Author's Chapter Notes:
Thank you so much to LadyForAsh and Kayt Arminta for betaing.
Single quotes are thoughts.
Chapter 2 - Dawn

"I have to tell Dawn, Spike, before Xander and Willow get her all upset, thinking I'm keeping secrets from them...ahh..." Buffy gasped, as Spike nuzzled the scar on her neck, and his hands started wandering. Swatting his hands away, she frowned at him determinedly, "It needs to be now, Spike. Stop distracting me, or she'll get an earful from them."

"I'll be there with you, yeah?" Spike leaned in again to kiss his way up her neck to her jaw line.

"No." Pulling back, Buffy looked earnestly into his eyes to ask him to understand, to not be hurt by her refusal.

"I've never really explained to her what happened between us last year. I couldn't bear to. You were gone, and it hurt too much to talk about you... fearing that I'd driven you to it...not being able to believe you'd done it even if I had... fearing you'd never come back. I would have broken down in front of her. I couldn't do that. I had to be strong for her. I just couldn't talk about it. Now it's biting me in the ass. She doesn't understand. All she's ever heard is Xander's side of it, not mine or yours. I need to make that up to her."

"God, Buffy, I'm so sorry for all of that, I'll never forgive myself." Spike's face crumpled in grief in remembrance of ‘hurting the girl'.

"No, Spike, no William, no," Buffy hushed him, kissing his eyelids as tears escaped. "Listen to me," she whispered, "I'm so very sorry. I'll never forgive myself for hurting you. For using you. For breaking you. For being too cowardly to own up to my feelings for you...please stop, baby," and tears slipped down her cheeks as well.

Spike looked into Buffy's eyes and smiled sheepishly. "Couple of right sorry sods we are," he chuckled. She nodded mutely, and feathered a kiss to his trembling lips.

Just then the front door banged open as Dawn arrived home. "Anybody here?" she called.

"I'd better go before Xander spills the beans," Buffy whispered him a last kiss and ran upstairs.

"Hi, Dawnie, come up to my room. I have something to tell you," Buffy quickly ushered Dawn past a group of chattering potentials that were coming down the stairs, all discussing Daywalkers, what it could mean, and clamoring for answers from Buffy.

With the door locked, Buffy sat on her bed with Dawn. "How was your day?" Buffy stalled.

"Same old same old," shrugged Dawn, and beckoning to the locked door with her thumb asked curiously, "What's going on with them?"

Sighing, feeling dread for the upcoming talk, "Oh, they're just trying to figure out what I haven't told them. I wanted to tell you first," Buffy wished she had just started in, instead of waffling.

"So? Tell me already." Dawn shook back her long brown hair and looked expectantly at her sister.

"Dawn. You know I love Spike, right?" Buffy bit her lower lip, still hesitating.

"I figured as much these past few weeks. Though I don't see how you can after what he did," Dawn scowled and folded her arms. ‘After what he did...leaving me high and dry after being my anchor when Buffy was dead, telling me he'd always be there, making me believe he'd always be there, then dropping me flat when Buffy came back to life...and on top of all that, he hurt her and then disappeared completely.'

Looking stricken, Buffy said, "I never told you about it. I'm sorry. It just hurt too much that I had driven him away. I couldn't talk about it."

"YOU drove him away? What he did..." Dawn started, jumping up and pacing back and forth, working herself into a rage.

"No, Dawn. Listen. Last year I dragged through life. All I could think about was the peace I had lost in losing Heaven. I was so very tired before I died. I felt dead after I came back. The only time I felt alive at all, was when I was with Spike. And so I used him to make me feel alive. He loved me, and I used him. I broke his heart, and told him I couldn't ever love him, when I already did; I was just too stubborn and afraid to admit it, even to myself. I told him ‘no', and ‘stop' when I meant ‘yes'...said no with my mouth, but jumped him at the same time...said ‘no' even as I attacked him. Oh God, I beat him up repeatedly. He put up with it, trying to help me, trying to heal me, and all I did was destroy him..." Buffy's trembling voice broke down completely as she burst into tears.

Dawn stared at Buffy with surprise and disgust; then slowly sank down onto the bed. So...this made sense. This explained a lot of things over the past year. Little Miss Perfect Slayer wasn't so perfect after all. In fact she had a lot to answer for.

Buffy sniffed and hiccupped, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. "That day, a demon had hurt me, and I meant ‘no', but after all my no/yes's in the past, Spike didn't realize it. He broke, and tried to make me admit that I loved him. When I got through to him that this time I did mean ‘no', he was horrified at what he'd tried to do. He turned and ran out. That's when he left Sunnydale, and went to Africa to win his soul."

Face reddening with returning anger, Dawn jumped up again, hands on hips, and glared at Buffy, for she had mourned the loss of Spike almost as much as Buffy had. She'd mourned the loss of their friendship, of his support. She had missed his snarky humor, his stories of the many things he had seen and done during his life, and his help with her school work. Most of all she had felt betrayed by him. She had loved him, and he had hurt her sister. "Why didn't you tell me when he came back, so I could make up with him? How could you just leave me in the dark that way? You knew how much I loved him, and how much it hurt me to think that he tried to rape you!" Dawn cried.

