Balance By GrimSage




It was a little after midnight in Sunnydale, and everyone in the Summers household was already fast asleep.

Well... almost everyone.

Dawn was cautiously quiet as she left her room and stepped softly down the hall. She opened the door to Buffy's room gently, careful not to do anything that might wake her sister.

As she approached the bed, she noticed that, even though Buffy was fast asleep, a troubled expression was tainting her normally calm features. Of course, Dawn knew exactly why her sister wasn't sleeping peacefully, and in matter-of-fact, hadn't been sleeping very well for quite some time now.

It was during the summer that Buffy had begun having vivid nightmares, nearly always ending with her waking up in tears. The moment Dawn would hear her sister's cries she would rush from her room to be at Buffy's side, simply holding and comforting her sister, often until the older girl had fallen back asleep. It had taken several such instances before Dawn had finally been able to get Buffy to open up enough to explain the reason for her nightmares.

Suffice to say, Dawn hadn't been pleased with the answer.

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Spike.

It was once a name that conjured a feeling of safety and comfort for Dawn.

Although ever since the events of last year, all that name evoked in her was disgust. It was a vile reminder of the pain and isolation that Buffy had been through after the slayer's traumatic return from heaven.

Dawn knew that Spike could have lessened Buffy's downward spiral, if only he hadn't been so damn selfish in his interests. If he had just tried to clue someone else in on what Buffy was going through, or maybe shared what he knew with Dawn and the others, then perhaps they all could have worked to help Buffy deal with her emotional issues.

Unfortunately, it wasn't how things ended up turning out.

Instead of helping her, Spike had tried to drag Buffy further into the darkness, intent on showing her that she was just like him. The blonde slayer had went along with the idea at first, but when she finally found the will to resist and put an end to things, he couldn't understand why she had left him.

He became convinced that Buffy was in denial, that she truly loved him, but when he tried to persuade her to believe that, she rebuffed the idea completely. However, he became desperate to convince her, and in his unstable emotional state his unwanted advances had quickly degenerated into a violent physical attack.

Dawn shuddered at the thought of what he had done, and of what he had almost succeeded in doing, to her sister. So, when she later found out he had left Sunnydale without so much as a word to anyone, she never expected to see him again.

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Of course, expectations are not the same as guarantees, and Dawn was shocked to later learn of Spike's unannounced return to Sunnydale. What was worse was the fact that Buffy had found out about it earlier, yet she had neglected to mention it to anyone, even her own sister.

When he had just showed up at their front door, offering to help with their latest demon problem, Dawn was very surprised that Buffy didn't just stake him on the spot. Although truthfully what was more shocking was when Buffy actually agreed to accept his help in dealing with their latest monster problem.

Dawn had immediately wanted to object to her sister's idea, but it was Xander who spoke up first, clearly making known his distaste for the idea of Spike being anywhere near Buffy. The Slayer confidently reassured her friend that she could take care of herself, and though both Dawn and Xander weren't happy with her choice, they had reluctantly acquiesced to her decision.

That night Dawn had patiently waited until Buffy had stepped outside, but as soon as the slayer was out of earshot, she took the opportunity to call Spike aside and give the vampire a simple, yet final, warning...

"Spike. You sleep, right? You. Vampires. You sleep.", Dawn did her best to keep her voice cold and emotionless.

"Yeah.", Spike had replied curiously. "What's your point, niblet?"

"Well, I can't take you in a fight or anything, even with a chip in your head. But you do sleep."

She spoke in a matter-of-fact way, lowering her voice as she stepped closer to the vampire.

"If you hurt my sister... touch her in any way... you're gonna wake up on fire."

Dawn's determined look conveyed the seriousness of her remark.

Spike had said nothing in response to her threat, but his stunned expression and silent demeanor was enough to convince Dawn that he had gotten the message.

Or so she had thought.

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Now here it is, months later, and Spike was living in the basement of her home. Dawn had been none-too-pleased with the decision, but she had been given very little say in the matter, so she had refrained from any measure of serious protest.

The fact was, ever since Buffy had found out about Spike's newly reacquired soul, the slayer's resolution to limit her contact with the vampire had been slowly eroding away. Dawn knew that her sister's overdeveloped sense of compassion for the ensouled vampire was gradually winning out over the combination of common sense and Buffy's memories of all the negative things Spike had done to her in the past.

