Disclaimer: Buffy and all characters you recognise do not belong to me. Any you don't recognise are mine.

Soldier

Chapter Fifteen

All around him was darkness. He didn't know what was up or what was down, but there was one thing that he was sure of: he was still alive. If he was dead, he would be in Hell by now for sure. Instead, he was trapped in this darkness, with the loud pounding of his heart echoing in his ears. And if his heart beat wasn't a reminder that he was still a part of the land of the living then he wasn't sure what was.

His head ached, his body felt like lead, and he only remembered snatches of what had happened. He had felt the ground shaking beneath his feet, and then he'd been falling, but how far he fell, or how long he didn't know, only that the second he landed, pain flashed through his body as dirt and rocks fell on top of him. Effectively, he was buried alive. He had no idea which way was up, or which way was down, only that he was lying on something soft, and warm.

He struggled to move, pins and needles were starting to creep up his legs, chasing away the numbness like they had the night that he'd used the chaos winds. Beneath him, the soft thing he was lying on groaned and he looked in the way that he assumed was down, at it. Pulling at his arms, he managed to get his hands free and carefully reached out. He felt soft hair and skin underneath his fingertips, a face, and warm breath ghosted against his skin.

Buffy.

He rolled off of her as best as he could, which wasn't that much considering the small space that they were trapped in and tried to gather his bearings. He had no clue what way was up and which was down. His blood was pounding around his skull as he tried to remember the best way to find out. Oh yeah, you spit. He did so and grimaced when it landed right on his face. He wiped it off with the back of his hand and looked straight ahead into the darkness. Was that really the way up?

Buffy groaned, and he felt something warm and wet against his side. It was then that he remembered that he had shot her. He must've lost his gun in the fall because he couldn't feel it nearby as he stretched out his arms to look for it.

Cursing, he coughed when his hands shifted a large pile of dust and focused on his predicament. He had to find a way to dig himself out otherwise he would be dead soon. Bringing his hands up, he started to claw at the earth above him, spitting when dirt landed in his open mouth. His hands encountered roots and large rocks that he had to shove out the way.

Slowly, he started to form a hole, and shoved all the dirt to one side as he managed to get to his feet. Buffy coughed when some of the falling dirt landed on her face and he looked down at her, wandering whether he should try and get her out as well. Mentally, he slapped himself, of course, he should help her; she had saved his ass plenty of times in the past, so there should be no reason why he shouldn't help her now to help repay her. Except now she wasn't his friend, the woman he had had a secret crush on. Now, she was an enemy, but she was also the slayer. After all that she had done, she shouldn't have to die like this.

Once again cursing his conscience – which seemed to have re-grown since he'd returned to town – he reached down and moved her to on one side of the hole, mindful of her wound and out of the way of any falling stones. If he had a light or something, he would have tended to the bleeding, but as it was, the best he could do was get her to the surface and hope that she would hang on. He really didn't want another friend to die in his arms again, that had been painful enough the first time round, and he wasn't sure he could make it if it happened again.

Wiping away the tears that had fallen, he pushed on, scraping at the ground above him and hoping that it wasn't too far to the surface. As he went and more earth fell, it filled up the space beneath his feet, and he was able to stamp on it so it provided a foothold for him as he went.

After what felt like forever, his hands finally broke through the surface. Carefully propping Buffy against the wall of the tunnel that he had dug, he cleared the hole and managed a smile up at the sky above him.

Climbing out of the tunnel proved to be a hard job. The ground was soft and gave way easily every time Xander tried to hoist himself out of it. Eventually, he found a root that had to belong to an old tree and hefted himself up out of the hole. After taking a moment to catch his breath, he leaned back in and reached down to pull Buffy up. In the early light of day, her face was ashen and tinged with blue. She had lost a lot of blood, and he wasn't sure whether she would make it or not.

He glanced around, hoping that someone would come and help him out. All he saw was rocky ground in every direction, and a couple of fallen trees scattered here and there. He had blown the charges in the cemetery, he remembered with a grimace, and if his memory was correct, the cemetery was right over that massive underground cavern, or one of them.

Cursing, he looked down at her wound. The bleeding had stopped and it had crusted over, but he highly doubted that she would make it. He knew that if the bullet had been a through and through then he might have a chance to save her, but when he checked, he found no exit wound on her back.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, gently laying her back down on the ground. He knew that this was no way for her to die, but he couldn't just let her walk away knowing that her one time best friend was now a murderer either. She really did deserve a better way to die, but he wasn't sure what he could do to help her.

Silently, he looked down at his hands, he knew maybe one or two healing techniques, but both were really for dealing with poison and small cuts, nothing on the scale of a bullet wound. Maybe, though, he thought as he placed a hand over the wound and the other on her chest to help her breathe. Muttering an incantation in Latin, he tried to heal her, but only succeeded in almost closing the wound and sealing the bullet inside her. Quickly, he pulled his hands away and curled them into fists.

