Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all characters thereof belong to Joss Whedon, the genius. "The good die young - because they see it's no use living if you've got to be good." - John Barrymore
Xander stared into Jesse's eyes and, no matter how girly it sounded, prayed for some sign of the brotherhood they once shared. The British guy said vampires were just soulless monsters using the memories of the body, but seeing vampire Jesse go after Cordelia like a dog in heat he found himself questioning that. If he still wanted the Queen Bitch when there was so much easier prey, certainly less annoying, surely that meant something?
There had to be *something* of his best friend kicking around in the corpse, right?
Jesse smiled playfully, an expression so familiar Xander felt his throat constrict with want, and pressed his chest against the stake. "Oh. All right. Put me out of my misery." He barked a laugh. "You don't have the guts."
Xander stood his ground wishing, willing, for his brother to break through the devil that had possessed him. For a split second he thought he saw hesitation in Jesse's eyes: an echo of emotion belonging to the human he used to be. Had Xander somehow gotten through to him?
The fight between the Vessel and Buffy continued on stage. Fast and dirty. A panicking girl ran by them for the exit and in her haste she slammed into Jesse rocking him forward. The wooden stake Xander held slid between Jesse's ribs and into his heart like a hot knife through butter.
Xander tasted ash in his mouth as Jesse exploded. No, he thought frantically, not Jesse. I didn't just kill my best friend. I didn't.
Xander repeated the mantra in his mind as he stepped away from the scattered ashes as if they were toxic. He needed to find Willow. Protect her. She was all he had left.
"Death, the one appointment we all must keep, and for which no time is set." -Charlie Chan
Xander stumbled as he came back to himself; skilled and experienced if scared soldier replaced by a gangly teenager. He looked around, toy gun held limply in one hand, and stared gaping at the destruction. Transformed children had set fire to the elementary school. People were screaming. Kids crying. Most wandered around dumbly unable to process what had happened. Through it all Xander watched as memories not his own flashed before his eyes.
Basic training up to deployment in Korea and later Afghanistan. Then a sudden wake up in Sunnydale, home of the Hellmouth, and carnage.
Xander fell to the cement and puked. Gasping, he cut between houses and dodged around crying civilians until he reached the point where everything had started. "No." He moaned as he sunk down onto the porch steps and cradled the torn and bloody form of his second best friend of all time. Tears flowed freely as he rocked in place heedless of the blood soaking his clothes and hands. "No. Willow. Wills... you can't... you can't be..."
Her body still held some warmth but it wouldn't last. She'd lost far too much blood. Lying out in the open freshly dead from a crazy costume spell, her body had been free game for any number of demons real and transformed. Xander brushed back a strand of red hair to look at her face. Confusion and fear. "I'm so, so sorry Wills."
He took off his army surplus jacket and wrapped it around her brutalized torso to conceal the lacerations on her stomach and the gaping hole where her heart had been. He shivered as something cold passed through him and he carried her corpse to safety. Away from the random porch and to some form of dignity.
Wrapped in grief, he didn't notice the creeping cold air that followed him down the street.
Two weeks later he watched with apathy as a chained Ethan Rayne was devoured from the inside by a demon he had once summoned, and a chilling wind blew thought the park caressing his skin.
"Since every death diminishes us a little, we grieve - not so much for the death as for ourselves." - Lynn Caine
Once again Xander found himself wondering how accurate Giles' books were. Werewolves were supposed to be uncontrollable monsters three days of the month, and yet they had no deaths. For something that was supposed to be faster and stronger than mere humans how were the victims escaping? Xander doubted all those attacked had silver on them, if any, to discourage the wolf. Either way, Buffy had determined that the were didn't deserve to die. At least until it succeeded in killing someone.
So there they were. Trying to track down the beast so Buffy could wrestle it to the ground and chain it up before gunman Cain could shoot him.
Xander froze, sweat trickling down his neck, as he heard the heavy panting of a large animal. "Easy there, big fella," Xander whispered as he crouched and turned around while sending off as many 'harmless' vibes as possible. "We need to get out of here. You know, bed down until the psycho hunter goes away." Gold eyes and growling were his only answer.
Swallowing hard Xander backed away slowly, ready to shout for Buffy, when the wolf snarled and leapt forward. On reflex Xander tucked and rolled out of the way as the werewolf darted down the path. The sharp sound of a gunshot echoed through the leaves and the part-time demon hunter paled as implications set in. He charged down the weathered trail as the sound of fighting made itself known and a flash of blonde hair alerted him to the slayer's arrival.
"What do you think you're doing?" The girl screamed at the grizzled hunter as she slapped his rifle away and lifted him by his shirt.