Now, at first Buffy had simply enlisted Xander's help in the matter, convincing him to let Spike stay in his apartment, figuring that the school basement was somehow making the vampire crazy because of its proximity to the Hellmouth. Of course, Xander had been very resistant to helping Spike out in any way at all, but in the end he agreed to Buffy's plan, and the initial arrangement had worked out okay for a while.

That is, until Buffy found out about Spike's trigger.

So, instead of keeping Spike at a distance like Buffy had originally planned, he had ended up becoming her pet redemption project. It was almost as if she viewed Spike's soul as a second chance to set things right, to help fix things in a way that she wasn't able to when Angel had regained his soul.

Dawn knew that Buffy would never admit it, but the younger girl was certain that this was the main reason for her sister's change of heart. Yet, she also knew that dealing with this situation was causing Buffy more confusion and pain than the blond slayer would ever truthfully admit. It had left her emotionally divided between her hatred for the vampire, and her compassion for the restored soul that was trapped within. The stress of this internal conflict was slowly tearing Buffy apart, one small piece at a time.

When Dawn had begun to realize how great a toll this was taking on her sister, she committed herself to do something about it. After much consideration, she decided that in order for Buffy to regain her center and rediscover her inner strength, something would have to be done about the situation with Spike.

Fortunately, she had already been preparing for just such an eventuality.

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Dawn broke from her reverie, her thoughts returning to the present moment. She was fully aware that as she had been watching Buffy sleep and thinking about their past, she had been coming to final terms with what she was about to do for her sister. For a brief moment, she wonders how the older girl will react when she eventually discovers what Dawn has done. However, she immediately dismisses the thought, firmly resolving to finish her task, no matter what Buffy's reaction will eventually be.

The younger girl brushed an errant lock of hair away from her sister's face, gently tucking it behind the slayer's ear. Buffy's troubled expression softened when she felt the soothing touch, and her features became momentarily calm and peaceful. Dawn leaned forward, placing a compassionate kiss on her sister's forehead, pulling away as she whispered her apologies.

"I'm sorry Buffy, but I'm doing this for you. I know you'll forgive me."

With those final words, she turned and left the slayer's bedroom, intent on saving her sister.

The basement was silent as Dawn stepped softly down the stairs and into the darkness below, cautiously pausing at the bottom step, allowing her eyes a moment to adjust to the moonlight filtering in through the room's small windows. Once she was able to see clearly, she focused on the side of the room where Spike lay quietly sleeping, completely unaware of what fate had in store for him on this particular night.

Dawn knew that if she had been anyone other than the slayer's sister, then she probably wouldn't have been able to tell if Spike was truly asleep. As it was, the vampire was perfectly still and silent, so she was careful to watch for any sign that he might be waking up as she slowly moved closer to the center of the basement.

Once she was sure that he hadn't noticed her stealthy arrival, she set her backpack down quietly and removed from it a small bag containing the ingredients she would need for the spells she was about to cast.

Dawn was grateful that Giles had translated many of his spell books during the time when Buffy was in college, as it had made it much easier to find the proper combination of spells necessary to complete her plan. It was knowledge that had proven to be invaluable in her preparations for the inevitability of this night. All her efforts would soon pay off, she just had to finish drawing the proper symbols on the floor and walls, and then she would be ready to begin.

As she was drawing one of the intricate spell glyphs on the floor, she began to recall the time Tara and Willow had created an alarm spell using similar symbols. Dawn had been unaware of the true reason for the spell at the time, and the memory of Tara caused a wave of sadness to pass through her. She still mourned the tragic loss of the gentle young woman who had been a combination of mother, sister, and friend.

Dawn was grateful that Tara had taken the time to teach her the basic rules and elements of magic. She had proven to be an eager teacher to Dawn's quick study, and the older girl had taught her as much as possible in the short time they had together. These skills were proving to be quite useful on this particular day.

When she had finished with the last of the symbols, Dawn took a moment to double-check everything that she had drawn. Once she was satisfied with the accuracy of her work, she began quietly reciting the first spell.

