Chapter Four - Unembraceable

Xander screamed.

"Sorry, did that hurt?"

Drakkus pulled his arm back and with a quick motion, slammed his fist across Xander’s jaw. He followed up quickly with a hard blow to the stomach that made Xander grunt loudly in pain.

Drakkus laughed. "Good, I’m glad," he hissed.

Xander fought to keep consciousness. The pain was unbearable. Every time he thought he was going to pass out, Drakkus came up with a new torture to focus his attention. I can’t take much more of this, Xander thought. And pretty soon he’s going to get bored and just kill me.

But torture wasn’t the worst part. Xander could feel Kinn trying to get into his mind. And it was getting harder and harder to fight him off as the torture continued. At this rate, Xander didn’t know how long he was going to remain himself.

Where’s a Slayer when you need one?

[~~~]

"Giles!"

"Buffy!" Giles spun around from the book he was skimming through. "Where’s Xander?"

"Some vamps grabbed him," Buffy said. She headed toward the cage set along the side of the room. "I was hoping you would have some idea where they’ve taken him. Timeliness is of the essence here."

"Um, yes, right," Giles looked up as Faith rushed into the library and headed over towards Buffy. "I think I have an idea—"

"Then let’s get over there," Buffy interrupted, grabbing a crossbow from the weapons cage. "Timeliness, remember?"

"B-Buffy, we must not run off wily-nily," Giles said. "We should prepare, make a plan…"

Buffy turned towards Giles and he was shocked to see what looked like tears in her eyes. "We don’t have time," she almost yelled at him. "Xander is in danger!"

Willow stood up from her seat at the table. "Buffy’s right," she said, her "resolve" face forming. "We have to go save him."

"She’s right," came a familiar voice.

Willow looked towards the door and a smile lit her face when she saw Oz. She quickly walked over to him and took his hand. Oz smiled at her.

"Well, I guess that settles it, then," said Giles. "Off we go all wily-nily."

"Come on, Giles," Faith smiled and slapped the Watcher on his back, making him wince. "This is going to be fun!"

[~~~]

Xander hardly groaned at all when the blow cracked his rib. He did cough up a little more blood, however. He could taste its coppery tang on his lips.

This is not fun, he thought. I could be having more fun with this.

The torture wasn’t the worst part. Xander’s body had become numb from all it had endured and he knew he would probably die soon if help didn’t arrive. The problem was that Xander could feel Kinn trying to enter his mind.

Part of him wanted to simply let go and let Kinn take over. After all, with Kinn in control, there was a possibility Xander might make it out of his predicament alive. But another part of him, a stronger part, refused to lose his soul in order to save himself.

"I’m not Angel," Xander laughed weakly. He coughed and spit up some more blood. "I’ll never give up that part of myself. Never."

Drakkus paused. "What?"

"Never mind," Xander laughed again. "You wouldn’t understand. Feel free to resume the pummeling."

Drakkus frowned. "I grow bored of this Kinn," he growled. "Time, I think, for you to die."

Drakkus reached down and grabbed Xander by the throat, pulling him off the floor. He tilted Xander’s head to the side and bared his fangs for the kill.

The door to the warehouse seemed to explode inwards, shards of wood flying in deadly arcs. A figure rushed through the opening, carrying a crossbow.

"Buffy," Xander sighed. "I knew it."

Drakkus growled and dropped Xander to the ground.

Buffy quickly aimed her crossbow at the vampire who had been holding Xander. She let the bolt fly, but the vampire pulled another of its kind in front of him. The impromptu shield had time for one moment of surprise before collapsing into a pile of dust.

"Get her! Kill the slayer," Drakkus shouted.

Vampires seemed to emerge directly from the shadows in numbers Buffy quickly stopped counting. They grouped en masse and began advancing. Before they could move more than a few steps, however, one of them let out a grunt and exploded into a pile of ash. Seconds later, another followed. The vampires looked around in panic—they were used to be the hunters, not the hunted.

"Hey, B," came Faith’s voice from above. "Save some of them for me!"

"You can have them all," Buffy smiled. "Feel free."

Faith, who was on a catwalk suspended thirty feet above the floor of the warehouse, put her hands on the railing and vaulted into the air. She came down hard, but fortunately, landed on the pile of vampires, scattering them about the room. She got up quickly and joined Buffy, both of the slayers entering a fighting stance.

