Disclaimer: I do not, and do not claim, to own these characters.
A/N: Originally written for Fag End's Halloween 2014 Zombie Uprising challenge (yeah) for the prompt "O Tempora! O Mores!."
She finds Spike on the couch when she gets back from Janice's. He's sunk into the cushions with a mug in one hand and one leg propped up on the coffee table like Willow's been telling him to stop doing. The box of graham crackers is open on the table by his boot and almost empty, even though it was more than half full when she left for school this morning. Eating all their food is another thing Willow's been telling him to stop doing recently.
"Hey." Dawn drops her bag on the table by the door and, after a glance in the direction of the stairs to see that the hall light up there is off, she walks over to the end of the sofa. "Willow and Tara aren't here?"
"No. Just me."
Spike tilts his head at her. "Disappointed, are we?"
He grins a little bit, but she still hurries to correct herself. "No, no. I just thought they were here tonight. I guess I forgot." She does kind of wish they were here. First day of school and everything. She kinda thought Willow would want to talk about that. But she doesn't want Spike to go away, either, or to feel like he's not wanted. She's pretty sure he's been feeling like that all summer.
At least he can do helpful stuff, like patrol and everything. But who wants to babysit the kid who got her sister killed?
He's kind of got it backwards.
"Wiccas left you some food, though," Spike says. "There's a note on the fridge."
"Oh, cool," says Dawn, even though she actually wanted pizza.
Spike brushes the graham cracker crumbs off his jeans and onto the carpet, a behaviour Willow has not yet told him to stop but probably only because she hasn't seen him do it, and follows her into the kitchen with his mug.
The post-it doesn't say much at all, just that there's food in the fridge, that she should do her homework, and that they'll see her in the morning. The Tupperware container with the next post-it is full of macaroni and cheese, and Spike takes a seat at the island while she scoops herself a serving (or two) into a microwavable dish.
"So," Dawn says, "my math teacher is, like, one of those old ladies who's super disappointed in 'kids these days.' And it's the first day of class and she's already going on about how none of us have any manners. Nothing's like the back in her day."
"Yeah." She watches the bowl spin a few rotations in the microwave before turning back to Spike. "What's up with that?" she asks.
He blinks. "With what?"
"The whole angry old person 'good old days' thing. You lived through them. Were they actually any good? Because they sound kind of sucky to me."
"I've got good memories of some of those," Spike says, grinning over the rim of his mug. "'course that had nothing to do with manners."
"What, 'cause, like, you used to rob and kill people and stuff?"
His mouth is full, but he raises his eyebrows at her while he swallows as if to say really? He sets the mug down, licks the blood off his upper lip, and says, "You really think I'm coming by money like an honest citizen?"
"You're not even a citizen."
"Well, there you go, then."
The microwave dings and she reaches in to retrieve her dinner, burning her hand a little on the ceramic. "Ow." She flinches back but, undeterred, goes at it again and, trying to hold it with as little as contact as possible, carries her dinner over to the island to sit on the stool beside Spike. She drops the bowl onto the counter a little too hard and it clatters but her dinner stays safe.
"Yeah." Dawn holds out her hand so he can see the lack of any major wound on the heel of her palm. "See? It's not really even red or anything."
When he's apparently satisfied that she's not going to die under his watch, he turns back to his blood. She eats her dinner slowly, blowing on each forkful before putting it in her mouth.
Maybe she should have stayed at Janice's for dinner. Even with Spike here, the house feels painfully empty. Without Willow and Tara to chat with, there's not really anything to keep her mind from going back to all the other meals she had here. Breakfasts and snacks with her mom and with Buffy.
And now those won't ever happen again.
Maybe she kind of gets why old people are so stuck in their happier times.
"Hey," she says and waits until Spike turns to look at her. "What day is it?"
He hesitates for a second, his expression sad and his eyes downcast, but she knows he already knows the answer without thinking. Knows he's been thinking about it too. Knows he's been keeping count more closely than any of them. Because everyone else is still trying to act like the best days aren't already gone.
But Spike knows.
"Hundred and twenty-four."