tavern."

"You told me you were a lesbian."

"So? I can still kiss guys, right? Even like them... love them."

Cato laughed. "You like Xander I know. How do I come into the picture?"

"Follow me," Willow said.

Cato followed her into an area of the cafeteria where he watched her pull a bowl of fresh fish from a table and threw it into a basket full of fresh apples laying nearby. Cato sat at the small kitchen table on a chair. "I love apples and fish."

"All right, all right, give me a second," Willow said, putting the basket in front of him. She filled a nearby cup with milk and put it on the table, then leaned against the kitchen table and let out a breath.

He chuckled and shook his head. "It's not lunchtime yet."

"It doesn't matter, eat up my friend," Trebonius said as he came into the kitchen. He didn't look like a soldier who had escorted Julia off into exile. All he had on was a night robe. "So you're taking care of your father, Willow?"

"Uh... not exactly. What's up?"

"Couple of things," Trebonius said. "First of all, Julia and her children are safely in Aegyptus. Looks like they are handling it better than we expected. That should come as good news for Xander. And also Annia wants to speak with Xander."

"She's that bitch who almost got Xander killed during his speech?" Willow asked loudly. "I don't want her to see him."

"She already did. But she wants to see him again."

Of course she did. Every woman wanted Xander now, more than ever. "I don't want her seeing him."

"Oh," Trebonius said. "But she's the daughter of the consul."

"Consul?"

"Next in line to the Emperor. He's first consul. There's a second one named Vibianus. Both are to be commended since they survived the reign of Commodus," Trebonius explained, looking at Cato as he ate the fresh cut fish. Then he glanced back at Willow. "Consuls are the highest elected political office. She is important because of her father."

Willow gave him a small smile. "So why tell me? You can tell anyone."

"I heard Buffy and Xander are out in the city," Trebonius said.

Willow's chin dropped. "What?"

"Seems to be that they were tired of hanging around the confined walls of this Palace," Trebonius said. "To me, I can't get enough of it. Thankfully I made an acquaintance with Xander. He made my life very good."

"He made everyone's for the moment," Willow said. Her eyes grew sad; she shook her head with frustration. "I want him to be safe within these walls. It's unpredictable... out there."

"Nothing's unpredictable anymore. The Praetorian Guard will be disbanded for good. Xander will do it," Trebonius said with a smile.

Willow smiled. "That'll be good. You helped put an end to Pulcher I heard."

Trebonius patted her arm affectionately. "You know there's other guys out there beside Xander."

Cato looked at Trebonius between bites and shook his head. "She's a lesbian."

Trebonius burst out laughing, not believing what he heard. "A lesbian? No-" His eyes caught Willow's and noticed she was not laughing. Trebonis thought about it for a moment. "Wow."

"But Xander is an exception," Willow said.

Trebonius frowned, then smiled slightly, giving Willow a seductive stare. "How about another?"

"Willow, is he hitting on you?" Cato asked her. "Boy he is blunt."

"I don't hide when it comes to women." Trebonius looked her over. "Why don't we get something to eat together?"

"I'm busy right now with my 'Father'. And it looks like Father doesn't approve do you, daddy?" Willow asked, looking at Cato, who shook his head. Then she looked at Trebonius. "Sorry."

"Well," Trebonius said, grimacing. "Whatever."

Xander and Buffy looked around in wonder and awe; they had never seen so many people gathered in one place before. The stands were filled to the brim with people, all of whom were talking amongst one another, taking bets on the upcoming gladiatoral fights or simply waiting in anticipation for the fight.

Xander looked around for anything that would resemble the Emperor's seating area as the last of the spectators filled their seats. He looked up and saw what he presumed to be his personal box and smiled.

The gilded marle throne was on a raised platform approached by marble steps, beneath a balcony. Trumpets announced the approach of Xander, who could enter unobserved through a door at the side of the raised platform. From the moment that the trumpet sounded, and the guards in the Coliseum became stiff as statues, Xander and Buffy observed the rolled petitions, greetings, testimonials of flattery from private citizens and address of adulation from random people, as a silent throng filed behind them.

Xander glanced at one of the two guards who surrounded him and Buffy on both sides. "How many people are here?"

"About 50,000. Full capacity," the guard replied.

Xander nodded, swallowing deeply. Now and then he scowled, his irritation at the frequent voices and addresses towards him. At each gesture of impatience the guards beside him pushed the crowd back away from him. But at the end of the long walk through the Coliseum, Xander grew tired of the admiration of the crowd and he scowled.

"I came here for a nice escape and this is what I get!" Xander said in a harsh voice. The crowd continued flowing by, each raising their right hand and bowing as he reached the Emperor's box. He walked in with Buffy and as they entered, they were now exposed to all of the crowd.

All movement ended then and there was utter silence. For a moment Xander stood scowling at the crowd, a hand resting on his throne. Then he laughed, looking at Buffy standing to his right. "I don't know whether they are silent for me or for you..."

"It's for you," Buffy concluded. "I bet none of these people have seen the new Emperor yet."

"With all the Emperors being killed off so recently, I doubt they haven't seen an Emperor in a while. Buffy, sit down next to me. I don't want them to be confused who the Emperor is," Xander insisted. Buffy did as he asked. Xander looked at a half-dozen young women to his right, half-hidden behind the pillars inside the box, each one trying, as he looked at them, to draw a smile from him and pose attractively. One even winked at him. "Who are these girls?" Xander asked, his heart skipping a beat in excitement.

"They are slaves," a familiar feminine voice addressed him.

Throwing away his silk robe for a male slave to catch and fold he turned towards the woman. It was Annia. Her brown hair looked disheveled. Her clothes were in a revealing state of disarray and her lips were swollen. Her brown eyes had the look of a woman who had been made love to. She cast a surreptious glance at Xander, wondering what he thought of her.

Xander was about to speak when he saw an old senator come from one of the curtains behind a pillar. He kept his head down as he rushed out of the throne room, blushing all the way. Xander sighed. Bitterness and contempt laced him. Not at the jealously of what she was doing but at the disrespect it showed to him. "So this is how you are spreading the message of Christianity..."

"No. He paid me pretty good. But it could work if I did it for that," Annia agreed quietly.

