"I feel silly," Connor said, stopping his spin. "This is too much like magic. I'm no good at that. I'm a fighter, not a ballet dancer."
Giles sighed. "It's not really magic and you can't fight a ghost. However, the whirlpool dance will work. The phi pop can not resist looking into the whirlwind and it gets sucked in and banished."
Connor snorted at him, starting to spin in a circle once more. "You just want me to do this because you don't want to be the one looking silly."
"Damn straight." Giles smirked. "And if it goes wrong, you might withstand a blow to the gut better than I."
"Tell it to my parents when they're raising their grandson without me."
Giles stifled a laugh. "I have every confidence in you."
Connor snorted again, his whirling getting faster. Giles knew he would never had a prayer of going that fast. He was only human but then, so were the Thai priests who had performed similar dances for other phi pops in the past. He thought that Connor would be able to banish the ghost before it even knew it was happening. The sound of a siren, Connor's cell phone, went off and he stopped, steadying himself against the wall. "Yeah? Damn. Right, no, I have a sitter here. I'll be right there." Pocketing the phone, Connor turned to Giles. "Five alarm fire. They're calling us all in. We'll have to do this afterwards. Can you guys watch Stephan?"
"Of course." Giles mentally cursed his luck.
"Wait for me," Connor said, running for the door. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Giles considered that only momentarily. The House on the Rock was locked up and he didn't want to risk the phi pop escaping, going to find more fertile grounds. If it got out, they would have the devil's own finding it again.
Her eyes narrowing, Dawn asked, "You're going, aren't you?"
"I could do the dance," he replied needlessly. He had been teaching Connor, after all. "I don't want to wait. It's too risky."
"I'll go with you," Dawn said. "Wouldn't two of us dancing be better than one? Or maybe as bait."
"I'm not using you as bait," Giles said, plucking off his glasses and cleaning them furiously. Not only was it repugnant to him but he could only imagine what Buffy would say. Or worse, do if Dawn came to harm, but he knew better than to say that to her.
"I'll go. You stay with Stephan, Dawn," Darla interjected, bringing both Giles and Dawn's gazes over to her. No one was used to having her around and helping yet. "I'm familiar with these sorts of ghosts and if things go wrong." She shrugged her petite shoulders. "I've already lived a very long life."
"Connor won't like that," Dawn argued.
"Connor would choose you over me," Darla said and Giles was surprised to hear no doubt in her voice. "He knows my life has been a long one. But I don't plan on dying now." She grinned.
Dawn echoed it back. "All right. I'll take care of the baby and help you guys get ready. Do I send Buffy and Angel to you if they come home?"
Giles thought for a moment. "Have them call. The house is too big. It'll be too hard to find us," he said and they got down to work.
X X X
Giles couldn't escape the feeling that the whole museum was watching him. He kept checking over his shoulder, as if expecting the exhibits to come to life. Darla and he slowly made their way through the museum but Giles wasn't sure what he was looking for, certainly not another dead curator. He was hoping maybe the ghost had gone back to its moving around the display items. That would give them a clue at least.
"You won't be able to see it over your shoulder," Darla said wryly.
"No, we're never quite that lucky," Giles replied, stopping for a moment to get his bearings. He peered into the little window on the wall. Behind the glass was a small automaton of death coming for an alcoholic with a legend claiming it belonged to a London tube once upon a century ago. "These things are creepy."
"They were back in their day, too," Darla assured him. He didn't doubt her.
Further down the corridors, he came across a collection of alcohol barrels, many with faces on their end cap. The one closest to him was leering with its tongue stuck out and white stuff dripping down the side of its face. This particular demon rum container claimed 'it's no fun until I cum.'
"Lovely," Darla sniffed.
"Hoping this is some of the humbug. I'd hate to think this is real," Giles replied.
Suddenly sounds of the Mikado echoed through the silent museum. Giles was certain he had left his skin behind he jumped so far. Darla let out a small cry then looked incredibly embarrassed by it. "At least we know where it's at," he said.
"We'd better hurry."
They raced for the Mikado room. Giles only hoped the ghost was still in the machine.
The Mikado was one of the most impressive automatons in the museum. It filled the room with gilt and scarlet and vaguely creepy looking Japanese mannequins, the most frightening of which was the scowling centerpiece, which had been pulled partially out of the apparatus.
