Category: B/X... in a way

Spoilers: This story is AU and takes place between the fifth and sixth season

Warning: Character Death

Disclaimer: This is a fictional story. Joss & ME own the characters, I own nothing and make nothing from this story. In other words; Don't want them. Don't need them. Couldn't afforded them if I did.

Summary: Dark Fic - The mind is a fragile thing. Can one of the gang survive after experiencing a tragedy?

Note - thoughts

The One She Could Always Count On

Xander was sitting alone in the Bronze, absently watching the people around him. The teenagers were dancing on the floor while most of the college students paired off with their significant others. Xander watched as couples around him danced, talked, made out, fought or laughed but none of it really registered in his mind. Xander was in a state of shock and the whole scene around him seemed to pass him by in slow motion.

Out of the corner of his eye, Xander saw Willow walk into the Bronze. She had her long auburn hair pulled into a tight ponytail. Wait. When did Willow grow her hair long again? Xander's thoughts were interrupted by a feeling that he was being watched. Slowly, Xander looked around the room and recognized a lithe figure leaning against the far wall. Buffy.

Xander was about to wave her over but stopped when he saw the look on Buffy's face. She had a look of profound sorrow in her features and mouthed the words 'I'm sorry'.

His hand dropped and Xander felt a sharp pain lance through his soul. He moved to go to Buffy when a hand grabbed his arm. Turning to his left, Xander came face to face with Anya. "Xander, what's wrong?"

Before Xander could answer, he saw Willow dancing with Oz. I thought she chose Tara. Xander was shaken from his thoughts as a ice cube painfully bounced off his forehead. Xander glared to his right at Buffy and Cordelia. Buffy was trying to hold in a painful looking giggle fit as Cordelia made a sarcastic remark about his attention span.

Xander leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, listening to his friends as they joked and laughed around the table.

"Xander."

Xander kept his eyes closed and answered, "Yea Buffy?"

When he received no answer, Xander opened his eyes only to find himself completely alone in the Bronze. The sudden silence was deafening. "Where'd everybody go?" Xander asked as he turned in his seat.

"Xander."

Turning to the voice, Xander found Buffy standing in front of him. Her eyes were heavy with unshed tears that spoke of a sadness that made his heart ache.

"Xander, you can't stay here. You have to go back." Buffy said lovingly.

Xander felt his heart freeze solid. "Why?" He whispered softly.

"They need you."

- Flashback -

Xander pushes open the door in front of him. He thought that he saw a familiar face leave through this door and decided to follow. He left the brightly lit Bronze and walked into a dark alley.

- Present -

Xander shook his head as if to clear it before focusing on Buffy. He was just in an alley and now he's back in the Bronze. "I don't understand. What's happening Buffy?" Xander asked.

Buffy only looked at Xander and brought her right hand up to cup his face. Her touch was very tender but also sent chills up and down his spine.

- Flashback -

Xander walks down the alley, trying to figure out where the person he followed out of the Bronze was. Behind him a figure slowly emerges from the shadows and follows him. "Xaaaaandeeer."

- Present -

"Xander."

Xander blinked away the memory and looked up at Buffy. He turned away, unable to stand the look of sorrow on Buffy's face. Xander didn't understand what it was that he was seeing. Was he dreaming? Was all this an illusion?

- Flashback -

Xander turns around to see who was calling his name. "Hello?" Xander slowly turns around to the end of the alley as the hairs on the back of his head rose. Something inside of Xander told him that someone was watching him. Xander remembered Giles telling the gang once about how vampires like to stalk their victims.

"Great! Now someone's playing games. Just my luck that this starts when my slayer buddy decides that she wants to take a break from Sunnyhell and go meet Riley's family." Xander headed back to the Bronze to find the rest of his friends while muttering about the joys of stalking.

A short figure silently dropped down behind Xander, tapping his shoulder.

"Hello Xander."

- Present -

"What's going on here?" Xander whispered bringing his hands up to his face.

"Xander. You already know," Buffy raised her hand to Xander's chest and firmly pressed her hand against the area of his heart. "You just have to accept it, here."

- Flashback -

"Buffy!" Xander yelled as he spun in the direction of her voice.

