Standard disclaimers apply. This one's for Jesse, who pestered hardcore. And James. Who also pestered hardcore. Sorry for being so long between chapters. Stupid school and stupid life… Anyways, you can all sleep better at night—it's finally FINISHED.
Things You Don't Want To Know
"Dinner," as Spike was beginning to think of his companion, let out a moan. A shudder overtook the little meat puppet and his head lulled to one side.
Spike looked up at his own shackled wrists. They were more screwed than he could remember being in recent memory. The part that really pissed him off was that he'd promised he'd look after Dawn and now he was the one who needed help. If something really spectacular didn't happen really quickly, Lil' Bit would be nothing more than a memory and a snack. And the other weird kid too. "Hey, pal, Stay with. I think your little buddy's counting on you for a rescue. Or something."
The masked man gave another grunt. "That's . . . what I'm trying to . . ." The head swung down again.
So complete and utterly doomed, Spike thought.
Then was really screwed-up thin happened. "Dinner" showed off just how hard he worked at the gym—curling up like a snail hit with salt, his ankles wrapped around the chain that the hook was hanging from. Getting a firm footing, he pulled up with his legs, untangling the bonds at his wrist from the winch hook. A moment later, he dropped to the ground and lost his balance, spilling onto his side ingloriously.
Spike figured he'd spot the guy a few points on the landing, he was suffering from massive blood loss, after all. As for the rest… "Good show. But you'll pardon me if I don't applaud—I sort of have my hands full."
The bloke actually frowned at Spike, holding his side as he got to his feet. Worse for the wear, the masked man ambled past Spike.
"Hey," Spike grumbled. "You aren't just going to leave me here, are you?"
The man almost kept going, but he hesitated. 'You're one of them," he stated quietly.
"I am. But I promised Dawn's sister that I'd look out for her. So for the moment, we're on the same side." It seemed pointless to go into the details of the situation.
Saying nothing further, the pajama man looked around, limping to the nearest wall. The guy had determination; Spike'd give him that. Even if the end result was Spike's complete and utter screwedness.
The guy released a lever just out site and Spike dropped to the floor like a sandbag. Stunned, Spike was a bit slow getting to his feet.
Instead of heading for the stairs, the guy got to the empty freight elevator shaft and turned to Spike. "You comin' or what?"
Spike rolled onto his side, scrambling to his feet. "Look at you, giving orders already." Maybe the guy hit his head or something. "You're ringing for a lift? They'll see us coming a mile away."
Regaining a small bit of composure, the pajama man grinned. He took something out of his boot and shot a line up into the shaft. "I plan on taking the express."
Tim couldn't gasp. He couldn't exhale. Nothing. He didn't have much time until he passed out. After that, they'd either be waking up undead—or not at all.
He gave one final kick at Hank's shins, but Dawn's dad didn't budge. Thoughts grew hazy and he knew this was it. Maybe he should have called Young Justice. Or made contact directly with Dick. Or called Bruce…
An explosion made the walls tremble and Hank let go of him just enough that he could slither free in the confusion. Dawn screamed. At the far end of the dark hall knocked out the rear forces of the vampire horde. Unable to even draw in breath, it was all he could do to grab Dawn's free wrist and tear her away from the blonde vampire.
Two other infants, ugly, filthy things that were just shy of 'zombie' grabbed onto her shirt though. Sucking in as much air as he could, Tim pulled her and kicked them away at the same time. In his effort to push her further away from the smoke, and the glowing eyes, he ended up knocking her to the floor.
She seemed to have her wits about her, though and scrambled past Hank's legs and towards the office.
The familiar sounds of battle ensued. Trying to hold back as many of the vampires at once, he searched the smoke-filled hallway for his doorstop. It wasn't easy, he still wasn't at his best. He tried to just get with it. They had no choice now, but to fight their way out of this hallway. Nightwing had at least presented them with a fighting chance.
