"The Price of the Key"
by Just Human
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See Prologue for credits and disclaimers
After walking through a scary looking warehouse of animal heads and other assorted parts, we entered a back room set up like a mini-apartment. There wasn't much to it, and even with the industrial feel, it still was better than my parents' basement. Angel was standing pretty quiet in the center of the room, doing his bloodhound routine.
Now that we were in the light, I took a good hard look while he was otherwise occupied. He really hadn't changed much, one of the benefits of being undead - if there were any benefits to being dead. Anyone could tell at just a glance that there was power hidden under all those dark clothes. What wasn't as obvious waw the grace and dexterity. After having followed him through occasionally rough terrain in the sewers, I knew there was nothing clumsy about him. Overall, a great package if you could let the hair thing go. I stopped and wondered when the hell I started checking out other guys.
Needing to really get out of this mind frame, I started talking. "So, you getting any? Er - anything! Are you getting anything?" Oh, yeah, and when was the last time my mouth had gotten me out of trouble. He'd been looking at the bed and seemed startled when I spoke, like he'd forgotten that I was there. Maybe there was hope that he didn't actually hear what I had just said. He tried to cover the inattention by moving around the room.
"No. It's been a couple of days since Connor was here. Cordy stayed here a while ago...I can still smell her." And there was something seriously creepy about his face that made me mosey to the other side of the room, by the door, and start poking at empty soda cans.
"Yeah, and what about other women - say seventeen year-old sisters of the Slayer?"
"No one has been here for days, and from what I can determine, Connor was here alone." I jumped back three feet and nearly shit. Some guy with an English accent had snuck in behind me, not making a sound.
"Not bad, Wesley, I didn't hear you until you hit the stairs. Metal treads are a killer when you're out for stealth." Angel's voice sounded pretty condescending to me, but Wesley was smiling.
Shit, that was Wesley? Since I'd taken up the habit that day of checking out other men, I figured that I might as well enjoy it before my brain exploded. He was not all suit and nervous geek anymore. He was wearing jeans and a long sleeved T that was a little too tight around the shoulders. He definitely had been working out. With the glasses gone, he looked more confident - confident in a way that felt menacing.
"I'll take that as a compliment. Cordelia knows this place; Connor wouldn't have brought the Key here." Angel was staring at the bed in that creepy way again, and I didn't like Wesley talking about one of my friends as a thing.
"Hey, why don't we skip all the fancy titles and call Buffy's little sister, Dawn, because it's her name and that's what we usually do with human beings. Wouldn't want anyone getting the wrong impression and start devaluing a human being." Okay, there was still some bitterness where Wesley was concerned.
It took everything I had to hold up to the icy stare that Wesley gave me, because Christ, it made me want to go hide under that bed that Angel was so fascinated in. When the hell had Wesley gotten scary? Oh! No, not now! It was all bubbling under the surface again, and I bit my lip trying not to let it out.
Too late, it all rushed out at somewhere near the speed of sound. "Wesley, I'm sorry we treated like crap on the bottoms of our shoes. And...and I'm sorry I laughed every time Faith called you Princess Margaret."
I wondered if I had grown a second head, 'cause that's how he was looking at me. Angel came to save my ass. "Cordy burned the sin out of him. It's the guilt over treating you bad that's coming out." Okay, so maybe 'save' was a less than accurate description.
Wesley started doing that knowing Watcher nod thing as he strolled over to me and gave my arm a manly squeeze. A really tight manly squeeze; he really had been working out. "Xander, I appreciate that you'd rather go on just hating me, but since you went to the effort of saying it all, you're forgiven." Still holding my arm, he looked at Angel. "Forgiveness is such an elusive quality nowadays." Okay, these guys obviously had issues with each other and I was thinking that I didn't want to be in the middle of them.
I was trying to think of the best way to get away from Wesley while maintaining an air of cool. That was when Wes let go of my arm and smiled this evil looking smile at me. "No need to apologize for the Princess Margaret comment. I do suppose I was rather prissy." Hello? What was with him stroking my cheek with one of his prissy fingers?
"If you didn't think he'd come here, why'd you come?" Thank God, Angel broke the tension - cause honestly, it was sexual tension and that kind of tension with Anya or the Playboy Playmate of the month is one thing, but with Wesley, it's something completely different. And strangely enough, it was different than the sexual tension between Angel and me that was going on. I wondered how the fuck I could get out of this. Followed immediately by, how the fuck did I get into it?
"I came here looking for other clues for where he might be. In case you've forgotten, I'm a detective." Okay folks, welcome to Deathray Match 2000. Glad I wasn't caught in the middle of that staring contest. So of course, I decided to open my mouth.
"I thought you guys were friends." Great, now they were both looking at me, and I got the added bonus of the sexual tension they had for each other.
Wesley started picking up random objects while he talked. "Quite a lot has passed between Angel and I recently. Really, we're much more like family - you can't develop this much enmity between friends." There was this roller coaster ride of emotions going through Angel until he finally settled on a nasty looking glare. Thankfully, it was for Wesley.