"Murus silentium.", She said with practiced ease. "Locus tego occulto." She repeated the spell two more times, pronouncing each word carefully to ensure that nothing would go wrong. After a moment there was a brief shimmer along the walls, the sight informing Dawn that the barrier spell was in place. She knew she would soon be finished with her self-appointed task, and then her sister would finally have the peace and resolution that she rightfully deserved.

She calmly walked over to the cot Spike was sleeping on, trying to decide if she wanted to talk to him before she finished her plan. After a few moments mulling over the idea she decided that she had questions she wanted answers to, so she kicked on the closest leg of the cot, rousing the vampire from his slumber.

Spike awoke with a start, and a puzzled and disoriented look crossed his features, but once he realized who was standing before him, he sat up on the makeshift bed, looking directly at Dawn.

"Dawn? What are you doing down here? Is something wrong?", His voice was tinged with a small measure of alarm.

"Yes," Dawn replied, her tone cold and calm, "but I'm here to fix it."

Spike raised an eyebrow at the comment, not exactly sure what to make of it.

"Well now, tell me Niblet, what exactly are you here to fix?", he asked curiously.

"Do you remember what I told you the first day you came back to this house?" Dawn spoke calmly, watching intently as Spike's expression changed from curious to cautious.

"Yeah . . . " he said warily, "What about it?"

"You do know I was serious, right?" Dawn continued, watching as the realization of why she was there quickly became clear to the vampire.

"Now Dawn . . . " As he spoke, he attempted to rise off the bed and stand, only to be stopped by the chains binding him to the wall. He glanced down at the restraints, as if noticing their existence for the first time. "Bloody hell," He muttered, "Forgot about these damn things."

Now ordinarily, Buffy would send someone to unlock them first thing in the morning, but at the moment they were doing a very good job of limiting his movement. So, realizing his predicament, he sat back down on the edge of the small bed, silently mulling over his options as he waited to see what the teenager would do next.

Dawn waited patiently for a few moments, fully expecting Spike to comment further, but when she realized he wasn't going to, she decided that now was as good a time as any to get some answers to the questions that had been plaguing her mind recently. Her first one was blunt, cutting directly to the point.

"Why did you come back, Spike?"

It was a simple question really, but not one that the vampire was expecting. He mentally stumbled a moment, trying to find a direct answer to her unknowingly complex question. In the end however, he settled for his own simplified version of the truth.

"I had to 'Bit," he said seriously, "To show her that things had changed, that I'd changed."

"Why?", Dawn questioned in reply, "Because you thought she would take you back?"

Spike was silent, his expression betraying none of his thoughts on the matter. Although beneath his calm surface appearance, the truth of her words troubled him, causing him to rethink his reasons for returning to Sunnydale.

This time Dawn didn't wait for him to reply, instead pressing on with her next point.

"You came back to town without anyone knowing about it.", Dawn stated simply as she began thinking about the circumstances surrounding Spike's return. "In fact, the only reason Buffy discovered you were back was because she ran into you in the school basement."

She was struck by a thought as she finished, knowing exactly what to ask Spike next.

"If you were so set on making things right with my sister," Dawn began, "Then why didn't you come here when you first came back?"

"I . . .", Spike faltered as he tried to respond. "It's not that simple Niblet."

"Yes, it is." Dawn said with annoyance. "You knew you weren't going to be welcomed back. That's why you hid from everyone."

"I wasn't hiding. It's just . . . I was out of sorts when I got my soul back.", Spike replied, trying feebly to defend himself. "I needed time to clear my head."

"And what, you couldn't be crazy somewhere else?" Dawn felt her anger starting to intensify, causing her to pause a moment to collect herself. "No, that wasn't good enough for you. You had to be insane in the basement of my school, a perfect place for Buffy to eventually find you."

"I didn't plan it that way, 'Bit."

"Don't call me that.", Dawn snapped. "My name is Dawn. I'm not a niblet, platelet, bite-size, or any other type of vampire snack!" She crossed her arms over her chest, adopting a deadly serious expression as she glared at Spike.

For his part, Spike actually seemed shocked by Dawn's outburst. He visibly paused, knowing that he would have to carefully choose his next few words, or risk further antagonizing the young woman. Given his current set of circumstances, he knew that it would be safer if he kept quiet, but by the way that Dawn was regarding him, it was clear that she expected some sort of acknowledgment from him.

