"The Price of the Key"
by Just Human

~Part 1~

Feed the author: Justhuman111@hotmail.com

"Xander, let's turn around and go home. We'll tell Buffy that we made it to LA and didn't find Angel." Dawn was giving me her best sales pitch.

"Well, Dawn," I said in parental-Xander mode, "We could do that if we actually got to the point of looking for Angel where he's supposed to be. That, and then not finding him." Oh no! Not the outraged, deep sigh of frustration - Kids today, still thought that worked. Kinda like I did a few years ago. When did I get old?

"Dawn, I know you want to be home fighting next to Buffy, but the First Evil is specifically after the Key to finish the opening of the Hellmouth. For once, we're doing the sane thing and taking what the big bad wants out of town and someplace safe." There, reasonable, adult.

"Alright, but I don't think going to the place where it's raining fire qualifies as safe." Her voice was whiney and angry. More importantly, she had stopped moving and was glaring at me with her arms crossed in front of her chest - on the war-torn street with god knows what lurking in every shadow.

I had been putting up with this attitude for the entire car ride and was a bit fed up. "Ah, we're back to the part that I so love, where I have to defend Angel and admit that he's good at what he does. Oh, and not to mention the fact that he's still so gaga over your sister that he'll do anything to make Buffy happy. He's mixed up in all the crap that goes on in this damn city, and if he didn't think that he could protect you then he'd have said so." Taking a deep breath, I calmed down. "Look Dawn, I'm sorry, but we can't protect you at home from the evil takes the form of your bestest buds."

Dejectedly, Dawn said, "Fine." Of course, declarations like, 'fine' just beg trouble to come. We were not disappointed as some elfy looking vampire kid jumped between us. Well, I figured vampire, considering how high he had jumped. Fortunately, being from Sunnydale, we were well armed - with ballpoint pens? What had happened to my stake?

"Don't be afraid." The vamp obviously needed better opening lines.

"Yeah, right!" Dawn had her stake and she's charging. I was trying to get behind the vamp, but damn-it, he was fast.

"That's the Hyperion and the vampire Angelus lives there - you can't go in."

"Yeah, minion, I'm sure that you want to keep us safe from the big bad vamp - keep all the nummy goodness for yourself." I smoothly gave the bloodsucker the score.

"Hey! Think about staying still you undead...guy." Dawn, not so good with the quippage.

Now vampboy looks all indignant. "I'm not a vampire. I kill them."

"For the living, you kinda move like, I don't know, the undead." Perhaps my observation got to him, because we couldn't get near him. For some unknown vampy reason, he didn't seem to be attacking. He just kept trying to get between the hotel and us.

"Xander." I turned at the sound of my name, and there was Cordelia. Finally, a friendly face around here. "Cordy, good to see you. Like the haircut, you look good blond and..." Why did these things always hit me only after I opened my mouth? " ...pregnant." And why is it I can't stop them when I see 'em coming?

Cordy was apparently not interested in the niceties. She was heading toward vampboy, and I really hoped that there was this invisible weapon in her hand because otherwise, her hand was glowing on its own. "Good, you've brought the Key. Connor, your part in this is done. You may leave."

Christ! I was there trying to protect the Key, so I jumped in to cover. "Yeah Cordy, Dawn and I have brought the spare key to Buffy's house and that's the only key we have." What was she, nuts? Even if LA wasn't the home of the Hellmouth, you don't go around announcing that you've got nifty mystical girls with you.

The vamp kid got all agitated, stepping between Cordelia and us, but he had got his back to us, like he was in some kind of protect mode. "Run! You both should run. If the demonic harlot wants you, it can only mean destruction."

"Melodramatic, much?" Dawn and I said simultaneously and grinned at each other. Regrouped we looked at each other confused. Okay, I was the adult. I was supposed to be the calm one. Wasn't happening anytime soon, as the scene was suddenly crawling with black clad ninja types. Was "Crouching Demon, Flying Vamp" being filmed around here? Could the night have got anymore fucked-up?

"Dawn, I've got no idea what's going down. If we get separated, try to get into the hotel and find Angel. If nothing else, he won't let Buffy do-" I didn't finish my sentence, because a ninja had just knocked me on my ass. Dawnie staked one in the arm. He squealed and looked angry because a) not vamp and b)arm not the right target. I managed to kick ninja boy in the back of the knee and roll away long enough to check the rest of the scene.

There was about half-a-dozen ninjas getting tossed around like twinkies by Cordelia. This made it sink in that there was something wrong with my ex-girlfriend - besides the being pregnant part. She was headed straight for Dawn, who I was supposed to be protecting. Dawn and vampboy, meanwhile, both obtained some random car parts from a burned out wreck in on the street. I smiled for a sec because damn-it, they looked good together fighting evil.

That was when I remembered that I was supposed to be paying attention to the guy I was fighting. More specifically, I remembered when he landed a right cross. I saw stars in my future as the guy wound up again, when suddenly Angel was there sending ninja boy flying.

"Ah, thanks, Angel." That probably could have sounded more sincere, but hey, I didn't like the guy.

"Hi Xander. Uneventful trip...until now?" Angel was pummeling a ninja heading for vampboy's back.

"More or less. Uh, that glowy look Cordelia has?" Kinda curious, a lot.

"Holy avenger. Think opposite of Acathla. Force for good who wants to save the city by burning it to the ground."

"Cordy?!" Okay, there definitely needed to be some explaining here, but there was no time for it. The ninjas were trying to divide their time between Cordy and us. It wasn't working from either point of view, and the holy avenger was starting to get back into range.

Angel shouted to vampboy. "Connor, get her out of here and keep her safe." Angel trusted vampboy? Well, there was the part where he looked good fighting evil with Dawn.

"Xander! Angel!" Dawn was all panicky. Vampboy was looking defiant. Angel was fighting two ninjas at once, and Cordy had just tossed away her last obstacle on the way to Dawn.

No time to think when you're being a hero. I jumped in front of Cordy and tried to win her with my charm. "Cordy, long time no see. I see things have changed. Firestorms have brought a nice glow to your skin." She tried to dodge me at first, but I kept jumping in front of her. Then all I could see was her glowing hand hitting me in the chest.

Everything became slow and quiet. The glow was warm at first and then suddenly, it was about remembering an punishment. Brief painful flash for stealing Willow's green magic marker. Hot dagger pain in the arm for pushing Jessie into a locker and then claiming I tripped. Ball of fire in the gut for lying to Buffy about restoring Angel's soul. Flaming sword through the shoulder for kissing Willow out of turn. The last agony was colorfully imprinted with Anya in her wedding dress, alone at the altar. It was that fiery lance through the top of my skull that finally caused me to pass out.

Onto Part 2

Feed the author: Justhuman111@hotmail.com

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