"Right!" Xander returned with a scoffing laugh. He knew he had to be lenient on Annia since she knew his secret about being a Christian but he couldn't control his anger at her action. "I gave you a nice talk and I believed you were a good woman. You don't need the money. Your father is first consul for Christ's sake."

"I do need the money," Annia said.

"No you don't," Xander corrected grimly. "Get out of the Emperor's box. Take the other girls with you."

"You're kicking me out? What?" Annia murmured with amused disbelief. "You know what I can do to you..."

"Stay outside the throne room and wait somewhere for ten minutes where we can talk. Let me enjoy my time here with Buffy for now," Xander sighed.

Annia's gaze slid to Buffy, who refused to even grant her a look. "Okay," she said. Chilled by his cold command, she swayed to carry out his order. "I'm sorry if I offended you. I didn't expect you to be here at the gladiatoral games..."

Xander's eyebrows narrowed. "Me too. Now leave, please. I'll talk to you in a moment."

Annia nodded numbly and walked out of the room.

As soon as his eyes left Annia's, he looked down onto the sandy ground in the center of the Coliseum. He saw a dozen gladiators greeting him with a salute.

Xander mimicked the same salute the guards gave him and they rested their salute. Moments later, swords began to clash.

"Is it me or does our impromptu tour of the Coliseum seems like a planned thing?" Xander exclaimed towards Buffy.

Dawn tapped on a door to a room and went in to find an old man rummaging through a stack of papers.

He glanced up and the look on his face puzzled her; relief, with a kind of wry amusement too. "Sit down," he requested softly.

The old man placed his papers in a stack as Dawn sat down in a chair across from his desk. Then, since the man remained silent, she said kindly, "You are the doctor here. Aelius Galenus, right?"

The man leaned back in his chair, looking at her with some amusement. "You have a fever is what I heard and you certainly look it," he observed. "But based on what I heard, it was brought upon by a concern for someone. Please tell me about that..."

"It seems like you already know so why don't you tell me about it..."

"Don't, I beg you, show an attitude towards me. I've traveled around the world and treated several emperors. I am the most distinguished physician in Rome."

"I'm not showing an attitude," she said snappily. "You are acting like I faked my illness."

The man's eyebrows rose at that, and then he laughed. No one had talked to him like that for a long time and he rathed enjoyed it. "I will be brief. Some of the men and women who work here know you like the new Emperor. You happen to be the sister of the woman he's with... A woman named Buffy..."

"Look, Aelius Galenus-"

"Call me Galen."

"Galen," Dawn said. "I came here for some medication. I'm real scared of being sick in this time period. I can die from this."

"Not under my care, dear. You have nothing to worry about."

"Yes, well- It doesn't seem like you want to help me."

The stare Galen turned on her should have shrivelled her up. "My dear Dawn, I am proposing this is a psychological illness, not a physical illness. Your friends will look after you and that will be it. I don't like to waste my time on someone who is in love."

"Oh, sorry you feel that way..."

"You know from what I heard... he loves your sister very much. You love your sister, don't you?"

"Yes."

"In any case, this is none of my business. But if you love the Emperor, tell him. Don't come back here until you do. Then maybe I can begin some treatment." He smiled at her with such charm that her heart danced against her ribs. "Where is the Emperor, now?"

"I don't know. I guess I should search for him?"

"Wait for him to come back." Galen frowned. "No, better still, I'll fetch for him. As the Emperor's personal physician, I have the best contact with the Emperor. I'll find out where he is." He added, "And Dawn, if he says he wants to be with Buffy, accept it. If you want to talk to me afterwards about this, you can do that."

Dawn smiled at the old, bearded physician, and nodded. "Thanks."

Four attractive, young, scantily clad women were stationed outside the Emperor's box, prepared to entice the Emperor as he walked out. Two guardsmen were standing near them at the exit where Annia was also waiting.

Annia was introducing herself to the four women. "Hello, I'm the daughter of the consul, Falco. I am waiting on the Emperor. He is supposed to talk to me."

"That's what he told you, huh? You got to wait in line, honey," a blonde and pretty woman replied.

"Oh, I love your father. He could be Emperor if the Emperor dies you know. Just something to think about," another of the four women added with a mischievous grin.

"Pleased to meet you, Falco's daughter. I guess you don't like giving out your name," the third and oldest of the group said politely.

"My name is Annia."

Annia shook all of their hands then called out for Xander. She had been waiting for ten minutes as he had told her.

As Annia was about to turn away and leave, Xander appeared and walked right by the four women and the two guardsmen. The sight of Xander in a plain white tunic, exposing his strong muscles in his arms and chest stimulated a powerful sensation in Annia's heart.

"Xander!" Annia called out again. "Thanks for coming out here."

Xander managed a genuine smile as Annia opened her arms for a hug. "Yeah."

Xander reached Annia and gave her a crushing embrace. In a voice only Annia could hear, he whispered in her ear, "Annia," he said. "Speak with me alone."

Instantly, Annia's manner changed. She made a gesture of being frightened. Her sudden scowl made the women standing next to her frightened as well.

"Guards, make sure the women get back to the Emperor's box," Xander retorted as he broke the hug. "And make sure you as well stay in the Emperor's box."

The women vanished, hurrying into the Emperor's box, with the two guards following quickly, the last guard drawing a cord that closed the jingling curtain.

"Xander, are you going to hurt me?" Annia stuttered. "What do you want? I can give you anything…"

"Be quiet!" Xander grumbled, giving her a black look. "I really thought you were something special."

Annia nodded and cast Xander a terrified look. "What do you want? Like I said, I can give you anything…"

Noticing how frightened Annia was, Xander was suddenly determined to eliminate her worries about her safety. He took her oval face in his hands. "You are one of the prettiest girls in this city. But that's not why I like you. You have courage. Courage that almost got me killed during my speech, but you have courage. So don't feel scared around me. This is the second time in a row you look like you are going to die. I like you, okay?"

"Then why do you look like you want to kill me?" Panic tightened Annia's expression.

"I don't know," Xander said softly. "Maybe I was a little jealous I don't know." Tears stung Annia's eyes as Xander guided her to the left of the exit, into a corner inside the shade where no one could discern who they were. "Jesus. I'm so nervous. I didn't expect the Coliseum to be this packed."

"Happens almost every day. It picked up when Commodus started doing gladiatorial fights himself."

