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Patricia de Lioncourt [userpic]

Fic: The Funny Thing About Keys (16/25)

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.

Chapter 16- The Grand Illusion

It was surreal. Surreal enough to make Dawn believe that she had snapped, but the twinges of pain every now and again made it feel solid. The Joker—the crazy who had done all the cuts and bruising to her—was now patching her up. She inhaled, trying to keep herself awake, and she smelled the faint after-scent of burning hair. To her left, she could still see the jumper cables he had used an hour or so ago to electrocute her.

Had it been an hour? Longer? Shorter? Dawn was not really sure at the moment as Joker poured a bit of rubbing alcohol onto a cut. She cried out with the shock of the intense stinging, and Joker clucked his tongue at her.

"Now, now, Dawnie. We have to get you all healed up," he said in an eerily soothing voice.

Dawn groaned as he applied some gauze to the knife wound he had just sterilized.

"Can't have you dying on me before I figure out what you're for," he sing-songed.

Her head lolled as she let out another groan. It had been the same throughout the entire torture process. Pain, then: "What do you open, my little Key?" When she did not answer, more pain. Then, another question followed in some variation of the same thing: "Where's your door at? What are you hiding behind your lock?"

Some of the questions sounded vaguely suggestive, and Dawn was sure that that was part of the torture. The thought of anything sexual coming from the psychotic clown made Dawn want to vomit. She had no idea what Harley saw in this guy. Unless, and she thought this with a horrible lurch occurring in her stomach, Harley was into heavy BDSM.

Her head was getting fuzzy. Harley/Joker BDSM thoughts were proof of that. Some more stinging occurred as Joker sterilized another wound. Dawn only hissed at that one, and Joker let out a loud, one-shot cackle.

"I hate you," she muttered.

He patted her head like she was a cat or something.

"I know."

Dawn groaned again, casting her gaze about the room. She wanted to look at something, anything, but that grinning visage. In the distance, far, far off, she thought she saw a door. But this was a huge warehouse if the height of the ceiling was any indication. For all she knew, it was probably just the doorway into another room. With the Joker quiet now, and her grunts and groans of pain under control, Dawn could hear the steady buzzing of the florescent lights above her. It was calming. A constant in a world that seemed out of control. For a moment, she could focus on that sound and forget. Forget that her sister's life was depending on her getting some of this sicko's blood. Forget that only Giles knew that she was in Gotham. Forget that not a soul knew that the Joker had kidnapped her.

She was not the baby anymore, to be guarded by big, strong slayers. She had struck out on her own, independent and happy about it. And now, no one was coming to save her. Dawn's throat felt thick, but she swallowed it down. She had given the Joker enough satisfaction with her screams and groans. He would not get her tears as well.

"There!" Joker proclaimed, breaking her thoughts.

Dawn brought her eyes back down to him, watching him toss the first aid items carelessly back onto the little silver tray. Each landed with its own particular type of noise, and Dawn took in as much of herself that she could see. Joker had dressed every wound… had even rubbed something on all of her bruises. Even the ones on her torso, under her scrubs. The thought made her sick all over again, but she shook her head, letting it fall back.

"Now, we'll give those wounds some time to get nice and sturdy… shouldn't be longer than a day or two… and then we'll pick up where we left off," Joker said.

Dawn lifted up just enough to see him take a seat on the desk just across from her. He brought his feet up to the edge of the desk and wrapped his arms about his knees.

"And where was that?" Dawn moaned.

Her eyes were on the lights again. Bright, humming lights.

"Oh, Dawnie girl, you didn't black out for that long. We'll pick up finding out what it is that you open, and how a person works as a Key anyway."

That was it. The breaking point. That one annoying push too far. Every part of her hurt, she felt sick, and all this damn clown cared about was what it was she opened. Dawn's head snapped up, and before she could stop herself, she was screaming at him.

"I told you! I am a mystical Key! A group of monks took a big ball of green light and made it human—made it me! A hell god was after it, so they needed to hide it! They sent it to my sister, the Vampire Slayer, using her and my mom's and my dad's DNA to make me!"

Joker, who—from the grimace—obviously did not enjoy being screamed at, pulled out his pocket knife, flipping it open.

"Yes, but what did the god want you for, deary?" he growled.

"To get home!"

Anger was pumping through her now, her blood like fire. She knew this was stupid. She knew that she should know better, that nothing good would come of this. But she couldn't stop.

"She wanted to get back to her home dimension! But my sister kicked her ever-lovin' ass, and she missed her window of opportunity!"

Dawn's chest was heaving, and the pain she was feeling was as constant as the lights' hum, but she pushed it all back. Joker no longer looked angry with her, just intrigued. But that did not matter. She was still pissed at him.

"And what opportunity was that?" he asked, his voice levels below hers in calmness.

"A certain time, a certain place. I think it had to do with star alignment and stuff. I did some research after. Every dimension has its own combination… like a…"

But at this, she stopped. She was making herself sick, talking about her essence in such a way. Joker finished the thought with a satisfied grin.

"Like a lock."

