Angel came storming out of Lianne's headquarters with an unconscious and bleeding from the neck Veronica.
"Oh god!" Keith shouted when he saw his daughter's condition. "What happened to her?" He took her from Angel's arms and glared at the vampire. "What's going on? Who are you?"
Angel was about to respond but was distracted when Spike came out of nowhere, holding an unconscious and bleeding from the neck Logan. "You've got to be kidding me," he said in disbelief. He'd heard of couples getting matching tattoos or necklaces, but matching bite marks? From different vampires that weren't hunting together? That's only happened, like, twice! Well, three times now.
Spike gave Veronica bemused look, thinking the same thing. Keith's eyes bugged out when he saw Logan, but before he could say anything else, Spike loaded the kid up into Angel's car.
"Going to the hospital," he stated, strapping in the driver's seat. "Anybody fancying a lift should get all their little soldiers on board."
Keith didn't have to be told twice. The man that rescued him from his cell was now offering to take his little girl to the hospital.
"Thank you," he said brokenly. The days of imprisonment, the loss of Alicia, and finally, seeing his beautiful baby girl bleeding profusely washed away the forced professional exterior he'd constructed.
Keith got into the passenger side and held his daughter close.
"All right, lads. Hold your bloody horses! It's time to run some red lights!" Despite the situation, Spike smirked. He'd been dying to get behind the wheels of Angel's "baby" for months now. Finally, here was his chance.
Angel hopped into the back seat to keep an eye on Logan. "Not a scratch on her, Spike," he growled.
In leu of responding, the younger vampire slammed the car into drive, and speed off, leaving half a mile of tire tracks in his wake.
It was a little later.
Veronica and Logan were at the hospital, Keith and his mother's… body… went with them, while he and Willow had gone back to the Hotel to fix Darrel.
And Wallace found he just could not keep himself from staring at his brother's blank face.
The little boy sat unmoving in the middle of the Hyperion lobby, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, recognizable in his baby brown eyes. They just looked straight ahead, not following or focusing on anything. The only sign that Darrel was still alive was that he would occasionally blink.
Idly, he wondered why the child was able to sit up when there was no consciousness to keep him that way.
The train of thought disturbing him, Wallace forced his attention away and focused instead on what Willow was doing.
The witch was in the middle of setting up the spell to help Darrel. In the jar next her, he could see the brilliant, vibrant, and beautiful swirling and whirling nebula that was the toddler's soul.
This was so freaky. He was actually looking at a soul! And it was his baby brother's!
Even freakier was that it glowed brighter whenever he got close. Willow told him that was most likely because Darrel recognized him as his big brother. She was smiling when she said it. Like it was sweet. Like the idea of his brother's soul in a jar wasn't the most horrible thing he'd ever heard.
"Wallace, could you come over here?" Willow asked, snapping him out of his thoughts. "Your brother isn't doing so well right now, and I think it'll be easier on him if you hold the jar?" She at least recognized that what she was asking him to do was very, very awkward. With an apologetic grimace, she explained it was to comfort Darrel, but he didn't understand. "The spell will go smoother if Darrel's not scared." Willow was smiling again. "You make him feel safe."
A million reasons why this was a bad idea began to flow through his mind. What if he dropped it? What would happen to Darrel then? Would his soul go to Heaven? Would it go to Hell? Darrel had never been Baptized! What if he was still tainted with Original Sin? He'd never really believed in any of that stuff, but then he never believed in magic or vampires and shit either.
Willow, as if sensing his thoughts (and maybe she did. Who knew what witches could do? You know, besides other witches?), told him not to worry because the jar had an anti-breaking spell on it. She held it out for him. The soul glowed brightly.
The palm of his good hand was sweaty as he took the jar, and all Wallace wanted to do was throw up.
"I get it, Wallace." Willow's expression was one of deep sympathy. "If that was Xander in there, I don't think I would be handling it any better than you. I don't think I'd be able to handle him being in the hospital again if I didn't have something else to focus on." She smiled ruefully at him. "I don't do well with emotional trauma. Not when I care about the person as much as you do your brother." She smiled. "You're really strong. You should be proud."