Xander laughed softly, remembering Commodus played by Joaquin Phoenix in the movie, Gladiator.

Annia jerked with a start when Xander looped an arm across her shoulders. She looked up at him, drawing a hissing breath as his gaze sharpened on hers, warning her not to be so dramatic.

Annia reached into a pocket in her black dress, undoubtedly to check on the money she received from a senator.

Xander saw Annia release a breath and drag in another. He knew that Annia was about to check the money.

"What'd you do?" Xander whispered. "Gave him a blowjob or what?"

Annia wanted to stay focused on getting her money, but his comment heated her blood and she gave up the search. "I'm not a whore, Xander."

"Yeah, well, seems like that to me."

Applause broke out, and Annia realized the gladiatorial performance had ended, judging by the enthusiastic clap of hands. She knew the crowd would fill up the halls they were in and there would be no privacy for their talk. Also she knew Buffy would be walking out as well.

Xander withdrew his arm from around Annia's shoulders, knowing himself what was about to happen. "Come to the Palace tonight. We can continue this there. I want to know why you are doing this."

"I," Annia snapped. "If you're going to lecture me-"

"Annia, I'm not going to lecture you, okay?" Xander searched for something more comforting to say as he returned his palm to the small of her back. "I respect you no matter what you do… or did…" Annia rolled her eyes as she wiped away the last bit of tears. "Ask for me from one of the guards."

Annia did not reply as she swallowed heavily, a look of shame evident on her face.

"Hey I cheated on Buffy with the Emperor's wife. Then I sent the Emperor's wife into exile with her children. It's not like what you did was any worse than that, right?"

Annia almost laughed.

"I also had a threesome with Buffy and my best friend. At least this time Buffy allowed the cheating."

He'd done it again, made her want to laugh.

"Like I said, I'm not going to lecture you."

Annia squeezed her eyes closed. When she lifted her lashes, Xander saw the shadows of anxiety and fear that darkened her irises. He regretted his frustration towards Annia but what was his alternative? After catching Annia in what appeared to be a sexual affair, he couldn't just let her walk away, especially after the talk he had given her.

She glanced at Xander, her face pale, her eyes gleaming with purpose. "Okay. I'll see you tonight."

Xander bent his head and dug at the dirt of the Coliseum floor with the heel of his sandal. It gave him a chance to think about what would happen that night. Then Xander looked up and still with his hand on her back, he used it to give her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Ask for me from one of the guards," he stated again.

Assured by his promise, Annia smiled weakly and walked away from the shaded corner.

Xander settled a thoughtful gaze on her. Damn she was pretty. Xander couldn't deny that. The possibility of having an affair with her couldn't be ruled out. Even her speech, refined and laced with a calculated tone made Xander feel turned on inside.

Just then the curtain opened and a bunch of those in the Emperor's box emerged, accompanied by a faint smell of soup. He turned towards the curtain and saw as individual by individual filed through.

Xander, apparently sensing that Buffy would be agitated at leaving her alone, hurried over to the side of the curtain. He allowed himself to be pushed aside unintentionally by senators and women alike, coming from adjacent boxes near the Emperor's box. Then he recognized Buffy who walked through the mesh of people.

Buffy caught sight of Xander standing near the curtain. She raised her eyebrows. In a low voice and standing aside the exit beside Xander, she asked, "What did she want?"

"I don't know yet. I'm guessing she's doing sexual favors to help daddy's career."

"Oh." Buffy lowered her lashes and caught her lower lip between her teeth.

As ill-timed it was, Xander ached to taste those lips and do a little nibbling as well. His Buffy was so beautiful and fine. On her best day, Annia, though beautiful in her own right, could not measure up. "I'm sorry I left you there at the end."

Why Xander was apologizing, Buffy didn't know. "Don't worry about it. Let's just walk back."

"Easier said than done," Xander said, noticing the two guards who had escorted them from the Imperial Palace to the Coliseum. They seemed just as frustrated about the upcoming trip as they were.

Once on Palatine Hill and walking up to the Domus Augustana, they could breathe again. Along the trip back, Xander had little to say. He knew Buffy was a little perturbed about Annia, and he couldn't blame her. Buffy had disliked Annia from the beginning and now had more reason to upon witnessing what Xander had seen.

"That woman," Buffy ventured in a low voice. "What are your plans for her?"

Xander sighed. "I see a lot of potential in her. I think she can help people become more accepting of Christianity."

"Do you-" Buffy made tight fists in the folds of her purple dress. "Do you like her?"

Not wanting to respond quickly because he wanted Buffy to know he considered what she asked, he finally said, "No. It's not like that between us, at least not for me."

"Of course you would say that." Tears sparkled in her eyes. "Oh, Xander, I feel terrible. You and Julia… having an affair. I know I haven't shown the hurt it caused me but it did…"

"I won't have another one," he promised.

"I mean we shouldn't even have had that threesome with Willow," Buffy said bitterly. "You could have had the courtesy to not do it." She glared at him. "I don't like being taken for granted , and god knows what you did when you were training to be a soldier. I won't be at your beck and call, you understand, Xander?"

His brown eyes showed amusement as he looked at Buffy. "I don't take you for granted, Buff."

"I… I hope you don't." Buffy found it challenging to remain angry.

"Caesar, during the gladiatorial fight I received word from your personal physician Galen that Dawn wants to talk to you," a guard beside them informed Xander.

"At lunchtime? How about we make it later?" Xander protested.

The guard looked at the other guard next to him and both frowned. The guard who had told him about the news glanced back at Xander. "Caesar, we were told it was urgent."

Xander raised his eyebrows and stared at Buffy. "Do you want to come with me?"

"It's for you alone, Caesar," the same guard insisted.

"All these rules and regulations!" Buffy laughed.

With a sigh, Xander nodded towards the guards. He glanced at Buffy. "I'll meet you in your chamber afterwards." He walked away, his hand on her waist drawing her along with him until he let go of his grasp.

Buffy watched him leave, overcome for a minute by curiosity. Then she shrugged. It must be something minor that Dawn was making into something major, she thought to herself.

"He's coming alone," a guard informed Dawn as he stuck his head into the chamber and walked away down the corridor outside.

As Dawn turned to the open door where she heard the voice, Xander walked in. His brown eyes lighted on her immediately and a half smile curved his mouth while she tried to get her breath back. He was dressed in a white tunic that emphasized his good looks.