"Do you think it tried to get into the mannequin?" Darla asked over the wheezing, tinny sounds of the music.
"Anything is possible." Giles scanned the mechanism quickly, trying to spot some kind of anomaly that would clue him in to the phi pop's presence but how did one tell when the whole room was clanging and stiffly moving about?
Darla cried out, falling back. Giles saw a trail of red through a rent in her shirt. In front of her the air seemed wrong, thick like looking through greasy glass.
"Are you all right?"
"Guts are still where they belong." Darla vaulted over the railing into
the automaton then tried to climb. Giles was instantly reminded that she was only human now. "Dance! I'll keep its attention."
Giles didn't need the prompting. He had already started to spin, wishing that he had waited for Connor. He was already getting dizzy. He used to enjoy dancing but this really wasn't dancing. It was like when he was a child and he'd run around arms outstretched, like he was now, pretending to be an airplane. Giles embedded that image in his mind. He was five again and his legs weren't wobbly. He was a jet fighter.
Darla screamed as the phi pop pulled her free of the machinery. "Over here!" Giles roared. "You'd fit inside me better." He felt the shifting of the ghost, felt the malevolence swelling towards him like a storm. He spun faster, a sickly pale green glow seeming to come from the air around him, the manifestation of the gateway.
The phi pop gave off a thin wail, vaguely human features coalescing in the air. It tried to sail off but it was caught. The effect was not unlike a flushing toilet. The whirlpool dance sucked the phi pop into some mystical sewer that Giles rather not think about. A sharp crack sounded over the automaton's music and the green luminescence faded away.
Giles stopped dancing and tried to make his way to Darla's side. Going in a straight line proved impossible. Lurching drunkenly to the fallen blonde, Giles slumped next to her. Darla was on her knees, trying to get up. He slipped an arm under her elbow. "How badly are you hurt?"
Darla used him to get to her feet. "Bruised and battered but I'll live. It didn't get a good piece of me." She cast a glance around the room as the music died away. "Feels like it's gone."
"Should be," Giles replied.
"Let's get the hell out of here," she panted.
"Agreed. Are you good to walk?" Giles gave her a critical look.
"Dizzy but I'll survive." Giles smiled. Leaning on each other, they got out of the museum.
X X X
"That was a nasty cut," Dawn announced coming back into the living room with Stephan on her hip. Darla minced along behind her. "In retrospect, I'm rather glad I didn't go."
"I'm just glad we got rid of it." Darla gingerly lowered herself onto the couch. "The aspirin isn't doing much. Do you have any more scotch around?"
"I'll get it," Giles said as Dawn put Stephan down in his walker that had a seat like a little racing car with a host of doodads to distract him. Giles came back with the scotch and poured for everyone. "Buffy called while you were patching Darla up. One troll is still eluding them."
"This might take awhile." Dawn said then looked up sharply, hearing the front door open.
Sweaty and smelling of smoke, Connor came into the room. He took a critical look around the room. "You didn't wait for me. Are you okay, mom?"
Darla smiled over at him. "I'll be fine. More importantly Giles succeeded."
Connor cast weary eyes Giles' direction. "Thanks for taking care of Mom." He smiled one of his huge, scary smiles. "Sorry I missed you spinning like a top."
Giles snorted at him. "I'm grateful almost no one saw. And well pleased with myself for stopping that thing."
"You should be." Connor thought for a moment, going over to rub a hand over Stephan's head. The baby gurgled at him. "Actually I would rather have seen Faith do the whirlpool dance."
"Yeah, with tassels," Dawn waved him off.
Connor chuckled. "Sure. Better yet, you and her."
"And Angel says you inherited nothing from him," Darla laughed.
"Wouldn't be a bad sight," Giles mumbled.
"Giles!" Dawn threw a pillow at him.
The Watcher allowed himself a good laugh. He truly was well pleased with the events, if regretful he didn't work it out before Blair died. He still had some of his old fire. It was more reassuring than youngsters like Connor or Dawn could understand. The look in Darla's eyes said she did. Smiling to himself, Giles refilled his scotch glass, looking forward to the tale he could tell Buffy when she got back.
Author's Note – The great thing about writing this story now is You tube. If you want a fuller experience of the House go play with You Tube's search engine.You'll find a lot of footage that I can't link to on FFN