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Patricia de Lioncourt [userpic]

Fic: The Funny Thing About Keys (1/25)

Author Name: Patriciatepes (Patricia de Lioncourt )

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Batman: the Animated Series

Rating: PG-13

Characters: Dawn Summers, The Joker, Nightwing/Dick Grayson, Batman, Giles, Willow, Xander, Buffy Summers, OCs, several minor scenes with major characters

Pairing: Dawn/Nightwing (Dick Grayson)

Chapter Links: Prev | Next

Warnings: (for all chapters) Torture, swearing

Summary: When Buffy is poisoned and dying, Dawn is left no choice but to go to Gotham for the cure that she is told is too dangerous to retrieve. Time is on her side... too bad the universe isn't.

Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy, Batman, or any related characters. They belong to Whedon, DC Comics, and WB. No money made here.

Author's Notes: Art by the wonderful 20thcenturyvole. I started this story long, long ago, and decided to finish it for the wipbigbang.  I do author's notes every chapter on fanfiction (dot) net, but I'll only copy the relevant ones here. This new one was actually inspired by a fanart I did. Now, just a note. The timeline is post-season 7 of Buffy with a few things taken from the comics. Nothing major is coming from the comics' storyline, just some details. As for Batman: the Animated Series, this is coming from season four, disregarding the Justice League series. Also, I've always wanted to write a fic where I used song titles as the chapter titles… turns out, this is just the fic. I hope you all enjoy!

Chapter 1- Poison

It was important. More than that, it was urgent. Or at least, "urgent" was what Xander's voicemail on her cell had said on the warm—nearly hot—Monday morning she had decided to check it.

"Come home as soon as possible. It's urgent, Dawnie. It's about Buffy," was what the simple, short message had said… in a rather strained voice.

Of course it was about Buffy. It was always about Buffy. And Dawn didn't mean that in the bratty way she used to say it. Her sister was the Slayer… the Head Slayer, in charge of an army of young women and girls who all possessed the strength her sister had had since she was fifteen. If anything was happening at Slayer HQ—or "home" as Xander had called it… Dawn just liked to think of it as "the huge, cold, unloving stone castle in Scotland"—her sister was most probably the cause of it, or at least involved.

So, after hearing that message, Dawn had rolled out of her extended twin-sized bed in her tiny closet of a dorm room and gotten dressed in a simple pair of jeans, a light long sleeve—it may not be cold in San Francisco, but she still wore long-sleeves… it was late November, nearly December, after all—and pulled her hair—cut to mid-back instead of the length she used to wear it—into a high ponytail. Before her roommate had even begun to wake up, Dawn had been out and across the campus, entering the building her professors all had offices in. To each one of her four teachers, she had explained her situation. Thankfully, she was able to persuade each one of them to give her the finals early. Which was lucky, as this was only her first semester in college… they could have told her that she wouldn't be able to handle an early final. By Thursday of that next week, she was in her current seat in coach on a plane that was minutes from landing. She had called Xander to have her meet her at the airport before she had taken flight.

The flight attendants had ushered forward their most bubbly, chesty blonde to walk around, making sure that everyone was wearing their seatbelts like the sign said they should. The woman, who was taller even than Dawn, smiled down at her as she motioned to her seatbelt, locked snugly about her thin waist. By the time the attendant was back up at the front of the plane, the captain had announced that they had begun landing. Sighing, Dawn laid her head back against the headrest.

Between that Monday morning and now, Dawn had received no further calls with any further details from any of the other Scoobies. At first, she had panicked. After all, Xander had said "urgent," right? As the week had progressed, she had relaxed. No news was good news, she had decided as she had boarded the plane. Now as she could clearly see the concrete runway stretching out below her—why had she gotten a window seat?—she was beginning to get rather panicked again. The plane's wheels touched ground, and although it barely moved, Dawn jumped as if she had just been thrown forward—causing the gaunt-looking business man in the seat next to her to stare. She hated planes. The faster she got to the cold, unforgiving castle full of bubbly, excitable girls her age, and off this thing, the better.

The drive from the airport to the castle had been pleasant. Xander had been there—eye patch, commando-like black gear, and all—to pick her up as promised. But it did nothing to ease Dawn's worries. Xander had questioned her on college life, boys, and any other generally meaningless thing he could think of from airport to the moment he was helping her unload her luggage just inside the castle's courtyard. He was deliberately avoiding talking about the reason she was here, and it made her stomach twist.

"Well, Dawnie, I'm glad you're liking college," he said as he pulled her large, brown leather suitcase from trunk to ground. "I was never a college man myself, as you know. But it's important, I guess, to get that old sheepskin. Prove that you have had the proper training to be a helpful member to society and all that. Go after—"

"Xander!" she squealed at him.