It was a full second before Dawn became aware of the stranger who was with him.

"Hello, Dawn," Xander greeted her, but didn't give her an opportunity to respond. "I don't believe you've met Varius."

Dawn managed a smile as she stepped forward. Varius was one of the guards who had escorted Xander and Buffy to the Coliseum. He was a well-built man with bushy eyebrows and a mass of iron gray hair. The harshness of his features was softened when he smiled, as he was doing now. Dawn had the feeling he was a very honest, trustworthy man.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dawn." The man shook her hand and cast a sideways glance at Xander. "I'm glad you decided not to do it later like you wanted."

"Later?" Dawn was confused, and a glance at Xander only added to it.

"I am a busy man, Dawn." The unsettling brown eyes were fixed on her. "I knew this wasn't a medical issue because Galen would have told me. What do you want, Dawn?"

"What do I want?" Dawn was beginning to feel like an echo.

"He asked you a question, Dawn," Varius inserted. "When the Emperor speaks to you, you speak back in an appropriate manner," he said as if quoting a line from a rulebook.

"It's okay Dawn. You don't have to respond," Xander told Dawn, and turned to Varius. "It was a pleasure finally knowing your name, Varius. I hope you don't mind if I take Dawn out for lunch."

"I certainly don't," Varius smiled broadly.

"But-" Dawn began.

"You hungry?" Xander interrupted.

"Yeah, kind of." There was more she would have said, but his hand was already on her elbow directing her out of the chamber.

"Hope you enjoyed the food," Willow said before taking Cato's hand.

Cato gazed at her, still in the stunned-speechless mode he'd been in all morning.

Willow turned to Cato as they walked through the Domus Augustana corridors. "I know Trebonius said you were my father as a joke but I do look at you like that. I hope you don't mind."

"Not one bit."

Willow chuckled. "None of us have any parents here. You are like the father figure for everyone. I'm sure you heard Xander during his speech." Then the redhead leaned up and kissed his cheek. "You mean a lot to this group so don't feel left out," she said, whispering into his ear. "Thank you."

As Willow halted at the door of her chambers, Cato stood with his mouth agape. "I did hear Xander's speech. It was perfect. I really appreciate that you feel that way. I don't feel left out."

"I bet you just need a woman in your life. I can help you with that." Willow grinned and elbowed him. "Come by my place tonight and we'll talk some more."

Willow patted his shoulder without so much as a glance his way then walked into her chambers.

"Thanks again for the company," Cato called after her.

Xander ushered Dawn into the cafeteria and closed the door. She turned to face him, his bland expression telling her absolutely nothing.

"Would you mind explaining what's going on?" Her hands were on her hips in challenge.

"I'd like to know the same thing. Let's do it over lunch though. Are you hungry?" he repeated his earlier question, then noticed her nod a 'yes'.

Dawn was too confused to object when he took her hand in his and guided her to the outer edge of the empty cafeteria. He was guiding her through tables and chairs when suddenly Dawn pulled her hand free from his.

"What are you doing?" she demanded.

"I'm taking you to lunch," he responded.

"I didn't say I would go with you."

Xander tipped his head to an inquiring angle. "Will you?"

"Yes, but Xander, I wanted to talk to you about something important."

"Who says we can't talk about something important here?" Xander's hands moved to her shoulders, as if to make her feel calm.

Within a second, Xander had found a table at a window with a view of the gardens in the center of the Domus Augustana. The sun glared through the window. Dawn had just sat down when a servant appeared.

"Two orders of wine, please. We'll order later."

"I do want to get this off my chest," Dawn stated.

"It won't hurt if you wait a moment," Xander insisted with complacency.

Dawn gritted her teeth for an instant. "I know you believe that just because I'm Buffy's little sister that I cannot be a mature, older woman. I am not the same girl you played board games with."

"I know, I know." Xander thanked the waiter with a nod of his head as the waiter brought their wine.

"I threw away my life in Sunnydale. There's no way we're getting back. Here we don't have any good food, no good movies, no good medicine-"

"That's another thing," Xander seized on that. "What was all that nonsense about my personal physician? You're not really sick, are you?"

"Don't be so rude, Xander." Her mouth curved above the rim of the wine cup. "You had everything to do with it. You're the reason, the only reason, I have been sick."

Xander swallowed, her bluntness throwing him again. "What's so special about me?"

"Because you have dark hair and beautiful puppy dog eyes. Because you're a man I want to get to know… very well." The slight hesitation was designed to underline the last two words she spoke. Their message was unmistakable. Xander felt the blood rush hotly through his veins. Her observant blue eyes noted his reaction. "Hasn't a woman ever made a play for you before?" Dawn asked bluntly, with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She knew about Julia and how she had seduced him.

"Of course." Xander tried to shrug away her question with a distant feeling that he could not feel at the moment. Unaware, he fingered the stem of the cup.

"And?" Dawn prompted.

"And what?" Xander tried to appear nonchalant.

"And what would you do if I tried to?"

A small table separated them. Yet the way Dawn was looking at him made him feel she was making love to him in his mind. He could feel a gentle caress of his hands from her right hand, and it awakened a hunger that had nothing to do with food.

"I guess you'll have to wait and find out." Xander clung to his air of boldness, despite the fact that he was so vulnerable.

Dawn pulled her right hand back to her cup. "I'll look forward to it."

"I'm not going to rush you."

"Am I supposed to be grateful that you warned me?" Dawn retorted.

"Do you consider that a warning?" He raised his eyebrow. "I thought it was a promise."

"We'd better order."

"You've eaten here before I'm sure." Dawn didn't object to his suggestion. "What would you recommend?"

"Since I'm not familiar with what you eat, I can't help you." She refused to look at Xander as she looked around at the food lying around the cafeteria.

"But you know my taste. I want only the best. Nothing less will do." His disconcerting brown gaze was leveled at her, and she sensed that he wasn't referring to food.

"Your definition of taste is different from mine. You'll have to choose for yourself," she insisted. "I'm going to have a salad."

Xander motioned the waiter to his table, gave him Dawn's order and his own for a steak.

"Don't you like the wine?" Xander asked.

Dawn had yet to take a sip of it. "I generally don't have anything to drink during the day, except water."

"But this is a special occasion."

"Why?"