"Xander?"

Xander looked up to see Willow looking down at him, concern etched on her face. Oz was standing protectively behind her, a sharpened end of a baseball bat in his hand.

"Will," said Xander from his position on the floor. "What—it’s good to see you."

"Oh, Xander…" Willow looked over her friend sadly. Xander was in rough shape. He looked like he had been through the ringer. "Don’t worry," she told him. "We’ll get you out of here."

Xander smiled wearily and then passed out.

Buffy and Faith were having trouble. There were a lot of vampires in the warehouse. She had yet to see Mr. Trick or Drakkus, but she knew they were out there, waiting for their chance to strike. Buffy knew that when she let her guard down, the two vampires would be all over her.

The problem was that she was having a hard enough time with the vampires she and Faith were fighting now. She knew that given enough time, the two slayers could finish them off, but they had to get Xander out of here quickly and to a hospital. Buffy had only seen a glimpse of him as she came into the warehouse, but what she had seen did not look good. But she pushed her worry for Xander out of her mind and concentrated on the task at hand.

Giles and Willow were half-carrying, half-dragging an unconscious Xander between them out of the warehouse doors. Oz was covering them, a cross and stake at the ready. Buffy cast a quick glance through the doors and saw them loading Xander into Giles’ car. she thought, relief washing over her. Xander’s safe. Time to kick some ass.

Buffy dropped to the floor of the warehouse, one of her legs swinging out and knocking a vampire off his feet. She got up quickly and saw a vampire punch Faith in the stomach, causing her to bend over. Buffy rolled over Faith’s back and laid a roundhouse kick into the face of the vampire that had punched Faith. The creature staggered back, its hands rising to its shattered nose. It had little time for reflection, however, as Faith jammed a stake through its heart, ending its paranatural existence.

"Enough!" Everyone—Slayer and vampire—stopped at the sound of the voice. Drakkus strode across the warehouse quickly, shoving his brethren out of his way. "Enough of this nonsense," he growled. "You two children have but one choice—to die quickly or to die slowly."

"You’re boring me," came Buffy’s sarcastic reply.

"Yeah, can we just fight now?" Faith’s quickly followed.

Drakkus snarled and waved his arms. The other vampires in the room seemed to take it as a queue and rushed the girls. There were a lot of them.

Note to self, thought Buffy as she slipped into a fighting stance. Less sarcasm.

[~~~]

Xander woke up.

That was surprising in itself. Truthfully, he never expected to. The last thing he remembered was Drakkus beating him senselessly. No, wait—the last thing he remembered was the gang rushing into the warehouse to save him …

"Buffy!"

Xander sat bolt upright in the bed he was lying in. He immediately regretted it. I feel like I’ve been hit with a ton of bricks, he thought. And not in a good way.

Xander did a quick scan of the room around him. He was in Sunnydale Hospital, that was sure. The room was empty, except for Willow, who, it seemed, he had woken up with his little outburst. His best friend didn’t look too good—she looked like she needed the sleep.

"Xander?" she asked groggily. "Thank goodness you’re awake. How are you feeling?"

"You don’t want to know," he said, groaning. "Believe me. Where’s Buffy?"

Willow turned her head away. "The doctors say you’ve got some broken ribs, and you should take it easy," she said, getting up from her chair. "Maybe I should go talk to them …"

Xander reached over and, wincing at the pain, grabbed Willow’s arm. "Will, where’s Buffy?"

"We don’t know."

"What!?!"

"The last we saw of Buffy and Faith, they were fighting vampires and we were dragging you out of the warehouse," Willow explained. "We haven’t seen them since. Angel has been looking for them, but they weren’t at the warehouse."

Through her explanation, Willow had started to cry. She came over and sat on the side of the bed and hugged Xander. "We don’t know where they are or what happened to them," she sobbed. "Xander, I’m scared."

Xander fought conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he wanted to comfort his ailing friend. On the other, he wanted to go find Buffy. Impulsiveness won out over caution. He gently pushed Willow away and started to get out of the bed. He got his feet to the floor, but a wave of dizziness overcame him. Stumbling, he fell to the floor, unconscious.

[~~~]

Xander sat in the alley, the rain pouring over him, a bullet lodged in his stomach.

