“Here we are,” Abigail says briskly as she unlocks the door to the apartment and pushes it open, allowing Wesley and Dawn to precede her inside, leaving Spike out in the rather barren hallway. “Wesley.”
He turns and she tosses him the keys. “Come in, Spike,” Wesley says immediately, removing the barrier that would prevent Spike from entering.
“Now, one of the members of my coven is the building manager here,” Abigail says. “And I had to make some fairly serious vows to ensure her that having a vampire on the premises wouldn’t come back to bite her. Don’t make a liar out of me.”
“I wouldn’t,” Wesley insists. “Spike might not be harmless, but he won’t present a danger to humans.”
Spike shoves his hands deep in his pockets. “Unless they go after the Bit or short stuff here, I won’t lay a finger on them.”
“Fair enough,” Abigail admits. “I asked around about furnishings, so the place isn’t completely bare. I also spoke with my mother, and she’d like to see you sooner rather than later. The rent is paid up for six months, and we’ll cover expenses until you can come to a satisfactory agreement with her.”
Wesley straightens his shoulders. “We’re a package deal, the three of us. I swore an oath.”
“We take oaths very seriously, Wesley,” Abigail promises. “I’m afraid I have to get to class, so I’ll leave you to settle in. I’ll be by tomorrow.”
Wesley shows her to the door, leaving Dawn and Spike to wander around. Dawn has no idea what Spike thinks of all this, but she’s still a little shell shocked.
Ever since the demons rolled into town, they’ve been on the move—from her house, to Spike’s crypt, to Angel’s hotel, and then up to Seattle. She doesn’t have much to unpack, granted, but the idea of staying somewhere for any length of time unsettles her.
If they stay here, it means there really isn’t any going back.
The apartment isn’t much to look at—beige walls and beige carpet, without any homey touches. The couch is an old chintz affair in peach and mint green, and there’s one of those round wicker chairs with a teal cushion and a couple of throw pillows in a lurid shade of pink.
There’s a small kitchen, one bathroom, and two bedrooms. One of the bedrooms has a daybed, probably for a girl younger than Dawn, but there’s a trundle set up on the other side of the room. The second bedroom has a single twin bed. There are heavy blankets over all the windows, making it safe for Spike.
Dawn clutches the straps of her backpack. They’d brought all their stuff up from the car, not that there’s much, and it’s not going to take much time to unpack.
“Spike and I can share a room, unless you’d prefer otherwise,” Wesley offers.
Dawn starts. “Oh. Yeah. That would—that’s great.”
“Are you okay?” Wesley asks. “I know it’s not much, but—”
Dawn forces a smile. “It’s great, Wes. It’s clean, it’s safe, and we’re together. Those are the important things.”
Wesley gives her a searching look. “I suppose so. It’s late enough, so we can probably go look for some things. Spike thinks he might know a place to go dumpster diving for the things we need but don’t have yet since we aren’t sure how much money we’ll have to live on.”
“What was the thing about your grandmother?” Dawn asks.
Wesley flushes. “Oh, uh, Aunt Abigail mentioned that she’d made provisions for my mum, but since she’d married someone who wasn’t in good stead with the coven, Mum couldn’t access it. She might let me have it for my—our—support. It depends on how our meeting goes.”
Dawn isn’t sure why she suddenly has a lump in her throat. “That’s great.”
“Hey,” Wesley says, putting a hand on her arm. “Dawn, this is for us. I swore an oath.”
Dawn nods. “I know. I know you did, and I trust you to keep it. I—that’s not the problem. I just—there’s a lot right now, and…”
“Of course,” Wesley says immediately. “Why don’t I go check on our food supplies, and then I’ll start making a list of what we might need while you get settled?”
Dawn lets out a breath. “That would be great.”
“You want this room?” Wes presses.
“Yes,” Dawn replies. “Thanks.”
Wesley shrugs. “I don’t mind sharing with Spike. We probably won’t be sleeping at the same time most of the time.”
Dawn nods. “Thanks.”