"Because we're here together, you and I." He took a drink from the cup of wine and set it down. "I was beginning to feel like there would always be an appointment, paperwork to do, someone to get in my way from seeing you again."

"Really?" she murmured.

"Don't act like you weren't nervous. Getting my physician to get me is pretty desperate, isn't it?" Xander spoke softly, but a hint of taunting was evident in his voice.

"I wasn't being desperate at all," Dawn lied.

"Did you really believe I wouldn't have a one-on-one talk with you again?" His gaze slid to her lips and Dawn had to fight an impulse to moisten them.

"Isn't there something else we can discuss?" she demanded in irritation while her fingers nervously traced a circle around the rim of the cup of wine.

"How about the weather?" Xander asked.

"I don't give a damn about the weather, or the cost of a loaf of bread, it makes no difference," Dawn breathed out impatiently.

"Quit playing with your cup."

Dawn's hand jerked from the cup as if it had suddenly caught fire. She folded her hands in her lap and struggled to regain her momentary loss of poise. Fortunately, the waiter chose that moment to arrive with their meal, which smoothed over Dawn's sensation of nervousness.

Yet it was a relief when each had finished and Xander signaled the waiter to give him a thank you.

She, who had thought herself so experienced, had discovered that she didn't know how to handle this man. Xander was in control, directing events, conversations and feelings.

"We still have plenty of time to spend together. Why don't we wander around the palace?" Xander suggested smoothly.

"Sure. It wouldn't hurt," she said, shrugging.

Annia had told her father what had happened at the Coliseum earlier that day and was panicking outside the door to her father's room inside his villa.

"Annia?"

Annia didn't move.

"Here's how it's going to go down," Falco said. "I'll talk to Gratus. The favor you did for me should insure that he votes for acquittal of Marcus. But just to make sure, I will talk to him. And you'll get the ten percent I promised you."

Annia jumped up and tore open the door. "Ten percent?! The Emperor saw me! I don't know what the fuck he was doing there! I had oral sex with Gratus and he knew it! He will know you are doing this. You have to give me more father."

"Ten percent of my earnings are quite a lot of money," Falco said calmly.

"Well if my life is in danger, it isn't."

"Annia. Please." He was cold, condescending. "Marcus did a lot of good things for me. I wouldn't be here where I am if it wasn't for him. If you make one wrong move now that you have already done what you did, my career can be over. Trust me. You won't want that."

Annia's stomach turned in on itself. She clutched it in silent agony. "Marcus killed a father and mother. They had two kids."

"He was drunk. He didn't know they were there."

Annia lifted her chin to look at her father. "He ran them over with his horses. He deserves to be punished. At least pay a fine. What about their kids?"

"Now you're a good woman now, is it? Get this straight, darling." Falco leaned in close, enunciated each word clearly. "You fucked Gratus and several other men in the past I told you to. You haven't asked once about why you're doing what you're doing or cared about the people it affected. Now that you had this talk with the Emperor you are now defiant to my wishes and questioning my authority. I am your father. This fucking new Emperor is just there temporarily. You know how the new Emperors change. Within a week or less than that, he can be dead you know."

Acid rose up in Annia's throat. "I can't believe you talk about him that way. He's a good person."

Falco laughed. "So were the other Emperors. Even Commodus can be good sometimes. Trust me on that."

Annia sauntered further into the room where Falco was standing. Falco laughed even more.

"Thirty percent," Annia yelled.

His laughter abruptly ended. Falco glanced back at her.

"Thirty percent? Listen, princess. How about I give you twenty percent."

"Thirty. I deserve it."

Falco winked at her. "I love you, dear. You got the short end of the stick many times growing up in my bid to become consul and you keep on fighting. Yep. I love you a lot."

"I'm serious. I want thirty percent."

"Annia, maybe you should think this through." He rocked back on his heels. "I'm not a good person like Xander as you say. I expect you know that by now. My sympathy for you only goes so far. We're getting my friend acquitted and we're doing it my way."

Annia hesitated. Her head was spinning. This wasn't a time for cold feet, any sign of weakness. "Twenty percent, then," she said.

"Tell me what the Emperor said to you after he caught you."

"I don't recall. You'll have to ask him yourself."

Lying to her father was dangerous, Annia thought, but telling the truth had to be more dangerous.

"Are you going to fuck him like you did all the other men," Falco asked, "or are you just being a friend to him?"

Annia remained calm, practicing the restraint she'd learned in twenty years as her father's most trusted aide. "Men like you who haven't had many friends don't understand loyalty and service, true commitment."

"Damn right, we don't." He grinned, deeply amused by his own wit. "Well, it doesn't matter to me. You can have whatever little fantasies you want, Annia."

"I like him father but he seems like he is busy with other women."

He gave a curt laugh and started back down the room to his desk. Without turning, he motioned with one finger for her to follow.

Annia joined him. She had to stiffen her muscles to keep herself from trembling.

"Here's the deal, Annia. The Marcus affair will be dealt with soon. I am getting older and I would like to be remembered for more than being a consul for a year."

Annia raised her chin and met his gaze directly. "I don't follow, father."

Falco frowned at her. "You said you like this Xander… He's a handsome man, there's no denying that. Would you be willing to have a child with him?"

"Father," Annia began. She swallowed, met Falco's cold gaze. "What are you suggesting? Am I to have a relationship with him?"

"Oh, dear, don't be so naïve. He has all his friends around him. He's with the blonde. You cannot have a relationship with him… At least not officially. But if you are pregnant with his child, things can change. I want to be part of the Emperor's bloodline. Perhaps, who knows? I can be Emperor."

Annia glared at her father. "You're disgusting. You've asked things of me before but this crosses the line…"

"Well, if it does, what about the time you slept with both a senator and his son to procure an appointment of Rufus."

"Those were at different times. I didn't plan on falling in love with his son."

"Uh-huh. Well you caused the mother to commit suicide. You have to live with that."

"Do you want me to seduce him?"

Falco rubbed his chin. "It's not that simple. Play it by ear. Don't rush things. Who knows? You might end up having feelings for the boy."

"Must you be so blunt?"

"Listen to you, Annia. You're the one who has opened her legs for over a dozen men and just today gave the senator Gratus a blowjob. Let's talk about who is blunt."

Annia was silent. Stricken.