Buffy sighed and looked down, studying her hands. "I don't know why. I've just been so distracted with The First, that I haven't been able to think about anything else."

"As always, I'm the last one you think about," Dawn pouted. "Things never change." Sitting back down, she folded her arms and laid her head on them. ‘They never change. What's the use in thinking they ever will?' She moaned to herself. When Buffy touched her shoulder, she jerked away and stood up to walk over to the window and look out.

Buffy closed her eyes and said softly, "I'm sorry I never told you, Dawn. I'm sorry I let you think the worst of Spike." She felt shame at how she'd let her sister treat the man she loved; and that she'd closed her eyes to Dawn's pain over the situation as well.

"I've wronged both you and Spike. He loves you too. It's hurt him to be estranged from you. I've seen the pain on his face when he looks at you. Please, Dawnie, I'm trying to change. I've been a bad sister since Willow brought me back, but I was trying way back then, too. I tried to be strong for you, to not let you see how much I was hurting, because I was afraid that you'd think I didn't want to be here with you. I love you, and I did want to be with you. It was the rest of my life I couldn't handle, couldn't stand.

Reluctantly, Dawn walked back to the bed and sat down. ‘Idiot sister,' she thought. ‘Always thinks she has to be the strong, silent type.' Relenting, she put her arm around her dejected sister, "Well, OK, I guess. You've always sucked when it came to talking about your feelings. You do realize you owe me big time for this, don't you? I'm thinking major shopping spree here to win my forgiveness."

Buffy snorted and laughed, relieved that Dawn was talking forgiveness, not retribution, and not screaming at the top of her lungs, "Get out, get out, get out!"

Dawn continued, "From now on, you let me into your life. Tell me what's going on with you! You're hurting both of us when you shut me out. There's no need to be strong for me. We'll be strong for each other."

Buffy nodded. She wasn't used to letting Dawn read her the riot act, but she guessed she deserved it. Dawn was growing up. She'd brought Dawn upstairs expecting childish outbursts and recriminations, and instead got a mature response. A load lifted from Buffy's shoulders. Perhaps now there were two people that could help her carry the burden of life as a Slayer. She smiled tremulously, and stroked Dawn's hair, "Thank you, Dawnie, I'll need your strength."

Dawn nodded emphatically, then returned to the former topic, and seethed with resentment. "Why did Xander have to tell everyone, anyway? He didn't even get it right, and it wasn't any of his business! He ruined my relationship with Spike, because as usual, you didn't even tell me about it!" Dawn's face crumpled into a pout again.

Sighing again, Buffy rubbed the back of her neck, and admitted, "Xander has never been unbiased when it comes to Spike. But in fairness to him, I never told him the whole story, either. I've never told anyone before," Buffy doubted she'd ever get around to telling the rest of them. ‘It was in the past, and like Dawn said, none of their business, anyway. If Spike and Dawn can forgive me, they're the ones that matter.'

Dawn brooded about that for a moment, until a new thought occurred to her, "Why, you took me to Spike for protection right after it happened, and I ended up with Clem because Spike was already gone!" Dawn looked at Buffy in surprise as she realized that even then, directly after Spike had attacked her, Buffy had still trusted him to keep her safe. ‘I'm going to have a long talk with Xander,' Dawn vowed to herself.

"Yes. Even then I trusted him. Why it took me so long to admit it, I'll never know."

Buffy looked so heartsick that Dawn let her resentment fall away and she laughed and hugged her. "Because you're an idiot. But you finally left denial land and love Spike. Things will be better, right? You'll be happy now?"

"Things are better, and I am so happy! I have so much more to tell you, Dawn, and the rest is really happy!" Buffy's countenance changed to one of joy. "Spike and I have mated. That means getting married vampire style. We're going to be married legally, too."

Dawn's eyes grew big and her mouth dropped open, for a moment caught with the thought, ‘Whoa, big change from last year's "sleeping with a vampire you hate."' Seeing Buffy's hopeful look, however, she squealed and hugged her again. "But how can a dead guy be married legally?"

"Well, as legally as possible. He has some computer whiz contacts that inserted him as a descendant of himself in the birth records in England awhile ago. He already has a current birth certificate and driver's license. And I always thought planning wasn't his strong suit. Sometimes he amazes me." Buffy shook her head. "Anyway, our problems with Social Services are over! With Spike and I married, and financially OK - did I tell you he has money?!? They won't be able to interfere anymore, and you can have your shopping spree!"

"But that's not all," Buffy continued as Dawn bounced on the bed, squealed and ‘wahoo-ed.' "When a vampire mates, if they both truly love each other, their physical abilities are doubled and doubled again, and they gain the personality strengths and defenses of each other as well! Likewise, though, if they don't really love each other, they get the other's weaknesses instead, so you have to be sure before risking it. Anyway, we're both much stronger now, have each other's senses, and are really hard to kill..." and Buffy shared her joy with her sister; her sister who had loved Spike even before she did.