"Oh come on, Wes, we both know your girlfriend has got this place bugged. Don't tell me that you actually had to come here to confirm the facts."
"I'm not here for Lilah. More precisely, I'm here in spite of her." Wesley tossed what looked like a mini-camera onto the bed. Something clicked from Angel's earlier story.
"Isn't Lilah the bitch queen of the evil lawyer place?"
"While I'm sure she'd happily answer to 'bitch queen', her actual title is 'Division Head of Special Projects'. The point is that I don't work for Lilah or anyone else." Okay, he was back to glaring at Angel. "Lilah wants to get her hands on...Dawn,” Hey, Wesley acknowledged me with a look. Score one for team Xander.
"So what were you going to do with her?" Angel was looking at Wesley hard like Wes had a nasty little thing for teenaged girls. Wesley sighed and gave Angel this long-suffering look, just like the ones that Giles used to give me anytime I opened my mouth.
"I was going to get her on a bus out of town to anywhere else. She's no safer here than at the Hellmouth. Based on what I've been able to piece together about Cordelia's mission, she's made it an agenda item to destroy the Key - to kill Dawn." Now he had my full attention and apparently Angel's too. I beat the dead guy to the punch.
"Why the hell would Cordy want to kill Dawn? What the hell is her mission?"
Wesley did the Watcher thing. "Her mission is to give birth to a demonic champion that will bring the Beast to its knees. Along the way, she can do anything else to fight for the Good. Apparently, the methods or the number of innocents that are lost along the way are inconsequential." Wesley was looking at Angel and there was something almost sympathetic in his eyes. "She needed the seed of the Destroyer, Connor, to do it."
Angel was livid, pacing around the room, looking for something to break. He chose the bed, and started shredding the cheap mattress. For once, Wesley and I were on the same page. What Angel really wanted was to be beating the two people who had had sex there.
"We all know she slept with Connor." Angel was pointed at the remains of the bed and this explained some of the creepier looks earlier. "It was less than a month ago. Wesley, she looks eight or nine months pregnant!" Deadboy had a point there.
"Angel, the baby is part demon on Cordelia's side. She's about to give birth and if you think that the city is in trouble now, you haven' t seen anything." And as fascinating as all this was, it wasn't getting to the point I needed to get to.
"None of this is helping us find Dawn. Angel, you said she'd be safe with Connor, but call me cynical, I'm not convinced."
Wesley answered. "Angel is right. Connor will keep her safe - at least as safe as a seventeen-year-old girl can be with a randy boy of nearly the same age. Hopefully, he's learned about condoms since the incident with-” My fist stopped the rest of that sentence. I didn't give a fuck if it was probably true and that Wesley seemed to be on my side. I managed to turn his head, but he didn't move otherwise. Christ! I had put a lot into that punch, and he barely blinked.
"You don't talk about Dawn that way. You don't talk about Dawn at all. I saw enough of your style with the box of Gavrok and how freakin' easy it was for you to give up Willow. Unless you have something useful to contribute, maybe you should take off and let Angel and I get back to work."
Wesley looked up at me in full vamp face and gave me this shit-eating grin, wiping a trickle of blood from his split lip. I had the good grace to be scared shitless.
Before I could think of anything, he heading toward my and had licked my lips before plunging right in with his tongue. Most parts of my brain were screaming to push him off. Apparently, the brain was not in contact with the body that was urging me to grab hold of Wesley. There were definite growls in the background when I surfaced from the daze of pleasure. I heard Angel's voice,
"What would your girlfriend think, Wesley?"
Wesley laughed, "Do you really want to know what Lilah would think?"
All I was thinking was that a sandwich would go good about now, a Xander sandwich with vampire bread. I was begging God for anybody to help me. Taking a hint from Angel's growl, Wes seemed to be backing off, which was good because he recognized Angel's claim on me. Why did my brain think this was a good thing?
Wesley laughed at Angel and at me and then he tossed a piece of paper in my direction. It was some kind of ticket to a concert or something. "What the hell is this?"
Notice how I stayed focused on the mission and didn't get caught up in other things, like why was Wesley a vampire.
Wesley kept backing off. "A ticket to a rave. Despite the decided lack of safety in this city, it seems that young people still need a place to gather for loud music, bottled water and 'E'." The arrogant bastard sauntered to the door and turned back to Angel. "Be careful what you drink - oh, I guess it really doesn't matter." Angel was growling again. "You know, Angel, if you change your mind, Lilah would love a present like that." Wesley was looking at me, and I knew I was turning six shades of red. Then he was gone.
I turned to look at Angel, and hey, didn't have to look far because he was practically on top of me. He held my hand...up to look at the ticket. Still, I wasn't seeing a need for all the distracting bodily contact.
"Angel, why is Wesley a vampire, and why haven't you staked the poor soulless bastard?"
"Come on, Xander, we're wasting time."
Onto Part 5
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