Wallace tore his eyes away from his brother's soul and stared at the woman in astonishment. "Are you crazy?"
Willow, who had already gone back to preparing the spell, gave him a confused look.
"I'm a damned coward!" he snarled. "I froze! When Xander went after that Vampire, I froze!"
"That doesn't mean anything." Wallace opened his mouth, but Willow glared at him, daring the young man to interrupt her. Needless to say, he did not. "Vampires are predators. We're their prey. Human instinct practically screams at us to run from them. A strong willed person can ignore it, but more often than not it's the idiots who do. If someone attacks a vampire without any experience or weapons, then that person is going to die. Plain and simple."
"The others didn't," Wallace pointed out, referring to Xander, Veronica, and Logan. "They lived."
Willow shrugged. "Strength in numbers. And luck. Xander's been fighting demons since he was sixteen. He has more experience, more will, more heart than any other supernatural fighter I've seen. He won't even leave his house during the day without at least a stake, his silver knife, and some holy water. But he almost died last night." Willow shuddered at the thought. "If you guys hadn't been there, he would've."
"I didn't do anything, remember?"
"You're right. Veronica and Logan did. And do you know what they got for their troubles? Beaten. Veronica's face is so mushed, I wouldn't be surprised if she had some scars. And those things aren't so sexy on girls. Believe me. And Logan? The way Xander tells it, the only reason why the poor kid's still alive is because the vampire recognized who his father was." Willow swallowed back her worry for her friend. Talking about him so much while he was fighting for his life was almost too much for her.
"I know for a fact that Xander would've rather died than to have you three help him. You have no training, no backup, no experience to speak of. A single vampire against all three of you -even four, or five people just like you- would end up dead faster than any of you could utter the word "no." Never mind "don't." Though sometimes a vampire might let you say "please." But only 'cuz they think it's funny when we beg."
She reached over and laid a hand on his shoulder. "The point is, you did the right thing, Wallace. You listened to your instincts. Veronica and Logan, like idiots, ignored theirs and almost died because of it." He still wasn't convinced. Willow sighed. Poor Giles. If the Scoobies were as stubborn as Wallace when they were his age... It's no wonder he kept trying to move to England.
Changing tactics, she asked Wallace why he went with them on the rescue mission. Wallace's nostrils flared and he let out an offended huff.
"My family was kidnapped! What the hell else was I going to do?"
"And that, sweetie, is why I'm not crazy," she told him with a smile right before she began anointing herself with smelly, magic goop.
Keith has never been this bad, emotionally. Even during what he once considered the worst time of his life, the craziness that was the Kane investigation, he didn't feel as horrible as he does now.
Then, all he had to deal with was his wife leaving him, his ruined reputation, and having to bear the guilt of Veronica's social status being destroyed for being a better daughter than he deserved and standing by him.
But then was nothing compared to now. Now, oh wondrous now, he gets to watch Veronica receive a transfusion of his blood. Now is when all sense in his life is turned up side down and left to right. Now is when he'll be weighed down by the guilt of failing to prevent Alicia's death.
Two women he's loved, dead.
God, if anything happens to Veronica...
He stared down at his unconscious daughter, the apple of his eye. With a wistful smile, Keith remembered how annoyed she would get whenever he referred to her as such. She would proclaim, haughtily, that she was no apple, and if her man-child father must insist on calling her something ridiculous, then it'd better be a princess, or some other form of royalty. She was eleven when she said that.
Of course he made it a point to call her "The Apple Princess" for the next couple of years. Keith chuckled. Oh, how she hated that!
He hasn't called her that since all before Lianne took off.
Keith wiped tears away from his face and gripped his daughter's hand tightly.
Gunn sat in the waiting room while the surgeons worked as hard as they could to save Xander's life.
Six hours into the surgery, he came to a sobering conclusion: Willow was so going to kill his ass.