He didn’t know how he had arrived in the alley, and frankly, he didn’t care. The white-hot pain in his gut had most of his attention. He put one hand against he alley wall, dragging himself up. About halfway to his feet, his strength gave out and he plunged back to the rain-soaked alley. The pain in his stomach intensified, searing through him.

His vision clouded, but he could hear footsteps coming down the alley towards him. From his low vantage point, he could see a cheap pair of shoes slowly walk in front of his face. There was a pause and a hand reached down to help him up.

Xander reached up and grabbed the hand. It was strong—it pulled him to his feet with little effort. Xander placed his other hand over his bloodied stomach. The hand grasping his let go. It came back a moment later, but this time with a .45 automatic in it. The gat was slapped into Xander’s hand with a satisfying sound.

Xander closed his hand around the gun. It felt good.

He looked up and was staring into the face of Jack Kinn.

"I can help, kid," Kinn said. "But there’s no going back this time." Kinn stepped back into the shadows, disappearing.

Xander stared at the gun in his hand. The pain in his stomach was gone, but he fell back to the ground anyway, sobbing quietly.

[~~~]

Xander woke up.

Willow was standing next to his bedside. "How do you feel?" she asked worriedly. "You’ve been asleep for hours?"

Xander sat up quickly, ignoring the pain that shot through him. "Get my clothes," he said to Willow. "I know what I have to do."

[~~~]

Buffy was in bad shape.

Faith knew it, but she wasn’t in too good of shape herself. She and Buffy were chained to the wall of the mansion. Faith was awake, that she knew, but little else. Buffy was just moaning.

Faith heard noise coming from the other side of the vast main room. She saw Drakkus striding across the room towards the two slayers and prepared herself for more torture.

"Soon," Drakkus said smiling. "It will be soon and then I get to kill you both. Two slayers in one day—that’s got to be some kind of record!"

"Why don’t you just kill us now?" Buffy asked, surprising Faith. "Why not just get it over with?"

Drakkus smiled again. That terrible smile. "By keeping you here, I draw Kinn," he said. "He will come for you and then I will have him."

"Kinn?"

"The one who hides behind that fool you care so much for," Drakkus snarled. "The one who wears Kinn’s essence."

"Xander?" Faith asked. "I think I missed a step here."

"But Xander is in control," Buffy said, ignoring Faith and hoping what she said was true. "Kinn won’t come."

Drakkus laughed, a horrible piercing laugh. "But the boy, the shell that Kinn hides behind, he loves you," he laughed. "He will come for you because he cannot stand to imagine that you are suffering. I kill the boy, I kill Kinn."

Buffy hung there in shocked silence. Xander loves me? she thought. I knew he had feelings, but he loves me? It couldn’t be true.

"I don’t believe you," Buffy said. "Xander cares, but he’s not going to get himself killed coming after me."

Faith rolled her eyes and looked over at the other slayer. "Give me a break, B," she said. "Of course he loves you. You’re the only one who didn’t know it."

Drakkus nodded. "It’s only a matter of time."

[~~~]

Giles looked up from his place at the main table in Sunnydale library as Xander strode through the library doors, Willow hovering protectively behind.

"Xander, what are you doing out of bed?" Giles asked. "You should still be in the hospital!"

"I told him that," Willow said. "Does he listen?"

"Really," Giles said hastily. "You should—"

"Save it," Xander said curtly. "Buffy’s in trouble and I’m going to help her."

"But, Xander," Willow said. "We don’t even know where she is!"

"We do now." Everyone spun around to see Angel walking through the library doors.

"Angel," Xander said cautiously.

"Xander," came the response.

"Where is she?"

"I followed some of Trick’s goons to the mansion," Angel said. "I’m sure they’re being held there."

"Then that’s where we need to go." Xander walked into the weapon’s cage and opened the box that held Kinn’s .45s. "When I grab these," he began. "I won’t be myself anymore and I don’t think I’m going to be able to come back." He reached for the guns.

"Xander, no!" Willow shouted.

"You can’t," Giles added, moving towards the cage. "It’s too dangerous."

Xander ignored Giles and turned to Willow. "I love her, Will," he said, his eyes moistening. "I can’t just let her die and we need what I can do when I’m him." All of the life seemed to leave him as he stared at the contents of the box. He turned to Angel. "I finally understand you, I think," he said quietly. "You love her so much you were willing to lose your soul. I lover her too, and I’m prepared to give up mine to save her."

Xander looked down at the automatics and took a deep breath.