Later, placing her hand on Dawn's forearm, Buffy asked, "Do you need to hash things out with Spike?" She surprised herself by realizing that just because she and Dawn had made peace with each other; it didn't necessarily mean that all was well with Dawn and Spike. ‘Since when did I become all ‘insight girl'?' Shaking her head at herself, she realized that this could be a new facet of her personality, one likely from Spike. He'd always been ‘insight vamp'.

"Yeah, I guess I do." Dawn said, eyes narrowed, as she realized that she wasn't quite ready to set aside all her anger with him.

"After you're finished beating him up, will you send him up here and go get Xander, Willow and Anya for me? We need to tell them, and I'd like you to be here with us when we do. Is that OK? I'm a teensy bit nervous. I think I'll sit here for awhile and hyperventilate." Dawn giggled, nodded and squeezed Buffy's hand before leaving.

‘Now comes the baptism by fire,' thought Buffy. ‘I've always known deep down that Giles would be objective, that he could be brought ‘round eventually, and that Dawn loves Spike too, so would forgive him; but Xander and Willow? Xander especially. He's so rigid in his hatred.' Buffy thought back to the past, how she had been so worried about her friends' opinions about her and Spike, that she had never given the relationship a chance. Now their reactions, while if negative, would hurt her and make her sad, they made no difference in how she would live. It was interesting how "peer pressure" was no longer a deciding factor in her life.


Dawn ran down to the basement, her steps slowing and finally stopping at the bottom of the stairs when she saw Spike sitting on the cot, watching her warily. ‘Ah, little bit,' he thought. ‘Will things ever be right between us again?' He missed the days when Dawn had trusted him. He even thought nostalgically of the dreadful days when Buffy was dead, because Dawn had loved him. Every time he had seen Dawn since his return, his arms had felt empty, aching. He regretted being so caught up in trying to save Buffy last year that he had let his relationship with Dawn languish. Perhaps if he hadn't neglected her, she wouldn't have hated him when things turned arse up.

He stood as she slowly walked towards him, staring him in the face. ‘Do I dare to trust him again?' She wondered, ‘Do I even want to? When he was with Buffy, he didn't have time for me at all. It was like the past summer never existed. And in the end, he had hurt Buffy. On the other hand, I've been totally miserable not trusting him, there's a Spike shaped hole in my life...but he so doesn't need to know that.'

She looked somberly into his face, her eyes sad, and blurted out, "You left me, Spike. When Buffy came back you dropped me like a hot potatoe. It was like I never existed for you." Dawn was appalled that she had immediately accused him of ignoring her instead of hurting Buffy, but it had just burst out. She sank down on the cot, hiding her face in her folded her arms. ‘I might as well cry out loud what a selfish baby I am,' she thought in despair. ‘And crap, I just told him about the Spike shaped hole.'

"Ahh, niblet, I'm so sorry I made you feel that way." Spike gathered her in his arms and onto his lap. Tears overflowed both sets of blue eyes. "Didn't forget you, babe. Buffy was in so much pain that I stupidly put all my efforts into helping her. I thought you'd be fine since she was back; that you needed her, not me. Saw she was desperate, and idiotically thought that I could help. I was useless. She wouldn't take my help, had to heal herself. I only ended up hurting her, and you." In his pain, he rocked them both back and forth.

Initially Dawn sat awkwardly in his arms, mortification at her outburst and hurt over his neglect stiffening her spine. Slowly the ache in Dawn's chest eased as he held her, though, and she relaxed into his embrace. Who knew it would still feel so good to be rocked like a baby, as her mother had done when she was alive. His love surrounded her. She realized that he hadn't forgotten her in his lust for Buffy, like she had thought. He'd seen Buffy's pain, and had tried to help. She may have gotten lost in the shuffle for awhile, but she guessed she could forgive him for that.

After indulging herself in his hug for awhile, Dawn looked up into his face, and smiled tremulously, "I'm happy for you and Buffy. I knew she'd come around someday. No one could resist you forever. I guess I'm happy for me, too. I finally have my big brother back!"

Spike laughed shakily, exhaled raggedly, and embraced her tightly. "I'm so glad to have my lil sis back!" He kissed her on the top of the head.

Dawn felt she still had to warn him, though. She pulled away and added, "She may not deserve it, but don't you hurt her again. If you do, just remember, you still sleep!" She harked back to when he'd first returned with his soul, and she'd threatened, "You sleep, right? You vampires hurt my sister at all, touch her? You're going to wake up on fire." Dawn frowned at him sternly.

Laughing, delighted with her fierceness, he responded, "I'll never hurt the girl again, niblet, promise." Pulling her in for a last hug, he sighed, "Ahh, it's so good to have you back in my arms; I've missed you so bloody much."


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