Xander's eyes darted around; a primal instinct deep inside warning of the other predator. Cain, the hunter, growled almost as well as any beast and wrapped his larger hands around Buffy's wrist. Slayer strength or not, she yelped as he struck a pressure point and she dropped him. They all heard the angry roar as the injured wolf went after his attacker with mouth open and claws extended. Buffy moved to intercept but despite her speed Cain's practiced gun hand was faster. He pulled a concealed pistol from beneath his jacket and squeezed the trigger.
Xander felt his body go cold as warm blood splashed across his face and chest. He could only watch as the wolf form reverted in the morning sunlight into that of a senior he vaguely recognized from the many times his band had played at the Bronze.
He didn't notice Buffy screaming as Giles strained to hold her, or the Brit's firm dismissal of the human hunter. He didn't notice being guided back to the school or the cloth wiping the blood from his face.
"Death ends a life, not a relationship." - Robert Benchley
Not again. Not. Again. Xander's heart beat with adrenaline and stark fear. His wrist ached but it was a dull and distant pain as he pulled himself up and forced himself to move through the shock. They took Giles, nothing he could do about that, and Kendra was bleeding out on the floor.
They hadn't even bothered to really fight her. Kill her. Drusilla just slit her throat and tossed her aside like an ill-fitting dress: hadn't even tried to taste Slayer blood like every other vampire Buffy fought. To them, Kendra wasn't a threat. She was less than garbage.
Xander felt stinging pressure in his eyes as the dark skinned girl's blood soaked into his pants. The barest glimmer of light lingered in those soft brown eyes as life continued draining away. She was crying, too. Her fingers twitched as Xander took hold of her body, rocking her as best he could as they both cried silent tears.
He for friends lost to the gaping maw that was Sunnydale.
She for the experiences she would never have. Live a Slayer. Die a Slayer. Alone.
But she wasn't alone. Her body felt cold and she tried to speak, she wanted to say something, anything, if these were her last moments. Xander looked into her eyes, and knew.
He leaned down, pressed his lips to hers, and tasted blood and ash. Like Jesse. Like Willow. Like Oz. All dead.
Xander was still kissing her when he felt her pulse slow to a stop. There was simply not enough blood to pump. He drew back as her body went limp, and it felt like something cold and angry rushed out of the still warm corpse and into him. A punch to the gut filled with intent and purpose.
He had to get to Buffy.
"While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die." -Leonardo da Vinci
Xander ignored the pain his arm, it had dulled to almost nothing, as well as the tiny scratches whipped onto his skin by passing branches. Something inside filled him with energy as he ran through streets and forest alike in his effort to find Buffy. The sun would be rising soon. It was an instinctual knowledge and the thing inside his chest was a dark heavy weight pushing him forward.
He couldn't' lose Buffy too, and she would lose. He knew she would. Buffy loved Angel, Angelus, and if Ms. Calendar's murder hadn't been enough to push the girl to stop Angelus why would Kendra's?
Slayers rarely lasted longer than a year. The pressure was too much. Buffy was cracking. Xander was cracking. He crested a hill, stumbled, and as his hand came down to steady himself it closed around a rock.
The sun was rising.
"Xander!" Buffy's eyes were red and the blessed sword shone naked in her hand.
"Calvary's here. Calvary's a frightened guy with a rock, but it is here."
She handed him the stake from her back pocket. "You're not here to fight." Her words came out low, lost sounding whispers. "You get Giles out and you run like hell. Understood?"
He did. She couldn't lose him, too. It would destroy her.
But her death would destroy him.
They walked, side-by-side, a death march. To give and receive.
Buffy went in first. The Slayer slayed, taking heads and hearts, and Xander followed with that dark thing inside growing and a cool wind at his back. He swung out, knocking a vampire into a wall, but didn't stop to think about it. He had to find Giles.
Who was already dead. Beaten within an inch of his life and left to quietly cross over.
Xander dropped his stake and screamed. For all those lost. For those still losing. He ran, but it wasn't enough. Xander watched as Angelus cornered Buffy in the courtyard; her only shield a stray beam of morning sunlight. Her expression was that of despair as the sword once used to imprison a demon drew the Slayer's heart blood.
For a second Xander felt nothing.
Then like a cup being filled pure rage raced through him. There was nothing but him and the smiling Angelus as the vampire raised his hands in celebration. Acathla was awake. They were going to hell.
Buffy's, Kendra's, sword was in Xander's hand. Angelus was laughing, turning toward him, and Xander couldn't stop the maniacal smile gracing his own features.
They were going to Hell.
He rushed Angelus, sunk the sword deep into the other's stomach, felt the blood run down the blade to cover his hands, and kept running. He pushed them both back toward the red-gold portal that reached out delicate tendrils to swallow them up.
They were going to Hell, but it didn't seem so bad.
Xander had been living there for years.