Disclaimer: Joss still owns BtVS and all the charcters within.
(This story is only new to TtH.)
Already exhausted, Xander swung his axe at the nearest demon, smirking when two of the spider-like creature's legs came off beneath his blow. His smirk quickly disappeared, however, when the flailing stumps coated him in a gush of black, gooey blood.
"Ew," he managed, swiping awkwardly at his good eye with one hand, still swinging the axe with the other as he vainly hoped to fell any baddies that came within reach.
By the time he'd gotten his eye clear, he'd stumbled close enough to the demon to come into contact with a third leg. As the hairy appendage fell to the ground, he dodged to the side as nimbly as he could and managed, just barely, to dodge the next spurt of blood.
"Ha! You thought you'd get me again with that, didn't you, you evi..."
His elated taunt ended abruptly as the demon began emitting a high pitched screech. Clamping one hand over an ear, he staggered before falling to his knees.
Years of fighting the things that go bump in the night had taught him never to drop his weapon, but he was hard pressed to hold onto his beloved battle-axe as he tried desperately to cover his other ear with his upper-arm.
As suddenly as it began, the screeching stopped and he looked up hesitantly, not quite sure what to expect. Squinting into the distance as he wiped more of the goo out of his eye he broke into laughter at the sight before him.
Dawn was wrestling gamely with her broadsword, trying to pull it out of the corpse of the demon, simply dripping.
’The demon's blood must have gotten her when I got that last leg,’ he realized, still snickering. Her normally smooth, shiny hair was completely covered in the rapidly congealing muck and had already started to separate. From where he stood, it looked like she had dreadlocks.
Sparing a quick glance around to make sure there weren't any other demons lurking, he called out to the young woman, trying to keep the laughter out of his voice.
"Hey, Dawnmeister," he waited until her scowl was directed at him and flashed her a thumbs up, "that's a good look for you!"
His barb had given her just the burst of anger she needed to pull the sword free and, as she marched towards him, face still set in a grim scowl and cursing him under her breath, it dawned on the laughing man that fear wasn't always something of which to be ashamed. Especially when it came to the Summers women.
Pedaling backward as quickly as he could manage without getting caught up in the spider-like webs strung between the trees, he tried hard to quell his laughter, but just couldn't rein it in.
"I'm not laughing at you, Dawnie," he hastily assured as the Key narrowed the distance between them until she was nearly on top of him, still muttering under her breath, "no, I'm laughing with..." Fascinated, he watched as she threw her arms up, clearly frustrated, and continued muttering. "Um, okay, can you quit with the muttering? Just say what you gotta say, Dawnster, and let's get a move on. These woods are giving me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies..."
Before he knew what was happening, she had him by the lapels of his shirt, roughly wrenching the material upwards. Bewildered, he stood motionless as she painfully rubbed the material over his ears. Realization struck after the second swipe, when he was able to make out some of her more colorful expletives.
"Oh. Heh." More than a little embarrassed, he wrenched free of her grip, tilting his head to either side and wiping the blood from his ears. "Musta gotten some of that gunk in my... ah... yeah. Sorry."
Leaning into him, Dawn put her mouth right next to his ear before yelling, "Can you hear me now?"
Reflexively bringing both hands up to cover his ears, he flinched as his hand made contact with her jaw.
"Argh! Xander," Dawn exclaimed, holding one hand gently to her throbbing jaw, "you suck! Next time, I'm bringing Spike! He's a much better side-kick than you are."
"Oh, please," he scoffed, "like Captain Peroxide would ever... Wait a minute, what?! Sidekick? You think I'm the sidekick, little chickie?"
Glaring at him, Dawn stalked away, dodging the messy webbing as best she could, making her way toward a building that could just be seen through a thatch of trees.
Hurrying after her, Xander continued his rant, "Since when is the big strong man ever the sidekick?"
"Gee, let me think... Just how long have you known Buffy?" she retorted without slowing down.
"Hey!" Easing into step beside her, he pouted, "I don't think I like you anymore. You're getting downright mean."
"Really?" Shooting him a glance out of the corner of her eye, she smirked, "Does this mean we have to start dating?"
Snorting, he stopped short at the base of the steps leading to the door of the structure.
"I'm almost afraid to ask," he started, narrowing his eyes as he watched her climb, "but how the hell did you find this place?"
"Actually, I just kinda stumbled onto it one day," Dawn replied nonchalantly.
"You just stumbled onto it?" Looking back at the vast expanse of web they'd had to brave just to make it to the building, his expression conveyed his disbelief.
Surveying their path with a sigh, she confirmed, "Yep. Of course, when I first found it, there wasn't nearly as much of that," she paused, gesturing at the webbing, "to get through to get here. Come on, Xand, let's go in. I'll give you the tour."
As she disappeared through the heavy door, Xander slowly climbed the steps and followed her into the darkness.
"Doesn't look like anyone's home, Dawn."
From just beyond the door, he heard a soft shuffling accompanied by a muffled scrape.
'Please be Dawn. Please just be Dawn,' he wished silently.
Pulling his miniature flashlight out of his pocket, he quickly shone it in the direction from which the sound had been coming. The tiny beam landed on Dawn just as her fingers found the light switch; in seconds, the entire room was bathed in soft light.
"Oh no," she murmured, taking in the scene... Before her, the room sat in disarray; the long tables sat askew, chairs overturned behind them, once revered books spilled carelessly from their shelves and covering every flat surface were yellowing sheets of paper, half covered with careless scrawl, a thick layer of dust covering it all.
As she blinked back tears, Xander walked up behind her and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder, "Come on, Dawn. Let's go home."
Nodding silently, she followed him toward the door before going back to turn out the lights. Giving the room one last sad glance, she flipped the switch to 'off' and made her way out of the gloom.