And he would let her. Smart as she is, she's bound to come to the same conclusion he has. That it was his fault Xander got shot. Not directly of course, Gunn knew that the real blame fell squarely on the shoulders of the vampire that pulled the trigger.
Hell, you could even lay some blame on Xander for showboating his way into the line of fire.
Still, Gunn has powers, and as such, was responsible for the normal guy with only one eye. He's stronger, faster, and tougher than anything short of a Slayer. Yet he was sitting in a hospital lobby waiting for Xander to have bullets pulled from his body.
It's not enough. If he was more powerful, then he would've been able to prevent Xander from getting shot.
His mind flashed back to the image of Alonna as she turned to dust and to the shock and betrayal in her yellow eyes.
He would be better. He has to be better.
Logan was unconscious and alone, save for the occasional nurse.
Angel watched from the doorway as Spike and Illyria talked in Fred's old room. It was subtle, but his experienced eyes could see it. She was nervous. And he was willing to bet a week's supply of otter blood that the younger vampire noticed it too.
You wouldn't think it, the way he was lounging the couch, but Spike was as alert as he'd ever been. He always, always hid it from others, but Spike was an intelligent, thoughtful being with great a understanding of the world and it's inhabitants.
Spike knew how Illyria felt and was ready for anything.
"I miss my parents."
Even that, surprisingly enough.
"What do you want to do about it?" he asked. "We could probably call them?"
She should her head. "I don't... I'm not... ready."
Spike shrugged. "Fair enough."
Illyria began pacing. "I wish to eat cheeseburgers. And tacos. I wish to have a bubble bath. Or to play with a puppy. I wish..." She stopped pacing. "I wish Wesley was here."
"Yeah, I can't imagine I'm any good at this."
"I cannot imagine you are good at anything," she spat with venom, becoming frustrated. Spike tensed, but Illyria resumed her nervous pacing. "I do not wish to wish these things! They are foreign, and taste of bitter joys and decadent agonies." Her brown eyes focused on Spike. "How can you contain these thoughts and emotions within your impuissant bodies, you creatures who were once muck and is now little more?" Illyria's voice began rising, her frustration becoming tinged with fear. "I am Illyria, God King of The Primordium! I was the greatest amongst those you call the Old Ones. It took all the faculties and armies of my enemies, in a war that lasted millennia, to defeat me!"
Faster than even Spike could react, never mind Angel, Illyria grasped the blond Champion by the throat and lifted him high above her head.
"How is it a shell that could not contain the fullness of myself is capable of sustaining such onerous emotion?"
Spike, though not needing the air, felt great discomfort as her mighty hand clenched tightly around his neck. So tightly, that as much as he might want to, he could not answer.
"That's what they were made for, Illyria," Angel said, coming fully into the room. "These bodies were designed to feel emotions. To live." His expression was one of sympathy. "They weren't designed to contain the powers of a god."
She flung Spike and whirled to fully face Angel. "I ruled all that there was, muck, yet mastery over such a thing as feelings eludes me!" Illyria picked up the couch and held it over her head in a fit of desperate rage. Then she threw it at him.
Angel just barely managed to get out of the way. The fact that she missed seemed to enrage her further.
"You said you would help me! You said you were my friend! I trusted you! I believed in you!" With each declaration, Illyria threw another object at the vampire, until, finally, she collapsed.
"You were supposed to protect her from the monsters, Angel," she whispered hatefully. "Not let her become one."
Illyria curled up into a fetal position and wept as Angel looked on, horrified by the truth in her words.
Veronica woke up to the very welcome sight of her father, sitting by her bed. He smiled at her.
"Hey, kiddo, how are you feeling?"
She looked around. Apparently not that well, considering she was back in the hospital. Also when she tried to sit up, it felt like somebody put her brain on spin cycle, causing her to swallow back some really nasty bile. And she was thirsty.
Apparently she said that last part out loud, because Keith handed her a glass of water. She rasped out a word of thanks before greedily gulping it down.
"Woah, sweetie! Sip it! You don't want it to come back up, do you?" He grabbed the glass back and set it down.
"What happened? Where's mom?"