Both of them simply stared. Joker had what he wanted now. He did. Dawn knew that. She knew her mistake. But neither moved. Neither made a sound.

So it was very, extra easy to hear the new arrival as he announced, "Finally!"

Joker whirled until he was standing beside Dawn, and both were eyeing the figure that entered into the room. He was a plump man in a navy suit with a bright red tie. His hair was a bright blond, closely cut to his head. He was clapping his thick hands together, his lips spread into a happy-go-lucky smile.

"Finally, finally, finally," he said, sighing.

Joker crossed his arms, one eyebrow cocked. "And who are you to crash my party?"

"Oh, yes. Where are my manners? My name is William Cane. Inventor of poisons, and your creator, Joker," he said with a sweeping bow.

Joker was not amused, a look that was definitely hard for him to pull off. But Dawn's breath caught in her throat. In the moment of arrogance that was Cane lowering his gaze away from the Joker, Dawn hissed up at her captor.

"Untie me. Now. This isn't good."

If Joker heard her, he ignored her as Cane righted himself.

"Okay, Billy," Joker drawled, "why are you here? You have exactly—" Joker peered down at the watch on his left wrist, "—one minute to answer me."

"Oh, without delay," Cane grinned. "You see, I poisoned this girl's lovely sister—the Chosen One—some time ago with one of my… more lingering poisons. I knew the girls to be close, and I knew—after much study and surveillance—that this young thing was the Key. Once young Dawn went away to college, I knew this was my chance… but alas, the elder Summers girl still had baby sister under close watch."

"What?" Dawn asked before she could stop. "Buffy didn't have me under surveillance!"

Cane laughed. "Oh, yes, she did. Slayers and Wiccans by your dorm every few hours or so. Or following you around the campus."

Dawn felt her face flush, and she was literally bouncing in her chair, causing it to raise less than an inch off the floor and fall with tiny tapping noises.

"Oh my God, I can't believe this! This is so like Buffy! She swore! She swore she was going to let me go… to let me live my own life! Surveillance? Like I can't walk two feet without help! I'm not a child!"

She stopped. She was suddenly aware that all eyes were on her. She was getting that look again… the one that told her that she needed to stop whatever it was that she was doing immediately. She cleared her throat, her eyes lifting to Cane.

"Um, you continue."

"Yes," Cane grinned. "Well, as I mentioned, it was impossible to reach Dawn. So I poisoned her sister. I knew that would bring Dawn flying home, and that it would send her flying to you—her only hope for a cure."

Joker glanced down at Dawn, and his face was the absolute picture of "unreadable."

"Okay," he said. "But you haven't explained why you wanted Dawnie here so badly. I mean, what is it? Attracted to younger women? Also, you might want to touch on, just a little, why I shouldn't just kill you now."

"Like you're one to talk! But no, my desire for Dawn is not so much carnal."

That would have been a relief to Dawn if she was not completely and totally aware of some of the other choices that was left to her.

"I want to make my masterpiece… the finest poison of all time! One that has the ability to kill without an antidote, but also be malleable to do so much more."

Dawn shook her head. "That doesn't make sense."

Cane laughed. "Of course it doesn't. It doesn't exist yet. But to do that, I need the blood of the Key… and I needed to know what it took to work the Key's powers. And what pretty little Dawn just spouted to you was exactly what I needed! Like a lock… all I have to do now is discover what lock I'm looking for. So now, if you don't mind Joker, you've done your work. I'll be taking Dawn now."

Cane took a single step forward, and Joker erupted into his hysterical laughter. He placed a single hand on Dawn's shoulder, shaking his head. With his free hand, he wiped away a fake tear.

"Finders keepers, I'm afraid, Billy boy," Joker said.

Dawn's stomach tightened. At the moment, she was not entirely sure who she would be safer with… but she knew which one had what she needed. So, for this one moment only, she was completely Team Joker.

Cane shook his head. "Oh, but Joker… you've been doing exactly what I wanted you to all along."

And in the next moment, William Cane no longer stood before them. Instead, in a short moment of morphing, there stood Alisha, the Arkham Senior Orderly. In her sweet voice, she laughed and stated, "Well, I needed you to get the information for me. The girl's got a stubborn streak in her a mile long. She'd never give up the information to me… the man who poisoned her sister."

Joker growled as Cane transformed back into himself. Dawn felt the urge to vomit. Alisha? This whole time? Had… Had Cane been disguised as a woman ever since his "death"? These were things that had Dawn both terribly curious and terribly sure she did not really want to know.

"It's easier when everyone thinks you're dead," Cane shrugged. "And as sweet Alisha, I've danced you about my stage like a puppet on a string."

Dawn's inner Xander wanted so badly to utter the word, "Burn!" But Dawn fought it down, figuring that the situation was bad enough. Joker's eyes looked like he could spout flames at any moment. His free hand moved out of Dawn's line of sight, and he flashed a deadly version of his eternal grin at Cane.

"Like a puppet, eh? Well, let's see what happens when the strings get cut!"

