Author: Kristen

Series Title: Balancing Acts 3/?

Chapter Title: Decisions


Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters from Buffy. Does anyone else find disclaimers depressing?

Rating: PG-13 for a couple swear words

Spoilers: Set after Season 6 for Buffy.

Summary: Dawn finds out exactly what Buffy's got in mind for her punishment.

AN: Just one more non-crossover interlude. I promise the next one will be a crossover chapter. By the way, any fandom requests? I may not be able to do all of them but don't be afraid to ask.


"I have to do what?"

"You have to work the rest of the summer undoing other people's wishes," Buffy repeated with calm in the face of her sister's irritation. Buffy was sitting casually on the couch as if she had just remarked on the good weather they were having and not Dawn's upcoming punishment.

"That's what I thought you said, but you can't be serious, Buffy!" Dawn's voice was loud with disbelief. "You can't turn me into a balance demon. What kind of warped punishment is that?"

Dawn started pacing around the living room. "No," she shook her head and then began the standard teenage negotiations to get out of an unwanted punishment. "Ground me, stop training me, take away anything you want," she turned to face Buffy again then continued, "but don't make me do this," she pleaded.

"It's already done," Buffy said. "Besides you won't be a balance demon, there's procedures and paperwork…" she trailed off thinking of the rigmarole involved in actually becoming a balance demon before getting back on track. "It's no different than you working in the Magic Box; it's just a slightly different job. You'll only be granted the powers of a balance demon for the rest of the summer not actually be turned into one. It's more like an internship than anything. It's not permanent and you'd know that if you had listened to me when I said it the first time."

"But Buffy, surely this qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment?" Dawn whined.

Buffy rolled her eyes. For the millionth time she wished Mom hadn't died and left her in charge of Dawn. Surely she hadn't been this bad as a teenager, had she? Buffy looked back over the years and winced. This was Karma she knew it. Stupid Karma.

Dawn got to her knees and gave it one last effort. She let her lower lip tremble and brought out the puppy eyes that always worked on Spike. Her sister was obviously heartless because she remained unmoved.

"Honestly Dawn, you're acting like I've condemned you to hell. It won't be that bad. And maybe it'll finally teach you to quit saying the W word when you see what harm it does firsthand."

"But surely I've been punished enough? I've learned my lesson. I swear I have! D'Hoffryn scared me straight, I'll never do it again!" Dawn shuddered in remembrance of the two weeks she had recently spent overhauling D'Hoffryn's filing system while working as his personal assistant and being forced to listen to his stories of the vengeance he'd handed out. Some of those stories made the ones she'd overheard Anya tell seem like fluffy fairy tales. That was definitely cruel and unusual punishment. She was going to be scarred for life and she told Buffy so.

"Good grief, quit being so dramatic."

"But it was that bad Buffy. And now you want me to do this? Who knows what horrors I'll be subjected to?" Dawn said as abandoned her begging stance and flopped onto the couch next to Buffy in the standard dramatic pose every teenager seemed to know instinctively when faced with something they didn't want to do.

"Dawn, it's an internship. I've negotiated things very carefully. You won't be undoing any wishes high on the magnitude scale. Besides…" Buffy sighed, turning serious. "This will give you a chance to really think about things. I am training you, Dawn but it hasn't gone any farther than defense. This life, always fighting, it's hard Dawn. You're going to face some horrible things, have to make hard choices." Buffy's throat tightened thinking of the hard choices she'd been forced to make since she became a Slayer. "I want a better life for you. You don't have to do this. You can still get out. So I want you to do this, not just as a punishment, but as a taste of what you're getting into if you decide you want to be a part of all this," Buffy said as she waved her hand around the living room where weapons were laid on the coffee table and spilling out of the weapons chest, books were piled haphazardly on the floor and stands from the last research session and still more were on the shelves. Books about spells, and demons, prophecies and other dimensions. Newly carved stakes were piled nearby in preparation for tonight's patrol.

"You should see what you're up against and these wishes you'll be undoing are just a taste of what we're fighting, what can happen. I've tried to shelter you, Dawn and there are things that I've faced that you don't know about. I've never wanted this life for you, but it's your life and your choice so I want you to be really sure when you make it," Buffy said earnestly. "You need to be really sure about what you're getting into. There's no going back so I want you to do this, Dawn, and promise me you'll really think about this before you make your decision to be a full-fledged Scooby, all right?"

Suddenly Dawn was unsure. She thought she had always wanted to be a Scooby. She had hated feeling left out and like an unwanted nuisance in their little game. But now she really listened to what Buffy was saying and Dawn was starting to feel a bit scared. Suddenly, this was a lot more serious than she had ever imagined it to be. Looking back, she realized that this life was hard on all of them. They all had old, weary eyes as if they had seen and done too much. They walked around sometimes as if the weight of the world was on their shoulders and Dawn was suddenly realizing that it was.

She looked into Buffy's steady gaze and noticed how tired she seemed. There was a world of pain and experiences there that Dawn knew nothing about. Buffy seemed to have lived three lifetimes in the span of seven years and looked to be resigned to living three lifetimes more. As if she knew what Dawn was seeing a mask fell over Buffy's eyes, replaced with concern. "Promise me, you'll really take the time to think."

Still unsettled by her realizations Dawn wordlessly nodded.

"Good," Buffy said and patted Dawn's knee as she rose. "You don't have to leave until Monday so that gives me the rest of the weekend to knock you about the backyard." She stopped then lifted a hand to her lips in fake remorse. "Oops!" she said. Buffy smirked then walked out of the room with the words trailing over her shoulder, "I meant train, of course."

"Buffy!" Dawn yelled in exasperation. She shook her head then rose to follow Buffy with a small smile. Let Buffy enjoy herself. It was nice to see that world weary, resigned look replaced with amusement, even if it was at Dawn's expense. Besides, she'd wipe it off soon enough. Dawn had a new move she'd been wanting to try, guaranteed to bring her sister down for just a second, or so she'd heard.

Dawn had actually tuned in to D'Hoffryn's ramblings once when he went on about his glory days and a wish he'd granted to a Watcher. The Watcher had wished to see his Slayer brought low because she hadn't been listening to him. So D'Hoffryn had sent in a vampire and he mentioned one of the moves the vampire used to bring the Slayer down. The Slayer had died and the Watcher had been struck by remorse in his unthinking words too late to do anything about it.

Dawn had been royally pissed off at one more story of how the Watchers were ruining the lives of the Slayers, by trying to keep them under the Council's thumb but she had taken note of the move. If it worked on a Slayer once, it could probably work on vampires and demons too.

Right now Dawn just wanted to see if it would work on a Slayer like D'Hoffryn said it once did. It would be nice if Buffy were the one flipped to the hard ground for once, she thought wistfully as she headed out to the backyard with a bounce in her step.

End Decisions

Next up, Dawn gets her first assignment.