"Xander," Angel looked directly into his eyes. "Good luck."

Xander grabbed the guns.

[~~~]

Buffy screamed as Drakkus’ claws dug into her shoulders.

"Why don’t you pick on someone your own size," Faith yelled out menacingly. "Or are you too scared to face me?"

Drakkus turned to her. "With pleasure," he growled.

"Why don’t you pick on someone who can fight back?"

Drakkus spun around at the voice coming from the shadows. "Kinn," he spat. "I knew you’d come. Finally given up hiding behind the boy?"

Buffy looked up and her heart felt like bursting. "Xander," she whispered. But he wasn’t. She could see him standing on the other side of the room. It was his eyes. If Xander had ever been in those eyes, he was long gone now. In that moment, that one, brilliant moment, she knew she loved Alexander LaVelle Harris.

It was everything about him. His humor, his courage, and his honor. She knew he would die for her, and in another flash of insight, she realized that in a way, he had.

Drakkus stood and faced the intruder. "Now you die," he said, charging.

Jack Kinn reached underneath his leather duster and whipped out his .45 automatics with a speed that was awe-inspiring.

"Fuck you, bloodsucker."

Kinn fired off two rounds. They struck Drakkus in the leg and shoulder, causing him to spin out of control and hit the floor. Drakkus was up again in an instant and, growling, leapt the rest of the distance to Kinn.

[~~~]

Giles and Oz ran up to the chained slayers. The other vampires in the mansion were hanging back, seemingly waiting to see how the fight between Kinn and Drakkus was going to end. One of them, seeing the rescue operation in progress ran towards them.

A growling, fully "vamped" Angel got in his way. He threw a strong uppercut, the vampire on the end of it flipping backwards and landing in a heap on the floor.

Angel looked over his shoulder. "Hurry," he said.

[~~~]

Drakkus slashed his claws across Kinn’s chest, drawing blood.

Kinn bashed one of his pistols across Drakkus’ face, causing the vampire to bend over in pain. Kinn lashed out with a kick, spinning Drakkus into the air and onto the floor.

Drakkus spun his legs around using his moment to flip onto his feet almost instantly.

[~~~]

Giles finally managed to free Faith from the chains. She stood up and with a quick pulling motion, made short work of Buffy’s shackles. She ran forward to help Angel hold off what was now three vampires trying to stop the rescue.

Buffy stood up and flexed her should, wincing at the pain. "Thanks," she said to Giles and Oz. "But now I’ve got to help the man I love."

Buffy ran past Angel to where Drakkus and Kinn were battling.

[~~~]

Kinn threw a kick at Drakkus’ head, but in a lightning-quick move, Drakkus grabbed it. Drakkus brought his elbow down on Kinn’s knee, and Kinn cried out as both of them heard the bones snap. Drakkus released the leg and Kinn fell on one knee to the floor.

Drakkus reached down and plunged his claws into Kinn’s stomach. With a swift motion of his arm, he lifted Kinn into the air. "Your time is up," he growled into Kinn’s face. "Now you die for good. Your luck has finally run out."

Kinn lifted his gun and placed it directly under Drakkus’ chin. "I think this time, I may have a little luck left," said Kinn. He pulled the trigger.

Click.

Great, Kinn thought. Not again.

Drakkus smiled, but then suddenly grimaced. A small point of wood emerged from where his heart lay in his chest. In an instant, he exploded into dust. Behind what was once Drakkus, Buffy stood, stake in hand.

Kinn fell to the floor. "What do you know," he said softly. He laughed, but stopped as a coughing fit overtook him. He could feel blood on his lips.

Buffy jumped tot he ground beside Kinn. "Xander!" she cried. "You can’t die on me! Not when I haven’t told you … not when I haven’t said …"

Kinn coughed again, spitting more blood onto the floor.

"… that I love you!"

Kinn smiled. Buffy could see his teeth were covered in blood. "That’s nice to know," he said. "Maybe you could have told the kid sooner, sweetheart. It looks like we’re both done for."

With that, all of Kinn’s energy seemed to leave him. He slumped to the floor.

Buffy cradled his head in her arms. "Xander!" She shook him. "Xander!"

The fighting had stopped. The other vampires had been slain or had run when their master had died. The rest of the gang gathered around Buffy. She was cradling Xander’s head in her lap, slowly rocking back and forth.

"No," she said quietly. "Please, no."