Nick went on like he hadn't heard.
"Did you know I was at the hospital when they brought Dawn in, and when you came? Of course you didn't. You didn't notice me then, either. I was just another one of the janitor-guys. We mop the floors and empty the garbage, and nobody sees ever sees us. But we see you. And I saw what happened after you gave Dawn your blood. And I was there when the doctor couldn't understand why she healed up so fast. But I did. I knew it HAD to be the Slayer blood."
"And he told me," Mickey continued. "And the more I thought about it, the more I knew what we had to do. It was so simple."
"So after you get my blood, then what? You're going to beat up all the kids that ganged up on you two?"
"Oh, we have bigger plans than that – like banks, and jewelry stores, and more banks."
"You think bullets won't stop you?"
"We'll be smart about it. Don't you worry about that."
"We need to stop talking and just do it," Nick said. "Let's do it and get out of here."
"You're right, I think it's time. Nick, if you please."
As Mickey's request, Nick walked over to Dawn and put the barrel of the revolver against her temple.
"That's so you won't think about trying any funny stuff," Mickey said as he got out a rubber tube with large needles on each end. He clamped it in the middle.
He pulled a chair next to Buffy's and sat down. Then he slid one needle into a vein on the inside of her elbow.
Mickey put the other needle into a vein on the back of his hand. Then unclamped the tube, allowing Buffy's blood to flow into him.
"No alcohol?" Buffy asked sarcastically. "Aren't you worried about infection?"
"I'm next," Nick said to no one.
"Oh! I can feel it already," Mickey said. "It's tingling. No, it's burning – a little."
As more of Buffy's blood entered Mickey's circulatory system, his breathing got faster and harder. He began to tremble. Sweat was pouring off him.
Suddenly he jumped to his feet, causing the needle to pull out of his hand. The loose end fell to the floor, Buffy's blood still pumping out of it.
"OH! OH! God! Make it Stop! Make it STOP!"
Mickey was grabbing his head and stumbling around the room.
"It's too hot! Oh, God, It Burns! Make it Stop!"
Suddenly, Nick pointed the gun at Buffy. "What did you do to him?" He yelled at her. "What did you do?!"
"Nothing!" She shouted back. "I didn't do anything! How could I?!"
"NO! You did something! You poisoned him somehow. Stop it! Fix him!"
"I – I can't! I can't do anything! I told him not to!"
"YOU LIE!" Nick screamed. "You did something!"
As Mickey screamed and fell to the floor, Nick fired the gun at Buffy. By throwing herself and the chair to one side, the bullet only grazed her neck, but the chair fell back onto all four legs, and back into the path of the gun.
"Buffy!" Dawn yelled out as she heard the gunshot.
Then suddenly, as she was straining against the ropes, the chair broke apart, freeing her. And without thinking, and before Nick could fire again, Dawn picked him up, spun around in a circle, and threw him twenty feet through the air into the concrete block wall of the cellar.
Instantly she was at Buffy's side. She first pulled the needle out of Buffy's arm, then with quick, hard hammer fists, broke the chair into enough pieces to get the ropes off Buffy.
"Let's get out of here." Buffy suggested.
Together, they ran up the cellar stairs and out of the house, and away from it.
As they ran toward home, Buffy realized she kept having to run slower and slower to keep from leaving Dawn behind, who was finding it harder and harder not to lose her breath.
But they didn't stop until they were on their own front porch. But before they could get to the door, Willow and Xander opened it, ran out to meet them, and hugged them both. Tears of relief were in the eyes of all four of them.
- - - - -
"That is so sick!" Xander said. "How could anybody even think of something like that?"
"Lot of sick people in this world," Buffy replied.
"But what gets me," Willow said, "was Dawn getting her strength back again. When did that happen?"
Dawn shrugged. "I don't know, but it's gone again. Back to the plain old, weak old Dawn."
"It must be like those stories you hear about when little old ladies pick up cars and stuff when someone they love is pinned underneath."
"And magnified about ten times," Buffy added.
"So does that mean I'll be strong whenever there's an emergency?"
"Probably more like in a life and death situation. But I wouldn't count on it. What we would consider as life and death might not be so to – whatever it is that decides you need to be strong again."
"So what about cousins Mickey and Nicky?" Xander asked.
"I'm pretty sure my blood killed Mickey. Not so sure about Nick, but from what I could tell, he wasn't much in the mood for another go around with Dawn, if he's even alive."
"Oh, my God! You don't think I killed him, do you?" Dawn said in horror.
"No. I'm pretty sure he was alive. Not in the best shape of his life, but still alive."
"I hope so. It was bad enough when I had to kill that vamp that used to be my friend."
"Do you think he'll try anything, you know, like revenge?" Willow asked.
"No," Buffy answered. "Nick is too much of a coward to do anything by himself. Mickey was the one behind all this. Nick was just his lackie."
"So what now?" Xander asked.
"Nothing. I guess it's over," Buffy answered. "I don't know about you guys, but after being up all night, I could use some sleep."
"Sleep sounds good to me, too."
Xander left, and Buffy, Dawn, and Willow went upstairs to their respective bedrooms.
Just as she climbed into bed, Buffy heard a light knock on her door.
"Hi," Dawn said.
After a couple of false starts, Dawn said, "Buffy, I'm really sorry about all this. If I had known what a creep Mickey was, I never would have asked you if I could go out with him."
"No, it's my fault. All along I felt something It right. I should have picked up on it. But you know what I'm the sorriest about?"
Dawn shook her head.
"That you didn't get to go to the dance. I know how much you wanted to."
Dawn shrugged. "There'll be other dances."
"I know, but this was supposed to be your very first one. It should have been a happy time for you."
"Well, it's not like I really went, so the next one can be my first."
"Well, when you do go, try to pick out some guy I actually know, okay?"
"But you don't know any of my friends."
"Then maybe I should, don't you think? Maybe when school starts up again you can start bringing some of them home for me to meet."
"Can I show them your weapons. I bet that'll impress them."
"Either that, or make them think you have a psycho for a sister."
"They'd like that even better!" Dawn said laughing.
"Just what kind of friends do you have?"
"Oh, the usual kind. Not at all like the witches and vampires and ex-demons you have for friends."
"Okay. Point made. Good night."
As Dawn shut the door behind her, Buffy said to herself, "Maybe I do need to find some normal friends, somewhere, if I can ever figure out what 'normal' on the Hellmouth means."