She steps inside the room and closes the door behind her, trying not to think about how long it’s been since she had this kind of privacy. There’s a bed and a closet with a few shelves in it, but that’s it, and Dawn pulls the few clothes she has from her backpack and carefully folds them and places them on the shelf.
Dawn stacks her two books next to the bed and wishes she had some tacks or tape or something to stick her photos on the wall.
She goes to the window and pulls down the blanket tacked over it, since it’s past sundown. But if it’s her room, Spike won’t need it, or the heavy-duty tacks that hold the blanket up, and she uses them to put up the pictures next to her bed.
Dawn lies down. Someone, maybe Abigail, maybe her friends, donated clean sheets and a blue fleece blanket that smells of lavender.
She curls around the single pillow and presses her face into it, her breath beginning to hitch. Dawn smothers her sobs in the pillow, and she can’t even say why she’s crying.
They’re safe, they’re in a good place, there’s a promise of support, they can stay.
Dawn sobs harder, muffling the sounds she’s making as best she can. Spike will know, and Wes probably will too, but Spike has always been good about letting her have space to just be, and Wes…
Well, she can’t bear to see Wesley right now, even though he’s her friend, and she’s grateful to him.
Spike doesn’t knock before he slips inside, but there’s no light coming in from outside, other than the streetlights.
“Wes went to get food,” Spike says. “Abigail put some stuff in the fridge, but neither of us know what to do with it. She didn’t leave any cookbooks.”
Dawn curls up tighter. “Go away.”
“Wes thought you might take it better if it was me in here,” Spike replies, and she can feel the edge of the bed dip. “Thought it might be something he did.”
There’s the distant sound of a closing door, and Dawn realizes that had been Wes, and they’re alone.
She’s alone with Spike, and she feels his hand on her back, and then he starts to stroke her hair, which just makes her cry that much harder.
“Dawn, luv,” Spike says, sounding helpless. “Come on, don’t cry.”
“I can’t help it,” she sobs.
Spike’s head rests on her head, and then he’s pulling at her until her face is pressed into his t-shirt, and she’s soaking it with her tears. “I’m sorry,” she manages to say.
Spike doesn’t respond to that, just strokes her hair and her back, and eventually Dawn’s sobs taper off, and she wipes her snotty nose on the hem of her t-shirt.
He doesn’t say anything about that either.
“What happened?” Spike finally asks.
“It hit me,” Dawn admits. “We’re here, we’re not leaving, and I’m probably never going to see Sunnydale again.”
Spike gives her a steady look. “Never say never, Bit.”
“And Wes gets here and he has an aunt and a grandmother, and apparently an entire coven that’s willing to be his family, and I don’t have anybody,” Dawn confesses in a rush, her tears flowing again. “How awful am I?” Dawn chokes out. “I can’t even be happy for my friend.”
“You’re not awful,” Spike replies. “You miss your home, and it’s hitting you that you’re not going to get it back.”
Dawn takes a deep hiccupping breath. “But you and Wes are my family. It doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter.”
Spike glances at the tacked up pictures, and with one finger, he traces Buffy’s face. “It matters.”
Dawn gulps down another sob. “Does Wesley hate me?”
“He’s worried about you,” Spike counters.
“How come you’re so smart?” Dawn asks.
Spike cups her cheek, and he says, “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, about what I need to do for you. I made a promise to your sister, but that promise doesn’t stop at just making sure you’re still alive. It means making sure you’re okay, and I swore a blood oath on that.”
“I’m okay,” Dawn insists, and when Spike gives her a look that’s frankly disbelieving, she adds, “I will be. Eventually.”
Spike settles down on the bed, and when Dawn cuddles up next to him, he doesn’t protest or push her away. Instead, he says, “You lost a lot. There are a lot of ghosts to contend with.”
Dawn closes her eyes and presses her face into Spike’s chest, and allows him to stroke her hair. Maybe soon she’ll be able to be happy for Wesley, will be able to feel grateful for what they have, rather than being overwhelmed by what she’s lost.
Right now, though, Dawn mourns for the ghosts of a life she’d known.