Buffy giggled and ruffled his hair with one hand. "Poor Xander. Were you frightened by little ole me?" Buffy asked with a look of pure innocence, her hand settling on his shoulder.

"Oh course not!" Xander answered indignantly, "I knew it was you all along. I let you sneak up on me to help, you know, boost your ego."

"Really?"

Seeing the knowing look on Buffy's face, Xander decided to change the subject."So, how was your trip? Did you and Riley do anything interesting back on the farm?"

"Oh I had a lot of fun.." Buffy laughed as her hand began sliding off of Xander's shoulder and onto his chest. "but I didn't come here to talk about Riley. I want to talk about you."

Xander felt uncomfortable as Buffy dragged her hand across his body. He was about to speak when her hand stopped.

"Xander? How do you feel about me?" Buffy asked looking into his eyes.

Xander suddenly felt very nervous, unable to do anything but look down at her hand that was resting above his heart.

- Present -

Xander roughly shoved Buffy's hand off his chest, "No!"

"Xander. Don't-"

"Stay the hell away from me!" Xander yelled as he stumbled backwards.

Buffy's shoulders slumped as a tired sigh escaped from her lips. Buffy knelt down to where Xander fell. She took hold of Xander's shoulders and gently forced him to face her, "Xand, what happened isn't your fault."

- Flashback -

Buffy laid her other hand next to the one centered above Xander's heart and slowly slid her hands up around Xander's neck and gazed into his eyes, "It's okay Xander, you can tell me."

Xander stared at the blonde goddess before him, But Xander knew that no matter what was happening, Anya was his girlfriend now.

Buffy smiled up at him with what looked like adoration mixed with hope shining in her eyes as she said, "I know your with Anya but tell me. Please."

His heart melted at her hopeful gaze. "I love you."

Buffy reached up and lightly grazed her lips against his.

"But Xander," Buffy pulled back and smiled sweetly. "I hate you."

- Present -

Xander's eyes shot open and hurriedly backed away from this girl who hurt him so. "Bitch!" he gritted out between clenched teeth.

Xander looked up at the blonde through the haze of the pain he was feeling. The Buffy before him now seemed different from the Buffy in the alley. Xander could see that she was swimming in her own sea of pain and sadness.

Despite what he was feeling, Xander felt his anger soften as he looked into the Slayer's eyes. "Buffy-"

- Flashback -

"Buffy-" Xander found himself unable to continue at the sight of the hate and cruelty in Buffy's eyes.

"What's wrong Xander? Is the truth that painful?" Buffy looked at the male slayerette and smiled cruelly, "Ya know Xander, you've had this coming for a long time. I mean, you brought this on yourself."

"What?" Disbelief running rampant through Xander.

"Your pathetic hope that I could ever be interested in you has sabotaged every other possible relationship that you could have had. You wouldn't totally commit to anyone as long as you thought that you had a shot with me."

Xander could only stare at Buffy in shock as she continued to list all the relationships that he had and how he hurt Willow, Cordelia and Anya over and over because of what she called his Buffy obsession.

He backed farther into the alley. Buffy followed and described, in detail, how Willow felt after the love spell that he and Amy had cast on Valentine's Day.

Buffy was smiling cruelly as she continued to verbally abuse him. "Where do you think your going Xander?" Buffy asked, grabbing his arms and shoving him hard against the side of the building.

Xander felt slightly dazed from the impact. "Buffy?"

"I asked you a question Xandman or was that too hard a question for a ... townie?" Buffy smirked as she said that last word.

"Why are you doing this?" Xander asked in a pained voice.

"Because it's fun." the Slayer chirped as she leaned closer to him. "Aw come on Xander, I'm just doing what you did when you were possessed by the Hyena spirit. What was it you said back then, something about fear making me smell better."

Xander closed his eyes and shivered as Buffy's head sank into the crook of his neck, feeling her inhale deeply.

"You were right about that because you do smell nice" Then Buffy ran her tongue along the side of his neck and said with a purr, "Not to mention that you taste good too."

