Three Square Meals
by Twinkledru J.

It was day five, and they had woken around six (he's guessing, of course, because he left his watch in Los Angeles and Dawn's is broken, so to her, it's constantly three-thirty-two) and ridden for an hour and a half before breakfast.

He had never been one to eat much breakfast. Dawn ate breakfast out of habit, because Buffy and Willow always made her.

A couple of people in the diner gave him disapproving looks when they walked in. Theirs was a rather dramatic entrance, of course: the windswept pair riding up, and pulling off their helmets to reveal a British man and a girl half his age. He was a bit young for that midlife crisis to be hitting, but then, this is Southern California.

"Can I get coffee?" Dawn asked. Wesley realized that she was looking at him.

"Whatever you want," he said, glancing down at his menu. As was everything else here, the laminate plastic was covered with a patina of grease; he could make fingerprints on it.

"Diet Coke." Dawn followed Wesley's example, opening her menu.

"I'll have coffee." Wesley didn't look at the waitress. As the woman walked off, Dawn slid out of her seat. "Where are you going?" he asked, without looking at her either.

"Gotta pee," Dawn said. "And I didn't get a chance to wash my face before we left this morning." Her voice was slightly more sulky now.

"I wanted to get going. We can't be long. Be careful."

"And that's different from all the other days how? Geez, what bug crawled up your butt while we were camping last night? Don't worry," she added, and he could hear her rolling her eyes.

Sometimes he got disapproving looks, sometimes he got congratulatory leers. Usually people just ignored them. It was the ones who looked like at him like they knew where he was headed, like they might follow him, that worried him at all.

Los Angeles had still been dark when Dawn showed up, and it had still been dark when the two of them left.

Wesley looked up when Dawn had not returned after a few minutes, and saw her standing at the counter, frozen. Her lips were parted slightly, and her eyes were somewhat wider than usual. He realized that she was listening to a radio that sat on the counter, that the diner was growing quiet. People moved closer to the counter, to the old black radio, and Wesley stood quietly, walked over to Dawn, and guided her away.

He didn't bother to listen to the news reports. He could imagine what was happening. He might not know the details, but he really didn't need to. Everyone was dying, that was the only detail they needed.

"Come on, Dawn," he said gently, holding onto her arm. Dawn put up little resistance, allowing herself to be led away. He handed her her helmet. "We'll stop at a gas station and buy something later, all right?"

Dawn nodded, newly-washed face -- cheeks still slightly red because she'd scrubbed too hard with a paper towel -- grave.


They rode for a few hours, and she clung, as usual, to his jacket, her chin resting on his shoulder, the shape of her helmet barely in his peripheral vision.

The man at the gas station they stopped at jumped when they walked in, and Wesley saw that he was watching the news. Once the man saw that they were just like him and walked in daylight, he turned back to his grainy black-and-white television screen. Dawn looked over Wesley's shoulder, and he turned her away, guiding her towards the snacks.

"Food, Dawn," he prompted. "You haven't eaten since yesterday. At least get some water."

Obediently, the girl grabbed a bottle of water and handed it to him. With a disgusted look at the transfixed attendant, she then snatched a couple of Twinkies off the shelf and shoved them into her pockets. "I'll be outside," she said.

Wesley, two sandwiches under his arm and having said nothing of the petty theft, picked up one of the coffeepots at the front and poured some of the hot liquid into a pair of styrofoam cups. With a final look at the man behind the counter, he just put a five down and walked out.

They sat on the dirt beside the road, cross-legged, facing each other. Dawn took a sip of her coffee and promptly spit it out, face contorted. "That's disgusting," she said.

"There's not likely to be a Starbucks around here," Wesley said. "That's really why we've stopped here, isn't it? I don't know what you were expecting."

Dawn shrugged. "Something that doesn't taste like Spike was buried in it when he actually died, maybe?" She poured her coffee out on the ground and tried to toss the cup away. The wind caught the foam, however, and the cup landed behind her instead. Dawn had devoured her sandwich quickly, and pulled out one of the packs of Twinkies she'd taken. She handed the other to Wesley, and stuffed most of one into her mouth easily.

"That's disgusting," Wesley said, upper lip curling as she chewed with some difficulty.

Dawn shrugged. "Mft y'gna drm?" she asked around the food. She swallowed. "'Scuse me. What are you gonna do?"

Wesley shook his head. He ate more slowly than Dawn, but did not take his time. They were riding again in minutes, Dawn's chin back on his shoulder.


They stopped at a McDonald's to pick up dinner, but rode for another hour before they ate. Dawn took a bite of one of her fries, wrinkled her nose, and tossed them on the ground.

"Ugh," she said, punctuating. "They're gross when they get cold."

Wesley said nothing, and Dawn ate silently, except for when she found that the ice in her soda had melted.

"So," she said later, staring at their fire. "So."

Wesley lifted his head and looked at her. "Yes?"

"Can we talk or something?" Dawn asked, tossing the wrapper from her burger onto the flames and watching it fold and char and scatter.

"Unless I'm very mistaken," Wesley answered, laying his head back down again, "that's what we are doing."

"Well...I mean, can we talk about something not...survival and escape related?"

His eyes were closed, and the heat of the fire glowed against his eyelids. "Ghost stories?" he suggested, only half intending for her to hear him.

"Yeah, that'd be fun," Dawn snorted. "How about if I start with the one where the bitchy goddess from a demon dimension needed me to get back home, then you can tell the one about how Los Angeles is in constant darkness and everyone we love is probably dead by now, and then I can finish it off with the one where my dead mom came to warn me?"

"It was a joke," Wesley said. "Not a very good one, I'll grant you, but a joke."

"Like you said," Dawn answered, "not a very good one. Shove over."

"What?" He opened his eyes and rolled over. Dawn was standing next to him.

"I wanna be next to the fire. Shove over." Apparently trying to assist him, she placed a leg in front of him and tried to guide him with it.

"You can lay over there," he said, pointing to the darkness that pressed in around the rest of the fire.

"Nope. Shove."

Wesley blinked at her with hot eyelids, and finally obliged, deciding that it would be less effort simply to indulge her.

She lay down on her side, facing him, and he closed his eyes.

"You've got gorgeous eyelashes," she mused.

"Thank you," he answered.

It was after a few minutes that she spoke again, more subdued this time. "Wesley?"

"Yes, Dawn?"

"When do you think we can go back?"

Wesley opened his eyes again, and looked at the girl.

"I don't know," he told her truthfully. "Perhaps never."

She nodded, moved a little closer to him, and closed her eyes. He put an arm around her and pulled her still closer. The heat of the fire was on his arm, and she buried her face in the front of his shirt and fell asleep like that.


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