"Well," Falco said, "this won't be a pretty deal we have here, but it can work. Opportunities like this won't come again. Just remember to keep this between ourselves and no one else."

"I will do what you ask father." She straightened, eyed him coolly. She wanted him to think she was in control, not that she felt nervous. She did not agree to what her father had planned since she had already started developing feelings for Xander. She rationalized to herself that doing what her father asked really was what she wanted to do anyway. "Just give it time."

Falco smiled. "Okay. Love you Annia."

Annia gave him a forced grin. "Love you too, daddy."

Xander and Dawn came to a cluster of log buildings set in a grassy, rolling meadow. Many of the palace guardsmen were stationed here to manage risks to the Palace.

Security was subtle but not unnoticeable. When Xander and Dawn came to the end of the long, winding road inside the Palace, a man in a guard uniform introduced himself to Xander. "I am Sergius Saturninus. I am the head guardsman within this area. We weren't expecting you."

Xander tried to smile. "Well, Saturninus. Leave me and Dawn to ourselves as we walk around."

Saturninus didn't return his smile. "Yes, Caesar."

"Well I guess this is where the guardsmen live?" Xander asked.

Still no smile. "Yes, Caesar. We have to sleep somewhere."

Xander nodded to Saturninus. "Well, I'll talk to you later."

Saturninus nodded back and walked away.

Xander motioned for Dawn to go into the main log building.

Dawn joined him in the living room, in front of a massive stone fireplace.

Xander took her by the hand and led her to a couch, where they both sat.

"You must have guards everywhere."

Xander looked around the room, then back at Dawn with a smile. "Not everywhere."

She laughed, releasing her hand from Xander's. "Did you think you would become Emperor when you first got transported here?"

"It's unbelievable, Dawn. It's like a dream." He turned to a few guardsmen who walked into the house. It was a guard house, after all. "Hey men, can you tell the other guardsmen to leave the house and give us privacy, please?"

The guards nodded and left the house.

"There's so much we can do, Dawn. We can travel the world. Anywhere we want to go. Hell, anywhere you want to go you can go."

Dawn smiled weakly. The prospect of traveling the world clearly excited Xander more than it did her. She knew how dangerous the political atmosphere was in Rome. A departure from Rome would mean an opponent's opening to use politics to take the throne. She was still convinced, as were all of her friends that the Emperor's life was fragile and could end at any moment. There was no security, despite all of the security around them.

"You're looking well, Dawn," Xander said, eyeing her.

"Thanks."

"Dawn, I've always found you attractive. Even as a teenage girl."

Dawn knew that Xander loved her as a friend, just as she loved him as her friend. Of course, she loved him way more than just that. She wanted and desired his heart and his body- not just his friendship.

"I never looked past Buffy… I… I was a complete idiot, Dawn. I'm sorry." He sat back on his heels looking up at her. "Ever since you told me you loved me after my speech, I've been thinking about you. You are beautiful just like your sister." His voice was a low rumble as he finished.

Dawn's eyes were drawn to the white tunic he was wearing. Xander was saying everything she had dreamed of him saying to her, but it was about someone who wasn't her. The girl Xander was talking about was a figment of Xander's imagination- made up to look like something out of his fantasies. It wasn't her.

Xander followed his eyes over to the loosely dressed white toga she was wearing. He looked back at her face and she met his eyes.

"Xander, you don't love me," she said in lament.

Xander met her gaze steadily, "Dawn, it takes time to love someone. You are pretty, don't get me wrong." He reached up and stroked her face. His touch was tentative, but everything was telling him that the problem wasn't that she didn't want him, but that she thought he didn't want her.

Dawn's respiration both sped up and deepened as Xander touched her face. She couldn't restrain a whimper and she felt herself grow damp between her legs. She wanted him so badly that it made her body ache.

Xander felt himself getting stiff when he saw her pink tongue dart out to moisten her lips. He shook his head again at how stupid he'd been not to have made a move on Buffy's little sister. "Dawn, right now, in that toga… Oh god," he groaned when he looked down and saw her nipples poking through the material. He had to exert serious effort to drag his eyes back up to meet Dawn's. "I want you Dawn. It's not just what you're wearing. It's you."

Dawn couldn't speak. This was every fantasy she'd ever had- Xander was telling her she was the one he desired. She felt her mouth go dry as he stood up, bent over and brought his lips to hers.

Their first kiss was brief, a gentle press of the lips, and a moment to enjoy the warmth of each other's skin, and then it ended.

It was as though a dam burst inside Dawn and years of repressed desire rushed forth. She grabbed with both hands this boy that she'd been in love with since she first saw him- gripping his tunic in her fists and mashing her mouth against his.

Xander had planned on pulling away to gauge her reaction, and then maybe talking some more, despite the pressure between his legs. Instead hefound himself lying on top of Dawn with her tongue in his mouth.

Dawn could feel Xander's dick pressing into her hip and she wanted it. She wanted to have it inside her so badly that she didn't think she could go on without it. She broke their kiss and whimpered, "Xander? I need you Xander. I need you now! Please?"

Xander's eyes grew wide and he almost choked in surprise. "You sure?"

Dawn nodded so fast that Xander was afraid she'd hurt herself. He got up so that he was standing between where her legs were dangling off the edge of the couch. He heard her cry "No!" and shook his head in amazement. He'd brought her to the guard house hoping she'd accept the fact that he loved Buffy, and that would be it. Not doing all of this. He shook his head again and reassured her, "I'm not leaving, Dawn."

When he pulled away, Dawn thought she would die. "No!" she cried, "We were so close!" she thought. When he shook his head and said he wasn't leaving, her smile lit up her whole face.

Xander pulled his shirt off over his head and, before he could even toss it aside, Dawn was sitting up and running her hands over his chest.

Dawn couldn't not touch him- she'd dreamed of it for so long! She ran her hands over his body and even leaned forward to kiss and lick his chest. She was amazed at how forward and aggressive she was being- but she couldn't help herself. She ran her hands down his chest and stomach until she was interrupted by the waistband of his pants. She looked up at his eyes and enjoyed the shock she saw when she started to undo his belt.

Xander felt most of the blood in his body shoot straight to his dick when Dawn started to open his pants. He already felt like he was going to cum any second. If she got a hold of him he was going to embarrass himself before she even took off any clothes! He reached down and grabbed her hands, pulling away before got further than unbuckling the belt and undoing the button. "How about I do that while you take off your clothes?" he asked his voice cracking slightly.

