Spike can tell when Dawn drifts off. Her breathing evens out, and she snores softly, probably due to the congestion caused by her weeping. He stays where he is long enough to ensure she won’t wake if he moves, and then he gently disentangles himself.
He brushes Dawn's hair back from her splotchy cheek and slips out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
Wesley is in the kitchen, wearing jeans that are torn at one knee, and a gray t-shirt with a stain near the hem. He’s barefoot, his hair falling over one eye, and is sitting on the kitchen counter while eating a sandwich, his legs swinging.
He looks like a child, but his eyes are ancient, and Spike likes to think that even if he hadn’t known a grown man lived in that body, he’d still be able to tell Wesley isn’t just a kid.
After all, Spike has run into a fair few child vampires in his day, and as a rule, he thought they were some of the most ruthless bastards he’d encountered.
Save, perhaps, for the Scourge of Europe.
“I put Dawn’s sandwich in the fridge,” Wesley says, wiping a smear of mayonnaise off the corner of his mouth with his thumb and licking it clean. “Is she upset with me?”
“Think it finally hit her,” Spike explains briefly. “That she’s not going home again.”
Wesley winces. “Oh. I thought—well, it’s to be expected. It’s an adjustment for all of us.” His eyes are haunted, and he takes another bite of his sandwich.
Spike glances around the apartment, and he thinks that maybe Buffy would be proud of him, at least a little bit. “This is a good place, innit?”
“It’s decent,” Wesley replies, polishing off his meal. “It could do with some sprucing up, maybe some different furniture, but yeah, it’s all right.”
“You think Buffy would like it?” Spike asks.
Wesley cocks his head and smiles a little sadly. “I think so. You kept your promise, Spike.”
“Not all of them,” Spike replies. “It should have been me who took the dive off that tower.”
Wesley stares down at the floor for a long moment. “Perhaps.” He pauses. “If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go to bed. If you’re going to smoke, you should probably do so outside.”
He disappears into the bedroom that Spike will apparently be sharing with him for the foreseeable future, and Spike shakes his head. Man or child, humans still baffle him sometimes, and Wesley more than most, because he feels so much and says so little.
Spike pats his pockets and comes up with a fag and his lighter, and he steps out onto the tiny balcony. “It’s a strange place to be,” he mutters and takes a drag, letting the smoke out slowly.
The old, familiar guilt rises up, and he takes another furious drag, filling his undead lungs with smoke.
Spike can admit that he’s never been much of a planner. Oh, he’d retrieved the Gem of Amara all right, which took months of careful preparation, but he’d thrown it all away on a half-baked attempt at revenge on the Slayer.
The same thing happened when he tried to get Buffy to see him as a man rather than a monster, or when he tried to stop Doc from cutting Dawn. His impulses rarely did him any favors.
Joining forces with the littlest Watcher made sense for a couple of reasons. Wesley is cool under fire, and he is good at making plans. Plus, Spike knew Wesley and Dawn had grown closer over the summer, and he figured having another human around would be good for Dawn.
Spike figured all he had to do was look like a grownup, make sure Dawn went to school, and keep anybody from hurting her. Nothing more, nothing less.
And then he’d come back to their motel room the other day and smelled blood, and in that moment Spike thought he’d failed all over again.
It turned out okay—he swore a blood oath to both of them—but he realized that he couldn’t just keep Dawn safe.
He has to make her feel safe; he has to let her cry on his shoulder if that’s what she needs.
Spike has to be everything Dawn needs him to be, and he has no idea how to do that, and Wesley can’t help him with this bit.
He closes his eyes and runs through his sins of omission and commission the night Buffy died. Maybe he should have convinced Dawn to run off with Wesley instead of coming with the rest of the gang. Wesley would have done it, and Dawn would have been a hell of a lot safer in Los Angeles, with Wesley's friends.
Buffy probably would have staked him if Spike had orchestrated such a thing, but Buffy would still be alive. That's what mattered.
He's thought of 163 ways to save Buffy, but a fat lot of good that does him now. He has to find a way not to bollocks things up with Dawn, but he's not human; he doesn't really know what she needs or how all of this is going to work.
All Spike has is a promise and his guilt; that will have to be enough somehow.
But tonight finds him antsy to leave, to find a good fight, and he tells himself that it will be fine. Wesley is home, and he’s proven capable.
Right now, Spike needs to vent his guilt on something evil, his own private memorial to the dead Slayer he loves.
Wesley lies awake, too worked up to fall asleep even though he wants the oblivion sleep will bring. He can’t stop thinking about the phone call he made when he grabbed dinner earlier.
He had just enough change to call the hotel, hoping for the answering machine so he could leave a message to let them know he’s fine.
He nearly ended the call when he heard Cordelia’s voice saying, “You’ve reached Angel Investigations, we help the helpless. What can we do for you?”
“It’s me,” Wesley admits after a long pause.
“Wesley?” Cordelia nearly screeches, causing Wesley to hold the receiver away from his ear. “Where the hell are you?”
“That’s not important,” Wesley replies. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m safe and well. How was Sunnydale?”
Cordy sighs audibly. “It wasn’t good. There’s no sign anybody survived, and Giles agreed.”
“Giles was there?” Wesley asks. “Did you tell him anything?”
“I didn’t have a choice,” Cordelia replies. “He was pretty broken up, Wes. I couldn’t let him think that Dawn was dead.”
Wesley swallows. "No, I suppose you couldn't. It's just—he can trace us, Cordy, and if he brings in my parents, or Social Services..."
"Your parents think you're dead," Cordelia interrupts. "Giles said they held a memorial service for you."
That’s one less thing to worry about, but it doesn’t mean Giles won’t try to split Dawn and Spike up. "What about Dawn?"