"Um, alright then." He replied respectfully. "Dawn it is."

Dawn said nothing in return, merely glaring at him for a moment before turning around and walking over to her backpack, sitting down next to it and closing her eyes.

She began chanting in a voice too low for Spike to hear, even with his vampire senses. The symbols that she had drawn earlier began to glow with a faint blue light, causing Spike to finally notice their existence. He regarded the walls with cautious curiosity, trying to discern exactly what the markings were meant to do.

Slowly, Spike began to recognize the symbols. "You've created some kind of mystical barrier."

"That's right.", Dawn replied with a tone of mock approval, "After all, I can't have you trying to escape."

"Escape from what exactly?" Spike was trying to get more information from the slayer's sister, hoping to learn just what sort of fate the young woman had planned out for him.

Instead of answering him, Dawn simply reached into her backpack, removing from it a small, pistol-sized crossbow. She held it with a familiar grasp as she stood, once again facing off with the captive, yet still dangerous, vampire.

"What do you plan on doing with that?" Spike did his best to hide the concern from his voice.

"Nothing really," Dawn stated calmly, "Just following through on a promise."

"A promise?", Spike asked curiously. "What promise?"

"To protect my sister." Dawn replied matter-of-factly, "No matter what the consequences." She raised the crossbow as she finished speaking, aiming it directly at the vampire's chest.

"Now, hold on just a minute!", Spike said with alarm. He put his hands out in a defensive posture, making every effort to block Dawn's aim.

"No," Dawn said purposefully, "I don't think I will." And with that, she pulled the trigger.

The crossbow bolt launched with surprising speed, and though Spike tried to catch it, the chains holding him to the wall slowed his movement just enough to make him miss. The bolt imbedded itself deeply in his chest, just missing the edge of his heart. He yelped in surprise and pain, quickly grabbing the end of the bolt, fully intending to dislodge it from his chest.

Yet to his surprise and concern, it refused to budge.

"Don't waste your time." Dawn informed him coolly as she returned the crossbow to her backpack. "It's enchanted. You can't remove it unless I say so."

"Then say so!" Spike replied, obviously in a great degree of pain. "Damn it, this isn't funny!"

"You're right. It isn't funny." Dawn agreed, "But it is fair." She snapped her fingers, and the crossbow bolt began glowing a deep crimson hue.

"Wait, what are you doing!" Spike was now past alarm, and had moved into full-on panic mode.

"Restoring the balance.", Dawn replied, watching with interest as the glow began to spread across the vampire's pale white skin, causing it to crack like a pane of glass.

Spike realized what was about to happen, and his survival instincts kicked in. He pulled at the chains binding him to the wall, trying his best to break them. "Buffy! Anybody!" He screamed out in panic, "Dawn's gone off the deep end! She's trying to kill me!" Spike knew he sounded scared, but at this point, he didn't care what he sounded like.

Dawn simply let him scream for help as she picked up her backpack and backed away toward the stairs, knowing full well that the spells she had cast earlier would keep anyone from hearing what was happening in the basement. Her plan was almost complete, but she wanted to make sure that it ended properly before she left the basement.

Spike had returned to pulling on the chains, trying his best to dislodge them from the wall. All of a sudden he stopped, and turned to face Dawn. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came forth. He raised his hand to look at it, and watched as it slowly started to disintegrate. The rest of his body seemed to quickly follow suit, the effect being like somebody had staked him and then slowed down time, so it appeared that he was turning to dust in slow motion.

Dawn watched the scene unfold with a sense of satisfaction, knowing that she had finally done the one thing that Buffy could not. She was setting things right for her sister, removing this burden from upon the Slayer's weary shoulders.

As she watched the last of the vampire crumble to dust, Dawn waved her hand in the air and uttered a simple cleaning spell, removing all traces of the vampire's remains. She then calmly walked up the stairs, removing the barrier spell and exiting the basement. It had been an eventful night, and Dawn was pleased with the way that things had turned out.

She smiled to herself as she walked upstairs, feeling as if a great weight had been lifted from her heart. She knew that there would be questions to answer tomorrow, but the thought of that didn't disturb her in the least.

All that mattered was the well being of her sister.

THE END


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