Keith's eyes flickered to the wound on his daughter's neck. He'd just been inducted by Spike and Angel into the ranks of those who know what bumps in the night. They told him what was his wife had become, that she was the one who kidnapped him, that she arranged Alicia's death. He wished he didn't know.
Keith stroked Veronica's hair. "Don't worry about that right now, honey. Just concentrate on getting better, okay?"
Veronica smiled, but that faded when she noticed the IV and realized she was receiving a blood transfusion. "Oh god…"
"Veronica, don't," Keith ordered.
Her eyes welled up. "I remember. I remember what happened to mom."
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you had to go through that." Keith wrapped his arms around her, and together they mourned their loss.
After a bit, Veronica pulled back. "Where's Logan? And Wallace?"
He sighed. "Wallace is back at Angel's office with Darrel."
"He's in a room down the hall," Keith reluctantly admitted.
With another sigh, he told her for the same reasons she was back here.
The room was dark because he didn't bother to turn the lights on. He was in the hospital, and Veronica wasn't with him. Nothing could force Veronica Mars to keep away from someone or something she cares about.
So either she didn't care about him or something bad happened to her.
Logan held the buzzer in his hand that would summon a nurse who could tell him why she's not sitting by his bedside, waiting for him to wake up with candy and balloons, after rushing into a vampire factory to see her vampire mother.
The buzzer sat in his hand. All he had to do was push it. He wondered if it would be so difficult, hearing the news. He's had so much practice at it after all. Lily, his mother… if Veronica was dead, couldn't he just deal with it?
No… There was no way he could deal with losing her. When Lily died, he changed into… what did Veronica call it? Oh right. He changed into Neptune High's very own obligatory psychotic jackass.
And when his mother killed herself, the only thing that held him together was Veronica. It was, honestly, the reason he fell in love with her. She was there for him when he had no right or reason to expect it. She held him for what seemed like hours the day he finally excepted his mother's death. God knows what he would've done if she wasn't there.
So what would he do without her?
A shadow of a voice whispered an insidious answer from the back of his mind. "You would become your father's son."
Logan shut his eyes and, trembling with fear and worry, pushed the button.
There was a knock on his door.
His eyes snapped open. That was quick. "Cuh…" he cleared his throat. "Come in."
The door opened and a man in a very nice business suit entered. "Hello. My name is Jacob Donaldson. I represent Wolfram and Hart." He glanced around. "May I turn on the lights?"
The spell flared brightly as Willow chanted. Her voice grew deeper, the light became brighter, so bright, that Wallace shielded his eyes, and a rushing noise of wind thundered throughout the lobby.
The jar in his hands grew warm.
Willow's chants became louder, even deeper. More… emphatic? It was hard to describe.
She chanted faster, and faster. The spell began to throb and ebb with the rhythm of her words.
Willow's eyes were black, her voice almost demonic.
The noise, the light, the rhythm, all of it grew exponentially, rising, higher, louder, brighter, until….
"Waah! Ahh! Wahh *hic* Waah!"
And Wallace collapsed with relief, the jar falling to the ground.
He collected himself and hugged his brother. The toddler clutched him tightly, hollering loudly.
Gunn looked up as one of the surgeons walked out into the waiting room. It seemed as though the woman was moving in slow motion.
The door closed behind her.
She ran a hand through her hair tiredly.
Using her forearm, she wiped sweat from her brow.
Then she was looking around for him.
Then she spotted him.
Then she was walking towards him.
Then she was wiping her hands on her thighs.
Then she took a step.
She swallowed. Gunn watched as her throat bobbed up, then down.
Suddenly, without warning, the woman was standing directly in front of him.
Gunn wondered when that happened.
They stared at each other for what he believed was forever.
She smiled and the hardened warrior collapsed back into his seat. When did he stand up?
"The surgery went fine," said the most beautiful woman he's ever seen. "There were no complications. We'll know for certain tomorrow, but I expect him to make a full recovery." Her smile widened as Gunn stared happily at her, completely at a loss for words. She laughed. This was why she became a surgeon.