This was stupid; she needed a doctor, a proper certified surgeon in order to get the bullet out successfully. And that was one thing that he wasn't.

He looked round, silently hoping that someone would magically appear and help her out so that he could now go. His job in Sunnydale was done, and now he could leave. Preferably soon before someone could discover what he'd done. No one came.

He slipped out of his jacket and carefully wrapped her in it. She didn't move at all. That would have worried him, had it not been for the strong pulse underneath his fingertips. Slowly, he picked her up, cradling her to his chest and started to walk.

Straight ahead of him, the sky was becoming lighter, the grey-blue slowly turning to pink above him, a sure sign that he was heading east. Away from the ocean, and towards the heart of the town, where he knew he was sure to find someone that could help him. A mist formed low on the ground and swirled around his feet as he stepped through it.

The sun was glaring down at him from a clear sky by the time he found a street. It was deserted, and with a clear crack down the middle, but it was still a street. He frowned at the collapsed houses around him, wandering just how big the underground facility had been. At the very least, half the town seemed to have disappeared. He followed the street for a while, and it didn't take him long to find someone, although it wasn't the person he expected.

Tara's eyes were wide with worry as she rushed towards him. Behind her, a team of paramedics were attending to a woman lying on the ground.

"Is she...?"

He could only shake his head, too tired to speak. He carefully shifted Buffy in his arms. Tara stroked her hair gently and the slayer groaned softly. Xander crouched down, wincing when his knees cracked and set Buffy on the ground. She groaned again.

"Buffy?" Tara kept her voice quiet, and gently placed a hand on Buffy's face.

Xander watched as Buffy tried to move and cried out in pain. Blood was starting to seep through her shirt again. Tara hadn't noticed yet. He glanced up at the paramedics as they hurried towards him. One asked if he was alright.

"I'm… fine," he told them and waved them off. The guy looked doubtful, but one of the others called to him and as they crowded round the slayer, he took the opportunity to sneak away.

Not far behind the ambulance, a number of people had gathered, some slightly hurt but mostly they were unharmed. He knew that these were people who had managed to escape the explosives. He slipped under the tape that cordoned off the road and within moments, he was lost in the crowd.

It didn't take him long to reach more people. Hundreds of them had fled the collapsed area, almost like they'd known it was coming. He heard whispers as he passed among them. Some thought it was an earthquake, and others were saying it was a gas explosion. Even now, he was still amazed that the people of Sunnydale didn't know about the demons and goings on of the dark. Everyone seemed eager to let it all pass and try and get on with their lives though.

The buses were out, and he was too far from the wharf to even consider trying to leave by sea. He also had no idea where his car was, it may have fallen into the "blast zone" as several news crews were calling it, but then again… it might not have. He headed towards the other side of town and out towards L.A. and was relieved when he found his car sitting on the side of the road next to the 'You are now leaving Sunnydale' sign.

He rounded the car and got inside. On the front passenger seat was an envelope with an airline ticket in it. LAX to Boston. One way. He only had two and a half hours to catch the flight. He threw the envelope back onto the seat and started the car. An hour later his phone rang.

"So you figured it out after all." Ethan chuckled.

Xander tightened his grip on the wheel.

"This was supposed to be a vacation."

"Orders are orders." Ethan replied, sounding much more serious now. "I hope you like New York."

Xander silently groaned. Ethan was silent for a moment. Xander could hear paper rustling on the other end.

"By the way, did you check your seat before you sat down?"

"What?"

"I'm going to take that as a no."

Ethan hung up. Xander took the phone away from his ear and frowned at it, wandering what the other man meant by check the seat. He shifted and reached underneath him, frowning when his fingers connected with another envelope. Still wandering, he opened it with one hand and pulled out the contents.

The first was a picture, of Buffy, holding something in her arms. When he took a closer look, he saw she was holding a baby, and smiling at the camera. His stomach dropped as he remembered Willow telling him that Buffy had been pregnant.

The second was a copy of a birth certificate. This made him pull over so that he could look over it properly. Buffy and Finn were named as mother and father, but it still stunned him to see it in print.

Casey Joyce Summers.

There was also a third picture, of a little girl that looked just like Buffy, laughing while someone pushed her on a swing. She could've only been two or three years old.

He stared at the pictures and certificate for ages. Buffy and Finn had had a child, and he'd killed Finn, and Buffy was probably not going to survive the bullet wound that he had given her… He put the certificate and pictures back into the envelope and pulled away. The joy of escaping left him and in its place sat something he hadn't felt in years: regret. Regret over the two lives he had taken, and the life of the little girl whose life he'd just destroyed.

End

AN- So here we are. The end. This story has been killing me for nearly two years now and finally, it's over. A part of me wants to scream and dance with joy but there will be more to come in this universe. That I can promise. Muse seems to have taken a liking to this darker Xander. Thank you everyone who has read and reviewed this story, and to those who have read and not reviewed… well, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed.