Title: Sacrifices

Author: Cyclone (newbie to Buffy 'fics)

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG.

Spoilers: End of season 6 speculation

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss Whedon. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Xander saves Willow.

Author's Note: This is based off recent events in Season 6 and speculation of spoilers of future episodes. This is the first Buffy fanfic I've ever finished.

* * *

I was in the Magic Box when he ambushed me. Being a vengeance demon gave you a lot of power, but most of it was tied up in the Wish, so it didn't do me a whole lot of good. I didn't even sense his whirlwind of emotions until it was too late.

When I woke up, I was tied to a chair. At least he hadn't gagged me. Right now, I'm watching him collect ingredients from the shelves while checking from one of the spell books every so often. The book's too far away for me to see what book it is. I wonder just what the hell he thinks he's doing when he should be with the others in planning the next step of their Willow-stopping plan. I guess I might as well ask.

"Xander, what are you doing?"

He turns and looks at me. Eyes are the windows to the soul, did you know that? Well, they are. Vengeance demons can sense people's emotions, but those senses are pretty dulled for emotions outside our specialty -- hence, how he could sneak up behind me and brain me; he wasn't scorned by love. Eye contact, though, lets us feel someone's emotions much more strongly, almost as strongly as the person actually feeling it. The waves of despair and loss radiating from him nearly overwhelm me. I'm starting to feel nauseous. It tells me more than his three-word answer ever could.

"I'm saving Willow," he manages, his voice cracked.

He thinks he loved me -- still loves me, actually -- with all his heart. He's wrong. He does still love me, but he's never loved me as much as he loves her, and the dolt doesn't even know it. He's sweet that way.

"How?" I finally ask, not sure if I want to hear the answer.

"I'm gonna bring Tara back."

Huh? That doesn't make any sense. Xander's no warlock, and without the Urn of Osiris, the only way would be...

Oh, God.

"No! Xander, you can't!"

Heaven help me, I still love him.

He shakes his head and says quietly, "I have to."

"But- mmph!"

Looks like he's finally decided to gag me. He leans over and kisses my forehead. His next words come out as a soft whisper as the tears stream down my cheeks, "I'm sorry, An, for everything."

And I sit there helplessly as he walks out the door.

Xander, I love you. Don't do this.

What am I doing? He can't hear my thoughts, not like he can hear hers. I have to get out of here soon if I'm going to stop him.

* * *

My eyes flicker open slowly, and I know that shouldn't be possible. Warren had shot me. I should be dead, and yet, upon inspection, the bullet hole is gone completely. Did I dream that?

What is going on?

I sit up on the bed and look around. It takes me a moment to recognize the guest room in Xander's apartment. On the floor next to the bed is...

Goddess, it's Xander.

He looks dead... or- or unconscious. That's it. He must be unconscious.

Of course, that's what I try to convince myself, but the candles and the symbols drawn on the floor lead me to suspect otherwise. When I finally recognize the spell book lying nearby, it only confirms my suspicions.

He had used the Ritual of Life Exchange.

I get up, a little unsteady on legs that haven't supported my weight for however long I was dead. Dead. The enormity of that thought staggers me like a physical blow, and I sit back down the edge of the bed.

I scan the room with my eyes and spot a stack of envelopes on the nightstand. The one on top has my name on it written in Xander's sloppy handwriting. I quickly tear it open.

--

Tara,

If you're reading this, it means the spell worked. I'm dead, and you're alive. Don't feel guilty about this, Tara. As much as I like you, I didn't do this for you. I did it for Willow. She's gone berserk. As I write this, Warren's dead, and the other two stooges are in jail, but that's not enough for Will. We're not sure what she's planning, but given her state of mind lately, it's probably not good.

She's fallen into the abyss, Tara, and you're the only one who can bring her back. I tried, but I guess the bond between us is gone now.

You have to stop her, Tara, bring her back into the light, as corny as that sounds. We think she's holed up at the old mansion Angel used to hang out in. Willow told me she showed it to you once while regaling you of our earlier adventures. I hope you remember it.

Be careful. She lost you once, and it nearly pushed her over the edge. I don't think she could survive losing you twice.

Also, make sure the other letters get to who they're supposed to go.

Alexander Lavelle Harris, White Knight & Zeppo

P.S.: Please take care of my Willow. She's my better half.

--

I sit there dumbly for a moment, looking through the remaining envelopes. Most of them only have names on them like mine did: Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Anya, and Spike. Three more are fully addressed and stamped, two to L.A., one by air mail to England: Angel, Cordelia, and Giles.

After a long moment, I stand up and reach down to close Xander's vacant eyes before I head out. My vision's getting blurry. I guess it's a side effect of the spell.

No, that's not right. I'm crying. Why am I crying? I'm crying because my girlfriend's best friend gave his life for me just to make her happy. I'm crying because I care about Xander, and he's dead because of me. I'm crying because, as much as I love Willow, I don't know if I could make that kind of sacrifice.

I'm crying because, deep down, I know he loved her more than I ever could.

* * *

They came just as I knew they would. I've been a Slayerette longer than any of them except Buffy and Xander. I know how they think and how they react. Now, they're all trapped by my power, but I'm still on my guard. Anya and Xander haven't made an appearance yet.

I wonder, though, will Xand be able to kill me when the time comes? God, I hope so. This whole "end the world" gig is actually kinda fun, but it won't bring Tara back to me. I can't bring myself to kill myself, but I guess even Buffy can't do it.

"Willow!"

That voice...

I look up, stunned. "T-Tara?" I ask softly. I shake my head in denial. "No, it's not possible. You- you're dead..."

"I'm back now, Willow."

I can see she's been crying. Her eyes are clear but red.

"H-how?" I manage to ask.

Her tears start flowing again as she tells me. "Xander. H-he used the Ritual of Life Exchange."

I'm not sure how I wound up on the floor, but now I'm staring at the ceiling.

How can I live without Xander? God, I barely made it through that one summer, and I had Oz then, and even then, I knew he was coming back. Someday.

"Oh, Xander..."

This time, he's not coming back.

He's gone.

Xander's gone.

My other half is gone.

He gave his life to bring Tara back.

For me.

* * *

Author's Postscript:

Well, I guess that's the X/W angst 'shipper in me talking. I have ideas on a potential Part Two angstfest with a rather exotic 'ship. If anyone actually liked this, let me know, and I might actually get around to writing it.