Dawn pouted but it was too late as he had sat down on the couch to get his sandals off. She gulped back her fear and stood up, slowly pulling her toga up over her head. She heard Xander gasp as she uncovered her breasts, and blushed as she finished pulling the toga off of her head, and quickly dropped her underwear before she lost her nerve.

Xander quickly finished undressing, leaving his boxer shorts on for the moment. The same boxer shorts he had when he was transported from his apartment into Rome. He took in the vision that was Dawn Summers. He had never expected that she has such a nice body. Slender, but curvy. Yes, she was pale and freckled here and there, but her skin looked like milk-colored satin. He had to feel her.

Dawn was embarrassed as she stood nearly naked before her friend. She covered her breasts with her hands and couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes. She didn't miss the way his boxers were pulled away from his waist by his erection, however. She hoped she'd get to see it soon; she'd fantasized about it for years.

"You are… Perfect!" Xander exhaled loudly, not realizing he'd been holding his breath. "So beautiful; you've been hiding in all those heavy clothes!" He stepped to her and gently pulled her hands from her small breasts.

She wanted to protest, to say that she wasn't beautiful, but the feel of his hands covering her breasts and squeezing ever so gently took her breath away.

"It's like you were made to fit my hands," Xander observed. It was a cheesy, romance-novel thing to say, but he hadn't meant it as anything other than a fact. Her breasts fit into his hands with just the tiniest bit left over. He ran his thumbs over her nipples in a slow circle, marveling at their size and stiffness compared to the soft flesh they capped.

Dawn felt her knees wobble when he started stroking her nipples, and all that came out was a quiet cry of desperate need as she sat down on the couch. She pulled herself back and laid down so that she was all the way on the couch and said, "Xander, please! I- I need you now. I need to have you inside me. Please?"

Xander crawled over his soon to be lover and kissed her for a moment and then looked in her eyes. "Dawn, I love you. I'm so sorry it took a while before this happened."

Dawn put her fingers on his lips to quit him from apologizing yet again. "I love you too, Xander. I have loved you since I met you. Please… make love to me?"

Xander was amazed again, but he had no intention of letting her down. He pulled back and stroked his hands down from her breasts to the waistband of her pink panties. Watching her eyes for any change of heart, he pulled them down her legs and off, tossing them aside.

"Oh, wow!" Xander breathed when he looked at Dawn's nest of brown curls. He caressed her legs, moving up the inside of her thighs to the hot, fur-covered flesh. He stroked gently over her sex, beyond amazed that he was here, touching his friend this way. He listened to Dawn's gasping moans and was so aroused that he got just a little light headed.

Dawn moaned and gasped as Xander gently explored her most intimate flesh. His touch electrified her and the ache she was feeling grew more and more acute. She wailed when he brushed over her engorged bundle of nerves.

Xander snatched his hands away when Dawn cried out loudly, but a momentary glance at her face, seeing the lust and pleasure written there, calmed his incipient panic. Her quick cries of "There! Don't quit! Right there!" let him know he'd found a very good thing, not a bad one. He moved to lay down between her legs, wanting a closer look at what he was doing. He had to lay on his side in order not to rub his over-stimulated cock on anything. He knew he was not going to make it very long once he started touching anything with that. He could already feel the cold stickiness where the front of his boxers got wet from his cum, and cooled in the air.

Dawn cried out in appreciation as Xander's fingers returned to her pussy, dragging some of the moisture up from the weeping core and onto her throbbing clit. He had no style or technique, just rubbing up and down over her nub, but it was enough to make her squirm in pleasure, her

breathing quickening even further, coming now in shallow gasps. She tried to lift her knees up in order to open herself even further to him, but only succeeded in moving her right, as she discovered that her left was being used as a pillow for Xander's head. She almost wondered when he had laid down, but the feeling of his fingers on her slippery sex took up all of her mental processing power.

Xander had seen magazines and videos, but to see Dawn's pussy up close, bright pink where he had moved the furred outer lips apart with one hand. Her moans, cries and quivering flesh were as fascinating as they were intoxicating. And the smell! An intense musky richness was filling his nostrils. It was unlike anything he'd ever encountered before. It made his mouth water, but he didn't quite feel brave enough to taste the creamy white secretions covering his fingers. Not this time anyway.

It was only a couple of minutes before Xander couldn't wait any longer himself. His dick was so stiff that it felt like a hot iron bar jutting from his body. He wanted nothing more than to slide into this hot wetness he was stroking with his fingers.

Dawn wanted to cry again when Xander pulled away once more. She had to blink her eyes several times to bring him into focus. When she did, she saw him once again standing by the couch, this time he was just stepping out of his underwear and her breath caught at the sight of his stiff penis, standing straight out from a dark tangle of hair. She had no way to judge comparative sizes, it didn't really even occur to her. She just knew she wanted to feel that inside her as soon as possible.

She knew it would hurt, everyone said it hurt the first time, but she wanted that, not the pain, but to give Xander that part of her, to have him be the one she gave her virginity to. She wanted that almost as badly as she wanted to have him resolve this pressure and tension inside her. She once again begged, "Xander! Please! I need you!"

Xander needed it as badly as she did. He thought he'd go insane if he didn't sink into this beautiful, amazing girl. He jumped onto the couch, landing on his knees before her. He leaned forward and moved his engorged flesh against hers, seeking the way into heaven.

Dawn reached down to guide him into her. When she had him lined up and he started to slip in, she felt this amazing burning feeling inside her. It was completely new and it felt intense. Pleasure and a little pain erupted in her and suddenly a horrible tearing sensation as he breached her maidenhead.

Xander froze as he heard Dawn's whimpers turn to a painful yelp. Even in his hyper-aroused state, he immediately thought of her first, "God, Dawn! Are you...?" he began to slide out as he tried to ask if she was ok.

Dawn had a few tears running down her face and all she could manage was to rasp out, "Don't move!"

Xander stilled once again, and then figured out what had happened. He had heard the first time hurt for girls. He realized that he had 'popped her cherry' so to speak. He didn't realize how accurate that expression was.

After several moments, the tearing pain subsided, and the warm burning feeling returned, even stronger. Her arousal, which had cooled quickly with the pain, began to heat up just as quickly. "Ok. It's ok now, Xander," she whispered.

