See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and notes.
Dawn ran over to Spike and hugged him, and Wesley had to turn away to stop himself from laughing at the shocked look on the vampire's face as he awkwardly returned the hug. He soon wished he had kept watching when he heard a sharp crack.
Spike rubbed the cheek that Dawn had just slapped. "Bloody hell, Bit!"
"And when exactly were you planning on telling
anyone that you were still alive?" Dawn asked, her hands on her hips and her head cocked challengingly.
"I told Wesley," he offered unhelpfully. The former Watcher chose that moment to go inspect the other situation currently brewing between Keith and Duncan.
Keith's expression was pure fury, and Duncan was unsure of how to diffuse it. "What
are you doing here?" he asked. "You've already gotten Veronica involved with the FBI, and now you show up right as she's being held hostage by a murderer. I don't want you going anywhere near her, do you understand me? I'm sure there are agents on their way to pick you up already, but you're not drawing her into this again."
Duncan sighed. "There won't be any agents coming for me," he said. "And even if there are, they'll be in for a rude surprise when they realize their warrants are all invalid." He found that, having now gotten past at least one of the situations he had been dreading for much of the night, he had a much larger reserve of confidence to draw upon than he would have guessed. "Dawn got me cleared, and full custody of my daughter. She's the one who called these people to save
Veronica." After a moment of reflection on what he had just said, he began to realize how much he had come to rely on Dawn over the last month.
After taking a moment to calm himself, Keith interrupted his thoughts. "I'm glad that you're a free man now, Duncan," he began. "But I'm
the one who called them to help me stop Drusilla."
Duncan raised an eyebrow. "Mr. Mars, I'm positive that Dawn was the one who called them. She's... arguing with the other man over there."
Keith took that moment to notice Wesley, who wasn't fast enough this time to avoid being drawn into the argument. "Wyndham-Price, didn't I call you just an hour ago?"
"Yes, you called me, Keith. Dawn called one of my coworkers at roughly the same time." He decided to abbreviate the truth; they didn't really have the time to go into the whole story. "It's quite a coincidence, but let's not get distracted." He walked back over to Spike and Dawn, who had apparently stopped speaking to each other entirely.
"Spike, you realize that this is likely a trap," he said.
"It's Dru, of course it's a trap," he replied. "And she'll know that we know, and that we know that she knows that we know, and all that. What we need is something that will distract her." Spike pondered for a moment, and then his eyes fell on Dawn, who was alternately glaring at him and ignoring him. "Bit, what was that whole thing about crazy people looking at you... differently?"
"Oh, you are so
not using me as bait," Dawn replied, shaking her head emphatically.
"Just make with the green sparkles for a minute and I'll do the rest," Spike assured her. Otherwise we're all dead anyway
, he thought, carefully keeping that sentiment to himself. He didn't think that anyone besides him stood more than a second's chance against Drusilla, and he was probably right.
Keith glanced at Duncan, hoping he wasn't the only one completely out of his depth in the ongoing discussion. The young man's face betrayed no similar emotion, although he did look very concerned. He sighed and resolved to get answers after grounding Veronica into the next decade for... well, he'd think of a reason.
Dawn noticed Duncan's concern, and went over to him, wrapping her arms around him and nestling her head into his shoulder. "I'll be fine," she whispered to him. "Spike is... well, you know. He's a Champion. He'll get us all through this." Duncan nodded, forcing himself to stop thinking for once and just enjoy the embrace.
They left the cars parked where they were; they knew that the element of surprise wasn't something to expect when battling a psychic, but stealth still seemed like a good idea. Dawn led, in her grudging role as the distraction, with Spike close behind. Duncan and Keith stayed a few steps back, with Wesley bringing up the rear in case there were minions to deal with.
They shortly arrived at the apartment, giving their eyes a moment to adjust to the light coming from the porch. Spike checked that his stake was in an easily-accessible pocket, and then rolled his shoulders back to loosen them.
"Your time to shine," he said to Dawn.
She laughed half-heartedly, and, checking that Spike remained close behind her, turned the doorknob.
Drusilla clapped her hands together, a picture of childish glee.
"What's going on?" Veronica asked. It had quickly become apparent to her that Drusilla displaying emotion, or moving at all for that matter, probably did not bode well.
"We're going to be entertaining some company," she announced. "It's time for the adults to talk now, Veronica, and little girls best be getting to their beds."
Before Veronica could respond, Dru fixed her eyes with her own. Once the blonde was helplessly entranced, she leaned forward and whispered in her ear. "Never wake up."
"What are you doing?!" Lilly cried, rushing to her side. Drusilla ignored the ghost's attempts to rouse her friend. Her confidence was justified, as Veronica no longer even flinched at the contact.
The door opened, and Drusilla stood, shielding her eyes with one arm. "Such a bright, Christmasy shine," she crooned.
In a blur of motion, she leapt to the door, pushing Dawn aside. She gasped in pain when she hit the floor and slid into the wall. "Did you think you could play a little game with me, William?" she said, her voice devoid of its previously-light emotion.
"I hoped," he said. "But it looks like this is going to have to happen the hard way." He stepped in to the room, not attacking; he simply stood.
After a moment, Drusilla shuddered. "No
," she cried, sinking to her knees and clawing at her face. "It's in
you, another flaming brand on the face of our great clan!"
Spike shrugged. "I asked for it, luv," he told her. "Wasn't a curse like the Poof's. I wanted
She screamed and launched herself at him, mindlessly. He stepped slightly to the side and brought the stake up to catch her in the chest. She turned to look at him as her body disintegrated, eyes full of hurt and betrayal.
He shook his head briefly and stepped over the dust to offer his hand to Dawn. "Sorry 'bout that. I really thought it would work."
"I'm okay," she said, brushing herself off. "Are you?" She made eye contact with him briefly, and somehow, the vampire's eyes seemed even older than they had been minutes before.
"Sure," he said, forcing himself to sound nonchalant. "Had to be done." Looking for a change of subject, he noticed Veronica, slumped in the chair with her eyes closed. "You might want to see to your boy's friend. Looks like she fainted."
Duncan had already noticed that, but he had also noticed Dawn get shoved to the floor. She could see he was unsure whom to check on first, so she made it easy for him and walked over to Veronica herself. Duncan followed her, bending over to nudge Veronica and wake her up. He didn't get anything close to a response. "Mr. Mars?" Duncan said. "She's not waking up."
Keith rushed over and checked her pulse and breathing; both seemed normal, at least based on what he knew from police training. "What happened to Drusilla?"
"She could be in shock," Wesley said, ignoring his question and surreptitiously inspecting her neck for bite marks. He found none. "We should take her to the hospital and let them check her out. It doesn't look like Drusilla physically harmed her."
"Hey! You!" Lilly said, propelling herself towards Spike. "You're like her, aren't you? Can you see me?"
Spike turned to Wesley. "Has she been here the whole time?"
"Of course my daughter's been here the whole time! She's the one you were saving!" Keith replied, still agitated about the state of Veronica's health.
"Not her, this one," he said, pointing to what was, as far as everyone else could tell, empty space. He realized, after a moment of blank stares, that none of them had any idea what he was talking about.
Lilly crossed her arms and stomped a foot, impatient for a response. He noticed then that her feet weren't quite touching the floor.
"Bloody hell, Mars," he said. "You didn't tell me your house was haunted!"