He stopped, mid-word and mouth agape. His single eye blinked as she shook her head, her lips downturned.

"What's going on? Why am I here? Where's Buffy?" she asked, wrapping her arms around herself.

"Oh, that," he said, the words falling like a stone. "That… can wait. Why don't we get you set up first?"

Xander picked up the first thing his hand touched—her lavender backpack, which she had used as her carry-on on the plane—and rushed past her, heading towards the giant, fragile looking oaken doors that led to the main foyer of the castle. However, with one quick leap, Dawn threw herself in his path, placing her hands on his shoulders to make sure he didn't try to move around again. Her eyes narrowed, searching him as he looked away from her.

"You're scaring me," she said softly. "I want to see Buffy. Now."

He nodded after a moment or two, gesturing towards the castle's looming figure.

"She's in the infirmary room on the sixth floor. You know the one… you helped Willow set it up. I'll take your stuff to your room," he said, his voice still that heavy tone.

Dawn watched as he moved, a little slower now, and began to gather her stuff. Something was wrong. Really wrong. Losing no more time, she turned and ran into the castle. She took the stairs two at a time and only paused after a couple of flights, when her legs were in a desperate need of a rest. Then, finally, she mounted the last few staircases, ran the length of a hall in no time, and all but flung herself into the infirmary room.

Two pairs of eyes—Buffy's and another Slayer's—met hers. It took a moment, but Dawn finally realized that Buffy was the one laying on the bed, with the Slayer she didn't recognize tending to her. Her sister looked fine, for all intents and purposes. Her jeans and white blouse were a little dirty, and there was a small cut offset to the right on her forehead… but she didn't look like she had been mauled or anything.

Buffy smiled, sitting up and putting her feet on the floor. The unnamed Slayer moved to stop her, but Buffy snapped a quick, "I'm getting up, move before I roundhouse your ass."

The Slayer squeaked a "yes, ma'am," and moved. Buffy stood and threw out her arms to embrace her sister. Dawn dashed forward and met her halfway.

"Buffy, what's wrong? Xander said it was urgent and about you. Then he babbled and wouldn't tell me anything. Are you all right?" Dawn spoke, very quickly, into her sister's shoulder.

Buffy pushed her sister gently back, holding her at arm's length. She smiled up at her and, for half a second, Dawn would have sworn that she had gotten even shorter. Buffy turned from her, after a moment, and motioned for the other Slayer in the room to leave. The young girl bustled out as if she had just been screamed at. Dawn watched as the door shut behind her before turning back and following Buffy over to the bed.

"That's new… the fear," she said as Buffy took a seat on the edge of the bed while Dawn pulled up the chair stationed on the bed's right.

"She's not scared of me, Dawnie. She's scared for me, I think," her sister said in the voice Dawn liked to call her "the end of the world" voice… it was solemn and kind of weary.

She narrowed her eyes. "What's wrong? Why isn't anyone telling me anything?"

"Dawn… I don't know any way to put this lightly, so I'm just going to come out and say this. Promise not to wig out?"

Dawn made the motion of crossing her heart, her eyes glued on her sister's frowning face. Buffy took a deep breath and released it in a sigh. Looking her right in the eye, the Slayer got to the point.

"Dawn, I'm dying. I was poisoned in a fight, and there's no cure."

The world stopped turning. Everything around Dawn seemed frozen in place while her mind, meanwhile, was racing. A million and one memories flew through her mind: Buffy pushing her on the swing in the park after their parents' divorce, Buffy saving her life for the millionth time… Buffy telling her that their mother was dead. And that final thought brought Dawn back to the present as her mind replayed the words her sister had just spoken. She wanted to scream, cry, jump up from her chair and throw it. But she could get her body to do none of those things. Instead, she just slumped back, her gaze unfocused.

"Dawn?" Buffy asked, gently placing a hand on hers.

Dawn could feel the tears coming now. She looked at Buffy—or rather, at her forehead… she couldn't quite make herself look her in the eye. It would be too real if she saw Buffy's eyes.

"How?" she just managed to say.

"A fight. Some baddie lured me into a trap, hid, and shot me with a dart laced with the poison. He was a real cloak-and-dagger type of guy, too. He was heavy-set… and tall. That's all I could tell you. But he got me."

"How long?"

"Oh, I'll be alive for a while now. I mean… less than a year… but more than hours."

Dawn couldn't help it. She knew it was terribly inappropriate. But she laughed. Thankfully, Buffy laughed with her.

"That's real informative, Buffy!" she snapped in her laugher.

