Warnings: Will appear on chapters if needed – some M/M relations
Summary: Spike survived the Black Thorn but only because one of the Senior Partners had heard Illyria refer to him as suitable for her pet and decided to amuse themselves with devastating results
Unable to take the sewers, getting in not the problem but the prospect of climbing a ladder in his current condition not really an option, he kept to the shadows and where possible back alleys. Twice he came across other strays and gave them a very wide berth, the humans sleeping in the detritus of the streets gave him little attention – though one drunk threw a bottle in his general direction as he padded past, sending him sprinting for the next corner.
Daylight saw him nearer the north of the city in a suburban area that looked like any other really. He drank unnoticed from a sprinkler and tried as best he was able to look like any other neighborhood dog out and about. But he was more than aware of his injuries, his hunger and exhaustion.
In the end he could go no further, so mid-afternoon struggled up a slight rise finding a thicket of scraggly bushes in the front of a very unkempt garden, and crawled as far into it as he could. He caught several of his wounds on dead twigs causing them to bleed again, but hardly felt it, simply hoping that if he curled up small enough he could rest unnoticed.
It was a cool night but still and the thick brush and his own coat gave enough protection for him to fall into an exhausted sleep.
The next morning saw him once more crawl through the thicket but found that he was so stiff and sore it was all he could do to walk ever so slowly, occasionally lifting his right front paw and struggling forward on three legs. His shoulder had been badly slashed in the battle against the demon hordes, and the leg almost too painful to take any weight on it.
He walked and hobbled until late afternoon, always staying as close to bushes and trees when available or stumbling along small alleyways that ran parallel to the main road. He found two discarded ham and pickle sandwiches near a junior school, managed to tear off the plastic wrap and ate as fast as he could, finding his new jaw shape was still something he struggled with a little – at least he still had familiar large canines – albeit now a permanent fixture.
The only water he could find was a small trickle flowing from an unknown source toward the grill at the road corner mid morning. He licked as much moisture as he could, and spent the next few minutes trying to divest his tongue of the grit it had picked up.
His third night as canine was spent curled up in the corner of the rear delivery bay of a drug store, sheltered from the slight breeze at least a little.
He was woken very early by the hiss of the hydraulic brakes of a large truck, then someone yelling at him. With no need for any more trouble than he was already in Spike made his best effort to run from his sleeping space, managed to avoid the annoyed truck driver and one of the drug store employees and didn’t stop for some time. But it cost him.
He had almost given up any hope of… anything really. He was not healing, he was so hungry and thirsty it was all he could do to pant and simply keep going forward... going north… if he could get out of LA then maybe…
Somewhere around midday, he managed to climb unnoticed into the back of a pickup that had the tailgate down, parked outside a block of apartments. Only a few minutes later he listened hard as a young couple made their way out toward the van. The young man driving was apparently the son of a plumber who was doing some work fifteen or so kilometers north of their location and had loaded his truck with a variety of materials, but stopped off to see his girlfriend en route to the building site.
Spike again curled up as small as he could in the back corner of the tray but need not have worried, the ‘lovebirds’ were too busy fare welling each other to notice anything amiss in the rear of the vehicle. The injured ex-vampire relaxed for a short while and enjoyed the hum of the engine and the warmth – even though the traffic fumes were rather stifling.
He worried a little as they turned into a building site and pulled to a halt but the driver was more intent on checking in than unloading immediately, so Spike waited a moment then jumped down painfully, squeezed through a gap in the safety fence securing the site, and hurried back to the main road as quickly as he could manage.
As he rounded the corner to rejoin the route he knew would take him north once more, he almost bowled over two girls obviously walking home from high school. They were about the age Dawn had been when he last saw her. Rather than make contact he attempted to swerve and his injured shoulder and leg gave out. He yelped with pain as he hit the ground on his sore side but simply could not garner the courage or energy to rise.
“Claire! Oh Ghod, Claire! He’s hurt! Look he’s even bleeding… we have to do something!
Claire, a petite brunette with pretty brown eyes and lips that were sparkling with freshly applied gloss, squatted down beside Spike. “He must have been hit by a car or something!”
“He hasn’t got a collar… so how do we know…”
“Maybe he slipped it and that’s how he ended up on the road and got hurt?...”
The girl with obviously dyed black hair and a pierced eyebrow squatted down beside the injured animal and extended her hand toward him slowly so he might sniff her and began coaxing him with a soft sing song voice.