A cloud of smoke enveloped Cane, and it was quickly expanding to fill the room. It was a sickly green color, and Dawn was pretty sure it was deadly. She heard the near unmistakable sound of a pair of spats on cement, and she knew that Joker had high-tailed it out of there. And the smoke was making its way toward her—fast.

She wriggled in her ropes, trying her best to loosen them and to ignore the pain they caused her wounds. But it was no use. The smoke was getting closer, obscuring the view of the warehouse more and more. She could no longer see the expanse of the place in front of her.

Before she could turn her head to see if the smoke had encircled her, like a shark about to descend on its prey, something hard and plastic came down over her face. She felt a strap tighten behind her head and her rope loosen. Her hands now free, they flew to her face first.

A gas mask. Someone had put a gas mask on her… and just in time. The smoke was now completely filling the room, and she could hear the faint sound of coughing. She whirled in place, unable to see so much as her hand in front of her face. What was that that the Joker had fired at Cane? She shook her head. It did not matter. What mattered now was getting the hell out of dodge.

Dawn took off in the first direction she picked, and immediately she bounced off something soft, but very solid. Cane, she knew. She quickly backed out of—what she assumed was—his reach and continued on. She ran as hard as she could, one hand holding onto her mask as if it might spontaneously fall off and the other held out in front of her. She had no idea where she was going. For all she knew, she could have been doing circles. Joker was long gone, she knew. But someone had put that mask on her.

"Help!" she called out.

She was only going to chance that once. After all, she did not need Cane—whom she did not doubt in the least would make it through this gas attack—tracking her. But her mysterious savior on the other hand? Yeah, that one could show up at any time now. Hell, all she needed was someone to show her the door.

As if in answer, she felt a hand slip into hers. Shocked, she followed without a sound as this other person led her on. She lost all will to focus on her surroundings, leaving that up to her guide, and instead started to focus on the hand. It was gloved, and it was larger than hers by a decent amount. Cane had been wearing no gloves, neither as himself or as Alisha. And she was sure this was a man. Had someone finally found her? Giles or Xander? Or one of the many, many vigilantes that protected the city? Yes! Maybe Batman or Nightwing had finally found her! Sure that would put a dent into her plan of getting the Joker's blood… but maybe she could talk Batman into understand her need, helping her. Yes… surely Batman would get it. Everything was going to be all right.

And then she reached the cold night air. Without the smoke to cloud her vision, it was clear who her "savior" was. The Joker, one hand in hers, the other firmly holding a gun, pulled her out of the warehouse and shoved her into a nearby car. Shoved her so hard that she landed in the passenger seat, righting herself just in time for Joker to zoom off.

So much for her good fortune. Now she had gone from a hostage in chair, to a hostage in a speeding car… and a gun had been added… that was nice.

Dawn had only seconds to contemplate ducking and rolling out of the car before Joker reached across her, pulling her seatbelt down and buckling her in.

"Play me for a patsy!" he was screeching, driving as manically as he spoke. "Well, we'll see who gets the last laugh!"

Joker's gun waving was getting a little extreme, and Dawn was beginning to wonder if he was even aware that he was holding it. Suddenly, he trained the barrel of the weapon onto her.

"All because of you," he hissed.

"Hey! I was just as played as you were!" she shouted.

The gun did not move… but it did not fire either. So Dawn continued.

"It was my sister that Cane poisoned… to get to me! I'm just as pissed at him as you are!"

The gun lowered, albeit slightly, and Joker arched a brow.

"So? You're useless now. I know what I wanted to know. I could just kill you here, toss you out into the night."

"And give Cane what he wants?"

That gave the Clown Prince a pause.

"Look," Dawn said—and she knew she was pressing her luck, "let's make a deal. I'll help you kill Cane… but in exchange… I want two vials of your blood."

"My what? My blood?"

Dawn nodded. "It's the cure, Joker. The thing that'll save my sister."

"And what good would you be against that magically maniacal monstrosity? You're just a kid."

Dawn paused, rethinking saying that most of Batman's sidekicks were kids. Instead, she held her hands out in front of herself, cupping them like she was about to scoop water. She muttered a few words in Latin. From a tiny dot of light, a sprout formed in her hand, growing into a beautiful red rose. She let it hang in the air a moment before she tossed it into the Joker's lap. He arched a brow.

"Keep doing stuff like that, and Harley will have your head on a platter," he chuckled.

Dawn ignored his comment. "I'd also want to be kept alive, of course. But you see what I did there? That's magic, Joker. And I can do more. So much more. That's the simplest thing I can do."

"Well, you have been just so trustworthy before," Joker huffed.

"And I'm still more trustworthy than you."

Joker glanced down to the rose in his lap. Finally, he nodded. With one loud cackle, he added, "Deal! Oooh, boy! Aren't we gonna have fun!"

The two of them sped off into the night, and Dawn shook her head.

And Willow thought that spell's only purpose was to look pretty.

End Notes: I hope everyone enjoyed this!

Fun Fact: Last chapter's title was inspired by "Anything but Ordinary" by Avril Lavigne.