Staking the nearest two, he held his breath as they turned to dust. Before he even had the stake out of the second one, another was lunging for his throat and nearly made it. What he wouldn't give for his belt full of tricks right now.
There were two more quick explosions and the air filled with ash and more smoke. "CLEAR!" Nightwing yelled, tossing another grenade over the top of the bulk of vampires, and it landed about ten feet from him.
Ducking into an office doorway, he covered his head with his arms as the blast cleared out the vampires closest to him and knocked Hank backwards and unconscious. He almost fell over Dawn, but she was out of immediate (well, eminent) danger. The whole thing at least gave him enough room to maneuver. Just as he cleared out of the doorway, he saw the blonde and the crazy one making their way, untouched through the scuffle, towards a door close to the freight elevator. "Don't let them get away!" They had their hands in something big, and if they got away, they'd just spring up somewhere else with some other brilliant idea. They were like Gotham's standard fare of bad guys like that.
The freaky Billy Idol wanna-be vampire made after the two of them, wherever that doorway lead. He could finally see Nightwing as the smoke cleared. His friend didn't look so hot. He looked exhausted, in fact—his swings were more like lobs, and he certainly wasn't operating at his highest efficiency rating. There were still about fifteen more vampires that hadn't been taken care of by explosions. Dick was probably out of ammo, hence the wide, arching lobs with a pointy stick that were going on now.
Trying to give his friend some relief, Tim dove in towards the center of the remainder of the pack. They were hungry and lacked any sort of control, which made them dangerous. Their lack of control gave Tim an advantage.
He bowled into two of them, knocking them to the ground and removing them as an immediate threat then lunged for his next target. As momentum carried him forward, he hit the next one square in the chest, then landed on the ground and rolled, right through the dust that had formerly been said vampire. Turning around, he got the other two just as they were getting to their feet, moaning like hungry zombies. He supposed you didn't have to be a genius to be a minion. And those women vampires probably preferred it that way.
It took another four minutes, by Tim's estimate, before he and Nightwing met in the middle. "Nothing like cutting it down to the wire."
"Quit being a spaz, then," Nightwing said, gasping for breath. Finally he gave up and leaned against the wall. "Run away some place closer next time."
Tim rubbed the cut on his neck, brushing away crusted blood. He happened to be in a hell of a lot better shape than Dick at the moment, and he still felt pretty bad. "What the hell happened to you?"
"Got swarmed." The bite marks were turning purple already. They were also oozing and gross. "Didn't have those handy explosives at the time. Would have been nice."
Tim didn't even want to know. Because that meant that Spike guy had brought them to the party, or all of those boxes down stairs weren't filled with pencils. If that were the case, this was sure an interesting department store they were running. "Do you think Spike can get them? I think I'd better Dawn out of here before--" he was going to say before her father woke up, but turning around, he saw neither at the end of the hallway.
"I'll be back," Tim promised, then dashed for the open doorway of the main office. He never really worried about Dick. Dick could always take care of himself, and usually Tim at the same time, all the while watching Bruce's back, even though Bruce never really deserved it. But right now, he was worried about Dick. He really needed to find Dawn, then get back there and make sure Dick was OK.
The office was empty. There were two doors on the back wall, past the desk and stiff, older chairs. The first one he yanked opened was a private bathroom. It was dark and appeared untouched. The second door was an iron stairwell, like a fire escape, only it was on the inside of the building. It wound down through a cinder block-lined stairwell.
He hopped over the railing of each half-flight, leaping down to the next. Sneakers were not designed for this particular type of abuse, and his feet stung by the time he had gone down eight flights, landing in another dark hall that seemed to run between the store-proper and the loading dock.
Making his way back to the dock, he saw Hank dragging his daughter near the door.
Dawn saw him, then cried out, reaching a hand out for help. Hank stopped and spun around. "Lordy, lordy. You kids today. You just don't stop."