"I told him that I didn't know where you guys were going, but that she'd be safe with you," Cordelia replies. "Are you guys safe?"
Wesley lets out a breath. "Yeah, we're safe, and soon to be safer still. How are things there?"
"Angel was pissed," Cordelia says bluntly. "But you knew he would be."
Wesley scowls. "He was the one who abandoned me."
"I know." Her tone gentles. "Will you have Dawn at least call Giles? To reassure him?"
"I'm at a payphone right now," Wesley replies. "And I don't have anything to write with. But I'll call some other time. I just—don't want to speak with anybody else."
Cordelia sighs. "I'll do what I can. Look, Wes, it's probably for the best that you aren't here. There's a lot going on, and a couple of people from Angel's past turned up. It's dangerous."
Wesley wants to point out that things had always been dangerous, and that he’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself, but that isn’t really the point.
The point is that they wouldn't let him take care of himself, or anybody else, because they see a child when they look at him.
Spike and Dawn, on the other hand, see him for who he really is.
"I'd offer to help, but you have all my books," Wesley says, but as a joke, it falls flat, and the phone beeps at him, telling him that he needs to put in more money. "I have to go."
"Call soon!" Cordelia orders.
"Goodbye," Wesley replies, making no promises, and hangs up.
He wishes he knew exactly who from Angel's past had appeared, but perhaps it's better that he doesn't. Wesley feels guilty enough already for leaving. No matter how they'd treated him, no matter how untenable his position had become, they had been the closest thing to family he would claim.
And, as he lies in the darkness, hands behind his head, his heart aches—for his friends, for Dawn, and for the life he left behind.
Dawn wakes sometime after midnight with a headache and dry, swollen eyes. She hates crying, and she hates it when she cries herself to sleep. She always feels so crappy afterward.
This time is no different, and she slips out of her bedroom and into the bathroom, splashing cold water on her face. The door to the other bedroom is closed, and Dawn feels a surge of disappointment.
She needs to talk to Wesley. If nothing else, he needs to know she doesn't hold any of this against him.
Dawn remembers Spike had said something earlier about Wesley going out for food, and she checks the fridge to find a wrapped deli sandwich. It's ham and Swiss, which isn't her favorite, but it's not like he had an opportunity to ask her.
Dawn eats it over the sink, feeling the silence of the apartment press in around her.
She suddenly feels very, very alone.
"Did you find the sandwich?"
Dawn jumps and lets out a little scream at the sound of Wes' voice. "You scared me!”
“Sorry about that,” Wesley replies immediately. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Dawn shakes her head. “Where’s Spike?”
“I don’t know,” Wesley admits. “I was going to try to sleep, and I told him he should smoke outside if that’s what he wanted to do.”
She glances over at the small balcony, but the door is tightly shut, and there’s no sign of Spike through the glass. “He probably went hunting or something. He’s been cooped up even more than we have.”
The silence hangs, but not uncomfortably, and Dawn finishes her sandwich. “It was good. Thanks.”
“Of course.” Wesley clears his throat. “Dawn, I’m sorry if—”
“Don’t.” She cuts him off quickly. “It’s not your fault that you have long lost family and I don’t.”
Wesley’s expression is stricken. “We could look. Maybe—”
Dawn’s already shaking her head. “They wouldn’t let me stay with Spike, you know that.”
“I do know that,” Wesley admits. “But still…”
Dawn bites her lip. “Do you think it’s something about me?”
Wesley frowns. “What about you?”
“Do you think there’s something wrong with me?” Dawn asks. “First Mom, then Buffy, and now—they’re all dead because of me. Why am I the only person who made it out alive?”
She truly doesn’t understand why she should be alive when everyone she’d known—everyone she’d loved—isn’t. At least, not so far as she knows.
Wesley stares down at the floor for a long moment, impossibly young, and impossibly old all at once.
Dawn realizes that they remind her of each other—the ageless Spike and the de-aged Wesley—all of them outsiders, misfits.
Maybe that’s why the three of them fit together so well.
“Sometimes we survive because we make the right choice, or because someone else makes it for us,” Wesley says finally. “And sometimes it’s because it’s the hard choice, one that no one else wants to make. And sometimes it’s sheer, boneheaded luck. For us, it’s probably all three at once.”
Dawn feels a lump form in her throat, and she nods, unable to find the words to reply.
He clears his throat. “I called Cordelia while I was out. She said that Giles knows you’re alive and with Spike and me, but she didn’t tell him where we were. She thought you should call him.”
Dawn has never had a relationship with Buffy’s Watcher. He’d always belonged to Buffy, and to a lesser extent, the Scoobies. That point had been driven home when he left her in Sunnydale with Buffy’s friends.
Giles hadn’t wanted her, and Dawn doesn’t think that’s changed.
“Maybe when things are more settled here,” Dawn says. “If we have a means of supporting ourselves, and a place to live, and I’m in school, he wouldn’t have much reason to track me down.”
Wesley shrugs. “Maybe he’d just like to hear from you.”
“Or maybe he just wants to make himself feel better for leaving Sunnydale, and this is how he does it,” she shoots back, the depth of her anger startling and raw.
She realizes that she kind of hates him, that as much as she blames herself, she blames him, too.
Wesley’s smile is surprising. “I feel the same toward Angel, you know.”
Dawn almost laughs. “That’s us—living on the Island of Misfit Toys.”
Wesley approaches hesitantly, touching her shoulder, and then pulling her into a hug. He’s shorter than her by a good few inches, but she knows that won’t last.
It’s strange to think that she knows what Wesley will be like when he grows up—even what he’ll look like—when she feels so unformed and uncertain. But he holds her the way Spike held her earlier, providing some measure of comfort, and Dawn takes a deep breath.
She has Spike, and she has Wesley, and that’s no small thing in the face of all she’s lost.