Angel sat in his darkened office, brooding hard.
"It wasn't your fault," Spike said from the door. "Believe me, if I thought for a second it was, I'd kill you."
The older vampire didn't take the bait.
Before Spike could say anything further, Willow shoved him aside, running into the room and turning on the lights.
"It worked, Angel! I did it! The spell worked and Darrel's gonna be fine! And Gunn called and he said Xander was gonna be fine too!"
She danced a happy little jig.
Angel gave, in his opinion, a heroically awesome effort at a smile.
"Great," he said without much enthusiasm. "That's… Real good news." Obviously he meant it. The fact that Darrell and Xander were going to be all right was, in fact, fantastic news, but what Illyria said to him was just too much.
Willow stopped dancing and narrowed her eyes.
Spike smirked at how still the Master Vampire became. Not to mention how worried.
She leaned over the desk until she was face to face with him. "I was going to wait a little while, but since you're being a big grump, I think we should be going now."
"And where exactly would we be going?" Spike asked, grinning.
Willow straightened out and turned to him, a big grin on her own face.
- "If you're happy and you know it, And you really wanna show it, If you're happy and you know it, Clap your hands!"
And so they did. The children that he, Spike, and Gunn rescued were all gathered together in the children's ward of the hospital.
For that matter, so were he, Spike and Gunn. Gunn was at least attempting to rein in his laughter. Spike, however, was showing no such restraint. Willow was there also and considered it her civic duty to record such a moment for posterity, and Xander, and was gleefully doing so.
Angel, the one who was so mean and scary, was now dressed up in a clown costume! And he brought balloons too!
He had on a big blue shirt, some baggy, baggy yellow overalls, and super floppy red shoes! A big, sad frowny-face was painted on his face, with tears coming from his eyes and everything!
Angel wasn't a big scary man! He was so silly and not scary at all!
Ha, ha! Angel the Clown sings really bad. Lookit! He dropped all the balls he was trying to juggle! And lookit! He turned around to whine to Ms. Willow! He looks like he's gonna cry for real! Ha, ha!
But Ms. Willow looked at him like she was a teacher and then Angel turned back around and did a dance!
And Spike fell down, he was laughing so hard! Ha, ha! Spike's funny too!
Spike, for his part, was grateful that his soul didn't have a happiness clause, because the sight of Angel dressed like a great big idiot, and dancing about like the biggest prat in the bloody world, would have lost him it ten minutes ago.
Gunn was beginning to think that this was actually a bit undignified. Thank god Willow didn't make HIM do this. (Although, secretly, he wouldn't mind an excuse to dress like a clown)
Willow saw all the smiling, happy children, and knew this was a great idea.
It took some time, but Veronica was finally able to convince her dad to let her go see Logan.
She felt a little shaky on her feet, but, with the help of the IV, was able to make her way down the hall. Her dad was just to the side of her, ready to steady her if she wavered a bit.
Finally, the injured young woman made it to her destination. She knocked on the door.
"Come in," she heard from the other side.
And when she opened the door, she was rewarded with the sight of her boyfriend sitting up and alert.
All the color drained from his face.
"Veronica…" he whispered, almost reverently.
Keith casually commented that he'd just wait out in the hall.
Veronica closed the door behind her, and Logan noticed they had matching bandages. A grin broke out on his face. "Figures you'd try to copy me. I know it's cute when couples dress alike, but this is taking it a bit far, dear."
The blonde rolled her eyes, getting into bed next to him. "Please. Everybody knows that vampires are in this year. I'm sure everybody's going to be sporting the bandaged neck look."
Logan wrapped his arms around her. "Does this mean you're a trendsetter?"
She snuggled up to his chest. "Haven't I always been?"
He smirked. "I have
noticed an increase in cute, sassy, blonde detectives lately."
Veronica returned the smirk. "Best. Trend. Ever, huh?"
He hugged her tighter. "Yeah, but I've the original and the best right here."
"You really know how to woo a girl, don't you?"
"It's a gift. And a curse."
Up next: The Epilogue!