- Present -

Xander slowly opened his eyes, taking in the deserted Bronze around him. The only other person there was Buffy and it physically hurt to look at her. "What the hell is happening to me!" he whispered forcefully. Xander looked around him in confusion as he tried to make sense of what was happening.

Several strong emotions were coursing through his system at the moment; fear, anger and despair were the most powerful ones Xander was feeling and all of them were combining to form into a soul wrenching ache that settled over his body.

Buffy took a step towards Xander, clearly intent on offering comfort but Xander couldn't forget what she said in the alley. Xander started to panic and, not being able to comprehend what was happening, got to his feet and ran to the exit out of the Bronze and into the...

- Flashback -

The alley was growing darker to Xander. Of course the swollen right eye might be the reason for that.

He was currently in a pile of garbage. Buffy had thrown him against a building from across the alley. She had hit him several times before she threw him.

Xander knew that he had a couple of broken ribs. His left shoulder was dislocated and his back hurt.

Worries about what was wrong with Buffy was overpowered by Xander's instinct of self-preservation. Xander stood shakily and tried to hit Buffy with his good arm.

Buffy mockingly laughed as she moved gracefully out of the way. "Come on Xander. You can do better than this. Can't you?"

Buffy roughly pushed Xander against the back door of the Bronze and grabbed his neck. He was finding it difficult to breathe as he was being slowly choked by the Slayer

Xander was just starting to black out when Buffy released him. "It's no fun if you give up." Buffy pouted.

With nothing to hold him up, Xander dropped to his knees and coughed up blood. "Awww. Is poor Xander hurt."

- Present -

Xander found himself back in the Bronze, staring and the door that lead into the alley. Twisting around, Xander focused on the only other person in the room.

"Why?" Was all Xander could ask as a tears streamed down his face.

Buffy reached out with both of her hands and lovingly caressed Xander's face while wiping away his tears with her thumbs. "Because I knew that you were the only one who could end it."

- Flashback -

"... end it?"

"What?" Xander tried to stay conscious.

Buffy grabbed Xander by the hair and jerked his head up. "I was wondering if I should end this game now or see if we can have more fun."

"I'm kinda tired right now. Why don't you go play with something else." Xander quipped tiredly, spitting out blood.

"But don't you want to see what I can do now?" Buffy pouted. "I learned how to do it recently. Watch." Buffy dropped Xander to the ground and backed away.

Slowly Xander's eyes widened as bony ridges raised along Buffy's forehead and the hazel eyes that he fell in love with, changed to pale yellow.

"Surprise!" Buffy said with a wide smile that showed off her fangs.

- Present -

"Buffy?" Xander's voice trembled as he watched tears began to fall down this Buffy's cheeks. Xander was assaulted by a new wave of emotions leaving him at a loss for words. He wanted to scream, rave and cry. He wanted to destroy something. Anything. But all Xander could do was stand there, shaking in anger.

Buffy moved closer to Xander, "Yes Xander. I know."

Xander found his voice once more and whispered, "Buffy, you were..

- Flashback -

".. a vampire?" Xander was horrified. Buffy's a vampire. His heart wrenched in pain, remembering that this was one of his worst nightmares. That he wasn't able to prevent another one of his friends from becoming a vampire. That it was Buffy who was turned just hurt him that much more.

Buffy ran her hands up the length of her body. "Yep and for the first time in my life, I feel free." Buffy walked seductively to where Xander was laying on the ground and straddled his waist. Xander groaned in pain as Buffy pressed down on his injured ribs with her hands.

"Awww. Poor Xander's hurt. Here," Buffy pulled Xander's left hand up and kissed the back of his hand before brutally twisting it, breaking it at the wrist. Buffy smiled widely as Xander screamed. "Now, isn't that better? I bet you don't even feel those painful ribs now."

Xander grunted as Buffy's lips descended on his in a hard kiss. Buffy soon ended the kiss and captured his bottom lip with her fangs, biting down and savoring the blood that escaped the wound. Buffy sat back up and licked her lips clean of Xander's blood.

"Mmmm, delicious. Better than Riley even."

Riley!

- Present -

"Riley!"

Buffy nodded but said nothing.

"How?"