Tim rushed him, flipped then hit him square in the chest. Hank must have been a vampire longer than anyone could suspect—he didn't flinch or give an inch when Tim hit him.
Tim, however, was not unnaturally strong, and when he hit the vampire, it was like hitting a brick wall. He landed on the cement, knocking the air out of his lungs. His ankles hurt like a you-know-what, as well.
In a flash, Hank's foot was on his throat. "You kids never listen. You always insist on learning things the hard way," he declared, never losing that freakish happy tone in his voice.
Talk about a bad freaking day.
"Buffy?" Dawn called out suddenly.
Hank paused before going through the act of crushing Tim's windpipe and looked at Dawn. "Oh honey, do you think daddy is stupid? He's not going to fall—wooooh…"
He didn't fall at all. He was lifted from the ground (and Tim's throat) by some figure from behind. The wound started bleeding again. Getting to his knees, he saw some slight, blonde girl turning stiffly, then setting Hank down on the ground, never letting go of his shirt. "Dawn is my sister, she said with a strange evenness. "I will not let anything happen to Dawn."
Dawn's eyes welled with tears suddenly. "Buffy? Oh my god…"
Buffy looked at Dawn, her head turning stiffly. "Do not worry. I will not let anything happen to you."
"Buffy, punkin, dearest… I wouldn't do anything to your sister…" Hank tried to twist out of her grasp, but it was like a vice.
Her head tilted mechanically to one side. "You are a vampire. Vampires get vanquished."
Nightwing went through the door that the vampire, Spike, and the two female vampires had disappeared into. It was a flight of utility stairs that lead upward. With a sigh of resignation, he schlepped his way to the top. This had to be the single crappiest rescue he'd ever engaged in.
On the rooftop, he saw Spike standing on the precipice, looking over the side. "They actually jumped," the vampire announced, not bothering to look behind him.
Nightwing made it over to the ledge and looked down. There was not so much as a spatter on the pavement below.
"They managed to dust themselves off, pop their necks back into place and trundled off into some waiting car. We won't be catching up with them." Spike turned to Nightwing, a new giant gash along his cheek. "Thanks for believing me enough to cut me down from there. Dawn ok?"
Nightwing leaned heavily against the ledge. He really did need to crash and burn soon. "Tim went after her. If they aren't here, they must have gone down."
There was some weird twinge of… something or other in Spike as he crossed the rooftop to the access stairs, leaving the wounded, but not quite fallen, behind. The kid had serious skills, but he wasn't going to rest easy until he could see, first hand, that Dawn was OK.
In a panic Dawn grabbed her sister's arm, trying to dislodge her hand from Hank's shirt. "Buffy, no, it's dad. There has to be--"
Before she could even finish, Buffy had slammed the stake into him with lightening speed. The breath caught in Dawn's throat as her eyes met her father's for that brief second before he burst into burning ash and was reduced to dust.
She couldn't even look at her sister. All Dawn could do was stare at the pile of dust on the floor. "Buffy? Buffy--" There was so much confusion in the way she said her sister's name.
She didn't understand where her sister had come from, or what had just happened. That had been her father, after all. At least, that's what Tim read in her eyes as she stood there, unable to take in what had happened.
Finally, Tim pulled Dawn away from her sister. "Dawn, he wasn't a human any more. Even I know that." Creepy Creatures That Go Bump in the night, 101. See, his time with Young Justice was good for something after all. "She vanquished the demon, and he can rest in peace now." Completely beyond hollow comfort, Tim though. But what else was there to say?
"Buffy?" There was disbelief in Spike's voice.
Dawn stared at her sister in disbelief. "She-she staked dad."
Buffy turned her head to look at Dawn, eyes wide and sporting a blank expression. "You are Dawn, Buffy's sister. It is my programming to protect you. I did this by performing my second priority duty of killing vampires. Have I performed in error?"
