Buffy barely breathed as she stared soundlessly as the lifeless body of her best friend.

"God... Xander, i'm so sorry" The slayer managed to whisper as the first of the tears started.

Xander Harris' blank stare blurred and warped as her eyes filled. Buffy held Xander's last gaze at her for as long as she could before folding over his chest and soundlessly sobbing into his shirt. Around the two, flames built up higher and higher, erasing the evidence of their earlier struggle.

It was her fault... all her fault.

Buffy heard the door to the warehouse they were in slam open and footsteps race in... That would be Giles and Willow.

"There's Buffy!" Willow yelled excitedly to Giles. Buffy's heart tore further.

"Who's that she's kneeling over... And where's Xander? wait..." Willow's innocent voice continued. There was a sharp intake of breath from Giles.

Then the screaming began.


FLASHBACK-


"Come on, Buffy... When have we ever gone to a vampire dugout that wasn't a cinch to burn up?" Xander joked, sharpening a stake with his pocketknife as they walked to their first vampire slayage site of the evening.

"Puh-lease Xander... All you do is sit on your rear end while I do all the slaying. Easy for you to say it's a cinch..." Buffy replied, rolling her eyes dramatically before pulling a mirror out of her pocket to check her makeup and blonde curls.

"I've helped..." Xander defended himself, voice rising in pitch, causing his companion to smirk.

"All i'm saying is that I'm the slayer... you're the faithful companion" Buffy returned.

"You make me sound like a golden retriever... Hey, reminds me. Did I mention I grabbed your keys? You left them in the library"

"Point made" Buffy laughed, accepting her keyring from a grinning Xander.

The two Scoobies stopped at the loading door of a large warehouse on the outer edge of town, Buffy surveying it for weaknesses, Xander just staring at the metal building with his mouth open.

"Seems to me like either these vamps are putting on weight in their egos, or there are more of them... Maybe we should come back tomorrow morning" Xander said after a moment.

"Come on, it's a challenge" Buffy's voice came from the roof. Xander did a double take.

"How...?"

"The fire escape above your head" Buffy replied. Xander looked skeptically at the metal bar eight feet over his head.

"How do you propose us normal people get into the building?"

"I dunno, your problem" Buffy called down before disappearing. Xander sighed, shouldering his backpack.

"Guess it's the conventional way for the human..." He said before kicking in the nearby door.


"Do you ever think things through?" Xander yelled as he blocked a vampire's lunge with a handy piece of pipe.

"Get back to you on that" Buffy yelled back before landing a roundhouse kick squarely on a Vampire's head.

Xander twirled the pipe over his head before crushing in a Vampire's skull.

"Hey, Buffy! Did you see that?" Xander yelled, about ready to jump for joy.

"It's not done until you stake it!" Buffy yelled, tossing a hunk of wood at Xander's face.

"Yeah, yeah... Stake this stake that... I'm your friendly neighborhood spikerman. Oh, I forgot... That's one of your demonic boyfriends" Xander grumbled, ducking as one of Buffy's tosses soared over his head, screaming bloody murder.

"Less talk, more slay" Buffy said, rolling her eyes as she vaporized another Vampire minion. Xander grumbled something under his breath then plunged the stake into his fallen vampire, feeling very proud of himself.

"Hey, Buff-" Xander was cut off by a heavy weight grabbing him around the waist and throwing him to the floor. His head cracked on the cement ground, and he groaned painfully as his vision danced.

Buffy looked over just in time to see Xander thrown to the ground by a very large vampire. Growling in annoyance, the slayer pulled off one of her stilettos and chucked the heavy heel straight at the vampire's chest.

The pointed shoe hit it's mark, piercing the vampire's chest and covering Xander in ashes as the creature vaporized.

"Stakes in your heels? Pretty smart, Buffy" Xander said, rubbing his head as he was helped up by the blonde slayer.

"Shoes are a girl's best friend... Or is that diamonds?" Buffy replied, brushing Xander off. When he passed muster, she looked around the huge warehouse.

"That was too easy..."

"Tell me about it. I actually slayed one. It must have been drunk or something..." Xander said.

Buffy took a tentative step towards the middle of the room, all her slayer senses on triple alert.

"Xander... stay close" Buffy said to her companion, still straining for any sounds in the large building.

For once, Xander didn't argue, just came closer, his dark eyes also scanning the room.

"Buffy, maybe we should just... AGH!" Buffy whirled in time to see an arrow shaft protrude from Xander's shoulder.

"NO!"

Crossbow bolts began to rain down from the rafters, narrowly missing Buffy's face. The slayer grabbed a groaning Xander and jumped behind a wall of crates, The bolts thudded into the wood on the other side, but came no farther.

"Argh!" Xander groaned, somehow pulling the bolt out of his shoulder as Buffy watched.

"Xander, no! You'll bleed everywhere!" Buffy pushed back hysterics and ripped a strip of cloth off of the bottom of Xander's shirt.

"Hey!" He yelped. "That was my favorite shirt!"

"It's either your shirt or your life, buddy" Buffy hissed, shoving the wad of cloth into the arrow hole. Xander yelled. Buffy ignored him and peered over the crates, formulating her plan. She would have to go out in the open and take a couple hits to draw the enemy out...

"Stay here" Buffy said, looking her best friend straight in the eyes. Brown met blue, and Xander held her gaze.

"Be careful..." He whispered, gasping her arm with his good hand.

"I always am" Buffy replied, pulling a knife out of her pocket and holding it out to Xander.

"If this doesn't work, fight your way out and find the others. Tell Giles i'm sorry" Buffy said.

"But..."

"But nothing"

"Okay"

Buffy hopped over the crates, just barely hearing Xander's whisper over the blood pumping in her ears.

"I love you, Buffy..."