"You sure?" he asked, still worried that he was hurting her.

Dawn nodded her head and asked, "Please?"

Xander had needed every bit of his limited willpower to keep from moving

in the first place, so her request was easily granted and he sank himself the rest of the way inside her, their moans harmonizing as he was fully cradled between her thighs. He looked deep into her eyes and

said, "Dawn, I love you. You'll be okay."

Dawn was pretty much a puddle of goo as it was, but everything that was left melted at his words. "I love you, Xander!" she cried. Her cry quickly turned to a moan as he began moving inside her again.

Xander wanted to go slow, to make it last, but he couldn't help himself as he sped up, till there was no rhythm to his movements, just jerky thrusts as his orgasm over took him.

Dawn cried, "Oh Xander, please more! I need. I need."

Xander kept pumping in and out as fast as he could as he poured himself into Dawn. Fortunately it didn't take too long before Dawn screamed her pleasure out at the top of her lungs. Xander's breath was taken away as he felt Dawn's muscles quiver around his cock. He'd never imagined anything like that in his life and he ended up collapsing on top of the shuddering Dawn.

Dawn felt herself pressed deep into the couch for a moment, but Xander had enough awareness, and just enough strength to roll off of her. She would have moaned at the loss of his touch, but he quickly pulled her up against him, so that she was draped over his side as he lay on his back. Draped was the only way to describe it- she felt boneless and spent.

Xander felt much the same. He breathed, "Dawn," as sleep overtook him.

If he'd remained awake another three seconds, he would have heard her breathe his name. Dawn sighed, as she too entered the land of slumber. Before she was about to fall asleep, she thought about how much she was looking forward to having it happen again.

After she'd had lunch at the cafeteria, Buffy thanked the guardsmen who had given her an escort, then left the cafeteria and headed to her chambers.

As a cool breeze whipped around her, she wrapped her arms around her chest for warmth, wishing she had a coat on. She didn't expect it to rain today.

She'd no more than twisted the knob of the door to her room, when she spotted Willow walking away from her room, rubbing her arms in a similar fashion that Buffy had done.

When Buffy called her name, Willow broke into a warm smile and strode towards her friend.

"What are you up to, Willow?" Buffy asked.

"I was just relaxing in my room."

"It's getting pretty cold and rainy today. Why don't we head to my chambers to talk?"

"Okay, thanks. I'd appreciate that."

Moments later, Willow was seated inside Buffy's room. As Buffy closed the windows in her room, she said, "You won't guess what Xander and I did today…"

"Went to the city?"

"Oh, so you know…"

Willow smiled, a light sparkling in her blue eyes. "As Emperor, we can find Xander anytime."

"Well, I wonder where he is now…" Buffy went to a seat across from Willow and tossed her a smile, "I'm glad you're here Willow. I wanted to talk to you."

"About what?"

"The sex we had with Xander. It's made things awkward between us."

Willow swallowed deeply. What Buffy said sucked the air out of her lungs.

"How do you feel about what we did? Did you like it?" Willow finally asked.

"You mean did I like licking your pussy? Yes I did. It was a good time but it's not like it meant anything." Buffy's gaze locked on Willow's.

"I know. We did it for Xander," Willow said.

"I know… but I didn't have to go too far with you. You were okay with what I did, right?"

Willow didn't know how to respond. Then after a moment, she spoke, "I am not bisexual Buffy and I'd be lying if I hadn't pondered the idea of you and I together," Willow added. "I enjoyed it very much and if I wasn't so into Xander right now, I would have wanted to be with you…"

Xander came to Buffy's mind, but so did thoughts of her and Willow. Opting for time to process what Willow was saying, she said, "I really didn't know what I was doing… I figured since I haven't spent much time with you that this would be a good thing…"

"I felt the same way," Willow said. "You and Xander were together so often, I rarely had time to spend with you. This was the one time where I could spend it with you."

Buffy was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Willow could see it in her face.

"What's the matter?" Willow asked. When Buffy didn't respond and was looking down at the floor, Willow reached out and patted her arm. "It's okay Buffy. We have time for each other now. Look at us now."

"It's just weird. The fact that you're a lesbian makes things weird for me, Willow," Buffy said. "And you like Xander? God, how many women like him?"

"You, Dawn, and me. So far as I know. That Annia girl might like him too," Willow said. "We can't all have him, you know? I mean of course you have him, but Dawn and I…"

One tear slipped down Buffy's cheek, followed by another, and she swiped them away with her fingers. "Well, I promise I will do my best to not act like things are weird between us."

"Nothing's weird between us, Buffy," Willow said. "You're just uncomfortable because you feel like I have feelings for you. I do, but I love Xander."

At that, Buffy smiled. "I know."

"You're my dearest friend and so is Xander. So if Xander wants to be with you, I have to respect that. As for Dawn…" Willow trailed off, expecting Buffy to finish what she was saying.

"That's a different story. I'll have to talk with her too," Buffy said.

The first light drops of rain misted Xander and Dawn's faces, as he and Dawn walked along the Palace corridors.

"That was amazing, Xander."

"No, Dawn," Xander muttered under his breath. "Tell me what you really think." He winced when Dawn affectionately punched him in the arm. They went up to the door of his personal physician's office. Dawn had led him there so Xander could meet him.

"Uh," Dawn whispered in his ear. "You're under lock and key now. No girl other than Buffy. I might have to get a leash now."

"Yes, ma'am," Xander shuffled uncomfortably under Dawn's mocking gaze, all too aware she was not joking. He turned to Dawn, looking at her. "This is a secret. Okay?"

"Sure," Dawn nodded. As he was about to enter Galen's office, he felt a hand on his arm.

Turning, he saw Dawn smiling up at him. "Thanks for everything, Xander." Dawn ran her free hand up his neck before pulling him down into a long, passionate kiss, her tongue sliding into his mouth and his into hers. Dawn didn't pull away until he started to gasp for air. Dawn trailed her fingers down his face, an affectionate half-smile playing on her full, heart-shaped lips before she spoke. "I'll find you later," Dawn laughed before walking away down the Palace corridor.

"That wasn't very secretive." Shaking his head in amused bemusement, he turned towards the door to Galen's office. "Well my life's not too complicated."