Buffy shrugged. "I was careless. It was after Riley and I got off the plane and had arrived at his parents house. We were both tired but we decided to go for a walk and were ambushed by several vampires which, funny enough, were cousins of Riley's. To make a long story short, we lost and I was turned. Then the vampire me was so strong that she managed to destroy her sire and the vamps that attacked us. She let Riley live long enough to watch..."

- Flashback -

".. while I drained his entire family, one by one." Buffy shivered in ecstasy. "His cries for me to stop were beautiful and when I was done, I sat on him just like I'm doing to you. Do you know what I did next?"

Xander just shook his head.

Buffy stood up, grabbed Xander by his hair and painfully pulled him up until he was sitting on his knees. Then she yanked his head to the side, exposing his neck. "This!" she hissed before sinking her fangs into Xander's neck.

Xander stared blankly over the blonde's shoulder as he felt the blood being drained from him. Everything started to get darker and Xander thought he saw two figures standing in the alley in front of him. It was Buffy and Faith.

Xander realized that this was the real Buffy, not the vampire that was feeding off of him. The 'real' Buffy, as his mind called her, was just standing there, looking at Xander expectantly while Faith was screaming for him to fight back and stake the bitch. The 'real' Buffy turned to her sister Slayer and waved a hand at her. Faith then vanished leaving the 'real' Buffy standing there alone.

Then the 'real' Buffy moved up behind her demonic counterpart and somehow stepped into her body. Vamp Buffy jerked backward and looked like, to Xander at least, that she had two heads. One was the vampire Buffy and the other was the Buffy that he fell in love with all those years ago.

Xander was still on his knees as he watched as the vampire Buffy screamed, demanding to know why she couldn't move her body. The other Buffy, the 'real' Buffy, just calmly stared at Xander, silently telling him with her eyes what she wanted him to do. What he had to do.

Numbly Xander reached behind him with his good hand and pulled a small stake that was hidden inside the waist of his pants. Slowly he stood, shaking from the blood loss, and walked carefully to where Buffy/VampBuffy was standing with her arms outstretched. The vamp Buffy was yelling obscenities at him but Xander ignored her and shoved the stake into her unprotected heart.

Tears fell down Xander's cheeks as he watched Buffy's body crumbled into dust leaving only the 'real' Buffy standing before him. She smiled kindly at Xander as he fell forward into..

- Present -

.. Buffy's arms surround him, trying to offer comfort to Xander but he shoved her away from him in his anger. He turned from her, facing the other way. "Why!" Xander screamed. "Why me. Why didn't you go to Giles or Willow?"

"Xander," Buffy moved to face him. "we both know that Giles and Willow wouldn't have been able to because of the way that they feel about me."

Xander opened his mouth to speak but Buffy covered it with her hand. "Please. Let me finish, ok?"

The thick emotional plea in her voice softened the anger that was boiling inside of Xander. He slowly nodded and waited as Buffy drew her hand away from his face.

"We both know how you feel about me but the others... Giles looks at me as a daughter and to Willow, I'm her best friend. They would try to find a way to save me even if it meant that others had to suffer."

"What about Angel? He'd-" Xander started to say.

"No. You know Angel. He would've tried to bring my soul back to my body also. He wouldn't be able to kill me any more than I was able to kill him and after what the vampire me did to Riley and his family," Buffy visibly shuddered, then looked at Xander. "I didn't want to experience those memories first hand."

"But it's okay to make me experience killing you." Xander said bitterly.

"Xander," Buffy said firmly as she held his head in her hands and looked straight into his eyes. "You didn't kill me. You sent a vampire back to where it belongs. That's what I wanted you to do. Not cage me, not save me and definitely not curse me." Buffy wrapped her arms around Xander and hugged him fiercely. "You released me and stopped a vampire from killing more people that we loved."

Buffy looked at Xander with compassion and pride. "That's why I came to you. I knew that you could put your feelings aside and do what needed to be done."

Xander collapsed into Buffy's embrace and let out all the emotions and cried. Buffy simply held Xander close and rubbed her hands soothingly over his back. After several minutes passed, Buffy softly spoke, "You have to go back."

"I can't. How could I face them?" Xander asked. "Especially your mom and Dawn."

"They already know, Xander."

