"We're worried about you, Dawnie," Willow says kindly, and Tara squeezes Willow's hand; like Willow needs strength or something, when Willow's not the one surrounded by people staring at her. "This... this weird... obsession with Spike. It can't be healthy."
"The loss of your mother, followed by the loss of a... close friend," Giles adds, wincing at the concept of Spike befriending anyone. "We were thinking you might benefit from some... grief counseling."
"You want to send me to a shrink," Dawn mutters, crossing her arms. "Thanks a whole bunch of really not at all."
"Dawnie, Spike wouldn't want you to be like this," Tara soothes. "He wanted you to live. This... isn't living."
Xander doesn't say a word; Dawn gets the distinct impression he's been threatened with bodily harm if he does.
"I'm sorry for caring that my friend died," Dawn drawls. "I'll try to keep the noise down."
"It's not the noise, Dawn," Buffy insists. "It's just... spending every afternoon in his crypt?"
"I like his crypt. It's quiet, I can get my homework done, there's a TV and books and a fridge and stuff. You wouldn't be all freaked out if I spent every afternoon in a treehouse or something, what's the diff?"
"A treehouse is not a place to store dead people in a cemetery."
"Look, Dawn," Xander finally blurts. "We know about Spike's ghost, and it's just plain creepy."
"Don't, Dawn," Buffy warns. "We know, okay? And that's what we really wanted to talk to you about. It's time to let Spike go."
"What do you mean?"
"We're going to exorcise him, Dawn," Willow explains. "Give him peace. Let him leave the mortal plane."
"You're kidding, right?"
"It's not fair to him, Dawnie," Tara smiles. "He needs to be set free."
Suspicion flares to life in Dawn's eyes. "Why are you guys talking to me about this? You never talk to me about Scooby stuff..."
"You're the only one he'll let into the crypt, Dawnie," Willow says. "And the crypt seems to be the focus of the haunting. You'll have to do the spell."
"You guys, there is no ghost..."
"If there is no ghost," Anya catches Dawn's eye in a meaningful way, "Then there's no harm in doing the spell, right?"
Dawn sighs heavily.
"Are we having a picnic?" Dawn asks sullenly, eyeing the small pile of supplies at the crypt door.
"The salt is to draw the circle," Willow explains. "The bowl of water... well, tupperware container of water... that's to see Spike in. The four white candles go at the points of the circle, okay? And the black one in the center, with you. That's to banish him."
"Banish?" Dawn's eyes narrow.
"Free," Tara corrects with a smile. "Free."
"Can we get on with it?" Anya's boredom is palpable.
"Fine," Dawn snaps, snatching the Tupperware. "Let's get this over with."
She slams into the crypt, pours the salt in a haphazard circle, jams the candles down with an irreverence that causes both Tara and Willow to flinch. She fights with the book of matches, finally getting one to burn; candles lit, she plops gracelessly into the center of the circle, parchment in hand.
"Oh, Goddess," Dawn reads with every ounce of teenage surly she can muster, laying the neatly tied bundles of herbs down at the compass points. "Grant me the sight to see into other worlds. Grant me the..."
"Is she supposed to be glowing green like that?" Xander stage-whispers from the doorway.
"... wisdom to guide this lost spirit..."
"Um... it didn't say anything in the book about her glowing green..."
"... out of this world and into... "
"She's probably doing some freaky Key thing," Anya sighs. "I told you this was a horrible idea."
"Dawn, stop!" Xander yells. "C'mon, stop!"
"Spike?" Dawn whispers in shock.
But she's not looking into the bowl; she's looking up and across the room, her eyes following an invisible figure from the ladder towards the television.
"Oh, crap," Anya says with feeling.
"Anybody else mondo-freaked?" Xander breathes.
"No, I... what do you mean?" Dawn asks the air. "You're dead."
The answer makes her grin in spite of herself. "More dead. I'm supposed to be exorcising you and stuff... like Beetlejuice, not Jane Fonda."
"Buffy and everybody's making me," Dawn answers after a long pause. "No, not the Buffybot, Buffy. The Buffybot got all smooshed by Glory."
Another pause; Dawn's eyebrows soar. "No, she's not."
Beat. "No, she didn't. You did. You're the one who jumped... you bit me and got my blood in you and then jumped off the... Spike? Spike, don't... don't cry, geez... what do you mean, it worked? What worked? Spike!"
Dawn stumbles to her feet, reaching out for him... and the Scoobies gasp as her hand passes the limits of the circle and disappears.
"Will, make it stop," Xander pleads. "Make the spell... over or whatever you do."
"Huh?" Willow is still staring at the circle in fascination, watching as more and more of Dawn's arm vanishes.
"Will... Dawn, rapidly disappearing, hello? Depressy, obsessed little hormone bomb about to jump into the spirit world to be with Captain Peroxide and probably never coming back?"
Willow's eyes fly wide, and she waves her hand in a semi-circle. "Let the spell be ended."
Wind rushes through the crypt, whipping Dawn's hair around her face, and she lets out a strangled cry of disappointment as her fist reappears.
"What did you do?" she shrieks in fury, turning to the doorway. "What the fuck did you just do?"
"Dawnie, sweetie..." Willow tries.
"Get more stuff," Dawn says, her voice low and dangerous. "Get more stuff, right now, I'm doing the spell over."
"I could have gotten him back!"
"Dawn... we've been over this," Buffy crosses her arms. "You can't bring back dead people. Now come out of there, we're going home."
"I hate you guys. I hate you guys! You don't want him back!"
"Dawnie, of course we want him back..."
"I don't," Xander protested.
"Okay, Xander doesn't," Willow sighed. "But the rest of us do. Just... come out of there, okay?"
Dawn stalks towards the door of the crypt. "I want to do the spell over."
"Sweetie, we can't," Tara insists. "We don't have any more herbs, and..."
"Tomorrow? Can we do the spell over tomorrow?"
"Maybe... maybe you shouldn't. Whatever you did... that was dangerous, and Spike's ghost..."
"He's. Not. A. Ghost."
"I don't care what he is," Xander proclaims. "He's not worth you getting hurt. Now come out of there, Dawn."
Dawn gets in his face. "I could have gotten him back."
"No, you couldn't," Buffy grabs Dawn's protruding elbow, pulling her the rest of the way out of the doorway. "And we're going home."
Dawn wrenches her elbow free from Buffy's grip, stumbling backwards... and Buffy yelps in surprised pain as Dawn turns on her heel and runs towards the cemetery exit.
"Were we that annoying at that age?" Xander marvels, sighing in resignation. "I'll go get her."
Xander lopes off after Dawn, and Tara examines Buffy's face in concern. "What did she do to you?"
"Threw something at me," Buffy rubs her forehead, wincing. "It bounced off or something."
Anya kneels by Buffy's feet, running her hands through the damp grass. "Um. Buffy?"
"That... thing Dawn hit you with. Small, rectangular, metallic?"
"Sounds about right..."
And Anya stands, moving between them and opening her palm...
Where Spike's Zippo gleams in the moonlight.