"I know. I'm sorry! In all honestly, I think I have about six or seven months, according to Giles and Willow," Buffy said, sitting back against the headboard of the bed.

Dawn's laughter stopped as quickly as it had started. All seriousness once again, her eyes narrowed.

"So… how are you feeling? Does it… hurt?"

Buffy shook her head, a wry smile on her face. "Right now, I just feel kind of tired. It'll get worse… but it's a super slow-mo type of poison."

"What type of poison did this guy use, that it has no cure, Buff?"

"Mystical. Totally home-manufactured, mystical poison."

A beat of silence followed this as Dawn's head continued to try and wrap her mind around this. Her sister, the indestructible, "I've-died-twice" Buffy… was dying. And slowly. And probably painfully in the long run. Well, Dawn wouldn't have it. She pushed herself out of her chair, staring down at a confused-face Buffy.

"Are you sure there's no cure? I mean, who creates a poison and doesn't create a cure! It doesn't make sense!" she said as she heard the heavy doors of the infirmary open behind her.

She gave a quick glance over her shoulder to see Xander and Willow enter. Willow—flow-y, olive green, peasant dress and all—swiftly wrapped her arms around Dawn's shoulders. Dawn returned hug, pushing back after a few seconds.

"Buffy, there has to be a cure," she said.

She watched as Willow and Xander exchanged a quick glance.

"There's not one," Buffy said sternly.

"Well, not one that—" Xander began, but stopped with harsh looks from the red-haired witch and pissed-looking Slayer.

"What?" Dawn pressed. She let her eyes pass over all three of them before they came back to rest on Xander. "What aren't you telling me? I'm not a child anymore. I'm in college for crying out loud! What is it, Xander?"

"Not one… that we have yet. Will's working very hard on the matter," he finished, lamely.

"Yes, I am. Working very hard on the mystical poison antidote. Nose to the grindstone and all," Willow was quick to add.

"You're lying to me," Dawn snapped, her eyes glaring down at her sister.

"No, we're not. Will is working very hard on this," Buffy said, her eyes on Xander.

Dawn glanced back at him as he averted his one eye away. She shook her head. It was as if she was in some alternate dimension where the Scoobies didn't give a damn if one of their own was dying or in need. She whirled back on her sister, angry tears rolling off her cheeks.

"I don't understand. Why won't any of you tell me? And why won't any of you go after this cure?"

"Dawn, listen to me. There's not one. Okay? End of discussion. Now, you've had a long flight. Go unpack, and we'll hang out when you get done. That sound good?" Buffy said as gently and as sternly as she could manage.

"I'll find out what you're hiding. I always do," she snapped before turning and striding out of the room.

She was halfway up the cold, stone hall when a thought occurred. As silently as she could, she turned back and tiptoed her way all the way back to the infirmary, stopping just before she reached the door. Leaning as far over as she dared, she strained her ears, trying to catch whatever her sister and her friends were saying.

"Dawn's right, Buffy. I just wanted to say that, for the record," she heard Xander say.

"I have to agree. I mean, I could go after the cure," Willow's voice added.

"No. It's too dangerous for anyone to go, Will."

"Do you really think that I can't handle it?"

"No. I know you with all your witchy badassness could probably do it… but the key word there is 'probably.' Look, this guy is dangerous. More dangerous, maybe, than some of the baddies we've faced."

"Guy?" Dawn mouthed. The cure was a person? Was that why Buffy didn't want anyone to go after it? Was it another "key" situation? Kill the guy, get the cure? Or was it really that someone, some human, could be that dangerous?

"I find that hard to believe," Xander scoffed.

"I've read all about him since Giles told me. You never know what he'll do. No, he's not a vampire, he's not magical, but he is still dangerous. And I'm not having anyone risking their life over this… over me. I'd go myself, but Giles doesn't think that sending a sick Slayer out is wise."

"What about one of the other hundred or so Slayers we have here?" Willow asked.

"No. None are trained enough to deal with this guy. End of discussion, guys. No one goes after him."

And with that, the topic changed. Dawn leaned back against the darkened stone wall. Giles knew what the cure was? They all knew? And they wouldn't tell her? Why?

A lightbulb went off in Dawn's head. Giles was the key to solving her problem… In the past few years, the former-Watcher had done some things that were not quite to Buffy's liking. If she could weasel what—or rather, who—the cure was out of anyone, it would be Giles. Once again, moving as quietly as possible, Dawn disappeared towards the western half of the castle… where Giles kept his room and library.

End Notes: Well, I know we didn't get much of the other 'verse in this chapter, and I apologize for that. We'll get mention of it in the next chapter. I hope everyone liked this. Please review!