Xander looked up at that remark. "How?"

"Faith."

"What?"

"She was there with us in the alley that night. I needed her strength to help control the vampire so you could .. do what needed to be done." Buffy stood up and pulled Xander to his feet. "She called Giles once she woke up, telling him what had happened. Then Giles went out and found you in the alley. Right now you're in the hospital and everyone is waiting for you to wake up."

"Wake up?"

"WAKE UP!" Buffy's scream echoed off the walls of the room causing Xander to cover his ears. Xander watched worriedly as the walls of the vacant Bronze began to crumble into nothingness leaving him alone in a sea of darkness.

"Buffy?"

Two points of light could be seen in the darkness. One was stationary while the other was moving towards him. As the light came closer, Xander could see a figure inside the light. A familiar figure.

Buffy

From within the light, Buffy reached out and took Xander's hand in hers. Holding his hand firmly, Buffy started pulling him to the other light. They silently glided to the source of the light, stopping just short of it.

Xander leaned closer to the light and began to hear voices. He could make out the voices of Anya, Willow, Giles, Joyce and Dawn. Xander even heard Cordelia, which surprised him.

"You shouldn't be," Buffy said.

"What?"

"Surprised. Despite what happened between you and Cordelia during our senior year, she cares deeply for you."

Xander gave Buffy a baffled look. "How did you know what I was thinking?"

Buffy smiled enigmatically, giving Xander a look that told him more than he could ever understand and at the same time, nothing at all.

Xander fell silent as he listened to the voices. He could feel the pain that Willow felt as she cried in Tara's arms. Xander listened to Joyce's conversation with Giles about how worried she was about Dawn. As Xander listened to Joyce, Buffy laid an hand on his arm. Suddenly Xander found himself hearing the older woman think to herself about how she had to stay strong for Dawn's sake which meant keeping inside, her grief of not only the loss of her oldest daughter but also the prospect of losing another that was like a son to her.

Xander, choked with emotion, reached out and lightly touched the light. That contact brought a multitude of sensations. His body was laying in a bed. Something was pressing on his arm. Something familiar. It felt like Buffy but it couldn't be. Confused, Xander turned to his side and found Buffy still there with him.

"It's Dawn," Buffy answered Xander unspoken question. "She's asleep right now, using your arm as a pillow."

An image appeared in Xander's mind. He was in a hospital bed a cast on his left hand. His right hand and arm was covered in a sea of light brown hair that framed Dawn's small, tear-streaked face. On the other side of his bed stood a quiet Anya as she ran her fingers through his hair. Looking around Xander saw Joyce and Cordelia sitting by the window as they talked.

Another image came to Xander of a hospital waiting room. He saw Willow telling Tara and Giles about some incident that happened to Xander and her when they were younger. Xander couldn't make out what Willow said but whatever it was made Giles smirk a little and sent Tara into a fit of giggles. Movement out of the corner of his eye made him turn to the doorway leading into the room. There in the shadows Xander saw Angel leaning against the wall.

Xander turned once more to Buffy but before he could speak, Buffy pushed him through the light and into his body. Slowly the darkness receded as the hospital room materialized around Buffy. She watched as Xander woke up with a snort, waking up Dawn and startling everyone else in the room. The younger women in the room immediately began crowding around him, crying while Joyce left to tell the others.

Angel looked into Xander's room for a second before turning around and walked over to a phone. Buffy watched as he left a message for Faith to let her know that Xander was awake. Once that was done, he walked out of the hospital and vanished into the night. Buffy saw a mixture of sadness and anger marring his stoic expression and hoped that Angel would eventually come to grips that she didn't want to be a vampire and why she chose Xander to be the one to release her.

Buffy also hoped with all the love in her soul that Xander would be able to heal and forgive himself. She knew Xander would blame himself no matter what their friends would tell him and Buffy was determined to make him see that it wasn't his fault. With that thought Buffy decided to stay with her loved ones. Help them as much as she could. Be there for them whether they knew she was there or not. Especially Xander. How could she not?

No matter what danger in the day or the night that Buffy faced, Xander was always tried his best to be there for her.

Xander was the one she could always count on.

The End