“Come on puppy… It’s OK, not gonna hurt you… come on… that’s it… It’s just me Karen… see? Just Karen…”
Spike operated on his new form’s instinct and his own desperation, he rolled up enough to take in her scent, she smelt like… lavender. Had he been in human form he would have cried. His mother had favored that scent too.
The hand came a little closer and he did the only thing he could do for the small moment of kindness, he licked the back of her hand gently then bent down further so her hand touched his head between his ears as a sign of trust.
“Oh Claire, look! And he’s *so* soft… poor puppy! We *have* to help him! He’s obviously not from around here – look at the bottom of his paws, they’re raw! He’s probably lost his way after being hit – or even before.”
“Maybe the family moved and just left him behind… that happens you know, I saw it on Sixty Minutes™… heaps of people do that, bastards!”
“What-ever… Look can he stay at your Mum’s place? I mean at least she has a yard kind of.”
“She’s renting and it’s like a no pets policy, anyways she’d have a fit if I brought something home as big as this.”
Both girls were now stroking Spike’s fur so he simply put his head on his front paws and gave in to the rhythm while they determined his immediate future.
“What about your Dad? I know your Mum’s like mine but at least your Dad kind of likes dogs.”
“Yeah but at the moment *I’m* not even on visiting terms – the bitch from hell girlfriend has fixed that right up… apparently I am too much to ‘handle’, as if *she* ever does anything except complain about my hair, my piercings blahh blahh”
“OK, OK… Well we’ll tell my Mum it’s only for a few days, ‘til he’s healed – and hey, we can go to the animal shelter for the Vet thing first, it’s not that far – and we don’t have to register him until your Mum kicks up a stink… and by the time she sees him… Well we’d better move – I wanna be home with him before her then she can’t say no.”
“What time’s that?”
“Around seven, seven thirty if the traffic is real bad.”
Karen cupped her hand under Spike’s chin and raised his muzzle until he stared straight into her near black eyes, “Can you do this puppy? Can you follow us?”
His only way of answering was to struggle painfully to his feet. The rest had made him stiff again but he did his best and momentarily leaned into Karen’s leg then simply stayed between the two as they made their way to the animal clinic.
The wait was lengthy and the smell of terrified animals and somber mood of many of the owners put Spike on edge. Human hospitals were bad enough… but he’d never had to use one. Now he knew why all the Scoobies hated having to be admitted – for whatever reason.
Eventually ‘Leo’ as the girls named him, followed the two and the vet into the examination room.
The next hour was a blur of X-rays (confirming no breaks), local anesthetic needles, patches of the thick fur being shaved from around wounds, and then stitching of the worst. He was then given several antiseptic needles and the ‘regular shots’ just in case. This was followed by him being washed down with warm water and antiseptic wash, the veterinary nurse very careful to avoid disturbing his injuries. When he tried to lap at the water, she held the hose close and waited until he had sated his thirst then continued her task.
Lifted gently from the tub, he resisted the temptation to shake as most dogs did post drenching. He was still numb in all sorts of places but knew instinctively that it would risk breaking the stitches. Instead he simply stood patiently while his fur was patted and squeezed until as dry as possible all the while being praised for being a “Good dog”. This was followed, of all things(!) by a quick blow dry in a special, rather tight enclosure that blew hot air from all sides at once.
Last but not least the now clean, raw pads on his paws were treated and wrapped.
Karen and Claire had been there while his wounds were treated but availed themselves to the free coffee on offer in the waiting room while he was being bathed. Now they welcomed him as though he was a long lost friend, both kneeling and petting his rather fluffy, freshly cleaned fur.
The vet report was a good one, “…but he is too thin – I’d say he has been abandoned. I’m happy for you to nurse him back to health – but I am sure with his quiet nature we could adopt him out if neither of you are able to keep him. We’ll put him on our register until you decide. And don’t forget – we run on donations if either of you ever want to help out – you know fundraiser at the High School would be appreciated.”
He smiled to himself as he heard the two chatting excitedly about various money making ventures in aid of the centre, at the same time feeling a sense of anger that someone had abandoned such a handsome and obviously good natured canine companion. Thousands of animals were euthanized every year in LA alone and despite his positive words, he knew that the adoptions were more likely when it was a puppy or lapdog, or at least a pedigree.