Backing up, Dawn tried to get as far away as possible. Tim slid between Dawn and this… he didn't know what. "The Buffy-bot?" She looked to Spike. "You didn't know about this?"
Spike shook his head no. "Maybe they had good intentions--"
The android replacement thing wasn't news to Tim either. Superman did need days off now and again. Behind him, the freight elevator came to rest with a creaking moan on the bottom floor. Through the grill, he could see Nightwing leaning against the wall. Tim was grateful—it was one less thing for him to panic about.
Turning back to Dawn and the android, he saw someone standing in the threshold of the utility exit next to the closed garage door. Tim couldn't make out any features because of the street lamp just outside the building.
"Dawnie, we wanted to tell you, but you just took off too fast," a feminine voice announced. She stepped into the ill-lit warehouse; a red-headed girl that reminded him of a younger, funner version of Oracle. She had that kind of bookish look about her.
Tears welled up in Dawn's eyes. By the time she actually started sobbing, the woman had crossed the floor of the loading area and had her arms around Dawn. "Willow… I came here to find dad, but he was… I just wanted to find him. I just wanted to know why he didn't want me. He's… he was…" She looked down at the pile of ash at their feet.
The woman—Willow—stroked Dawn's dirty, tangled hair. "Shh. I know. I'm sorry." She seemed to be just as at a loss for words as Tim was. He bet that Dawn wished now that she hadn't wanted to know so badly why her father hadn't come to her sister's funeral. There're just some pieces of knowledge that one can do without—things you can't un-know. He was sorry this had to be another thing she could have lived without.
The android's head began twitching violently. "Explain—explain. Why can I not perform primary task one and two at the same time? Explain. Explain…" she seemed to short-circuit after that, and her eyes grew dim.
Willow sighed. "We'll have to keep working on it. Come on. Lets get you home." She nudged Spike. "Can you grab Buffy-bot?"
Spike gestured to his sliced cheek and smattering of bruises and oozing punctures and cuts.
"Well, I can't carry it."
Resigned, Spike bent his knees and grunted as he lifted the hunk of metal and circuits and motors off the ground.
Tim had to admit, it was impressive. He could also guess that it was somewhat necessary, too. He remembered the flying, flaming disaster that had been Jean Paul taking over for Bruce in the Batsuit after Bruce's injury. This didn't have to be that bad. "I have a friend that might be able to help you with the logic routines and the AI interface. Dawn has my email address."
Tim rubbed her shoulder, looking back at the elevator. "You're safe now, and you're with friends." He looked up at Spike with the last. Who'd have guessed that in some circles, stalking as a sign of affection? "I think I have to get my friend out of here. He had an even worse night than we have." Squeezing her arm, he took a step back. "See you online, ok?"
Spike walked to the door with the frozen bot under his arm like a cardboard cutout. "Thank the Pajama Man for me," he called back to Tim.
"I will. You guys… keep doing what you're doing." The saving the world thing was tough; Tim knew that one from first-hand experience.
In the elevator he knelt next to Nightwing, who was sitting up against the back of the wire cage. "You ok, buddy?"
That got a bit of a reaction. Dick looked at him funny. Usually that's what Dick was asking him after one of these outings. "Yeah. A little AB- and an eleventy-billion year nap, and everything'll be fine. Your friend?"
Tim closed the gate on the elevator. Looking back, he saw her walking out the door behind Spike, her friend's arms still wrapped around her. He pressed the button for the top floor, which was the best place for a pick-up, really. "She's ok. Well, she'll be ok. She did just watch an android look-alike of her dead sister stake the vampire formerly known as her father and turn him into dust. I can't imagine that she'll just bounce right back."
Dick shook his head. "I see your Sarcasm wasn't broken in the explosion. Timmy… you really do know how to pick the weird ones."
Tim joined his friend in leaning against the fencing. "Dick . . . do me a favor and call Bruce. Then do me another favor and shut up."