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
Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , Part 4 , Part 5 , Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8 , Part 9 , Part 10 , Part 11 , Part 12 , Part 13
Spike’s crystal blue eyes brightened at the comment – though it was still really directed at Xander. He took his time and casually sat up straight to his full height, his furred ears just brushing the roof of the cabin of Xander’s CUV.
The expression was almost a grin before the act of putting his head on the armrest between the two humans, garnering a familiar scratch and ruffle between the ears from Xander, was confirmation for Willow that there was something very different about the magnificent animal.
As soon as Spike settled back, Xander headed for home on the rather overcast Saturday afternoon, not worrying about the scenic route, there would be time enough for that. The polite chat soon became a more relaxed exchange. Xander’s project was going well, yes he was enjoying life, no he didn’t have a partner (the witch apparently well informed regards the orientation of the former Scoobie).
Willow was happy with her lot as most powerful individual witch on the planet but it brought with it constant demands of the covens worldwide that did prove a little tedious at times. Particularly irksome were the long periods of time away from the UK and her now partner of four years, Riana, a fellow ex-pat Californian who had also found her way to the Oxfordshire coven. Yes, she kept touch with Giles – who had revived his status as tutor of aspiring witches, including a few watchers and slayers, though his relationship with the new Watchers’ Council was still strained at times. Buffy had a new squeeze (which brought Spike some satisfaction – he never did really like the idea of her being with the ageless Casanova ‘The Immortal’) and had stayed in Italy, while Dawn had moved back to LA to continue her language studies at a Masters level and revitalize the UCLA based wiccan groups. Andrew was alive and well, reveling in his role as History master for initiate Slayers at the Watchers’ Academy.
They were soon in front of Xander’s modest home, Willow not failing to notice the carefully tended garden and lawn despite the chill in the air as she was helped down from the truck and her luggage was retrieved. Spike alighted with ease and padded quietly beside Xander’s side then sat patiently while the door was unlocked and the two humans entered.
The warm inside was welcoming and Willow was led to her room before being given ‘the tour’. This included the lit back yard - thankfully Xander had let the dog out to ‘do his thing’ prior to Willow and he stepping out onto the wide patio so lovingly constructed the summer prior. Finally a cup of tea was offered and Willow adjourned to do some preliminary unpacking.
Xander busied himself putting out ‘gourmet’ chocolate chip cookies, plus a small platter of fruit and nuts – not sure to what level of vegetarianism Willow currently practiced. He fussed about what type of tea, ultimately letting a rather bemused Spike choose, the classic Twinings collection purpose purchased failing to hold any clues. “Orange Pekoe? English Breakfast… that can’t be right… Geez Spike, you’re English – what would *you* choose!?”
Xander held the polished wooden box down so Spike could see, waited while Green Tea with Jasmine was selected and almost threw the box in the air as Willow’s giggle from the door was registered.
“Um er… just… ah forget it… is this OK?”
Willow gave Xander a wide smile, “Perfect, nothing less than I would have expected.” She gave Spike a conspiratorial wink as the teabags were added to two cups and Spike’s bowl. Milk and sugar were added to the bowl and Xander’s cup and two chocolate chip cookies placed beside the bowl for Spike, before all three enjoyed their mid afternoon snack.
Willow kept looking down at Spike and shaking her head in wonder, “I still can’t believe… You know, on some level… it’s just so… He’s beautiful, and seems so happy… Xan have you considered… you know… all the possibilities? What if nothing can be done?”
“Then he lives on as my friend and pampered canine companion, with all the advantages his current state entails – like the sledding and… fatherhood…”
“Fatherhood? What?! Puppies”
“Umm… yeah, Spike’s going to be a father – soon. He wanted it Wills. Regardless you know…”
Spike looked up lovingly at Xander for a moment whilst licking away the remnants of both milky tea and crumbs of cookies crunched sideways.
Willow caught the adoring look and buried her next question in another sip of her tea. “You look fit Xan, all this rugged outdoors work I guess.”
“All Spike’s forced speed training on our morning runs more like it. If I knew he would turn out to be the one breed built for long distance runs more than once a day I would have thought twice about rescuing him! Thank goodness for Gracie and her daily sled team workouts. He’s really good at it – a natural leader of the pack, so Gracie tells me.”
Willow giggled a little and leaned down to stroke Spike’s soft coat for the first time. “He’s so soft… I’m sure the puppies will be gorgeous too.”
“Should be, they’re out of Chloe, her first litter. She is Gracie’s prize female, can’t get much better than that, and Spike and she get on really well.”
There was a pause in the conversation and the three finished their tea in comfortable silence, broken only by Willow’s yawn. “Sorry Xan, just a bit jet lagged after the trip. Think I might check my Emails if you don’t mind, then shower and bed… Tomorrow morning seems a better place to start with the reason I am really here. You both don’t mind do you?”
Her answer came with a lick from Spike and Xander quickly clearing away the afternoon tea. There would be time for more discussion later, and Willow’s pallid skin and tired eyes spoke of a weariness that screamed extreme fatigue and not just from the trip. Xander quietly hoped that her stay of all but nine days might allow her some rest as well as working on Spike’s ‘problem’.
Spike headed outside as soon as Willow left the room. The last of the afternoon sun was falling on his blankets outside and he really didn’t want to think for a while. Xander knew the behaviour and chose to fuss about towels for his female guest and check her room one more time. Dog and owner would talk later.
Spike watched as two wrens chirped around in the branches of the lemon tree, listened as a lone crow made itself known some streets away, and smiled at the sibling squabble going on next door over who had and had not been on the swing more times than the other. The clouds were beginning to clear, cirrus streaking across the sky rather than the rain laden cumulous of previous days. He idly watched an ant attempt the dangerous climb over the third nail on his large paw, finally licking it off and swallowing the hapless adventurer.
He thought about Chloe. She was still training with the team but it was a lighter run for her as her belly increased in size, and Gracie had indicated that it would only be a week or two before she would need a far more gentle exercise regime in anticipation on her brood. He was to be a father, but suppressed any thoughts of his own childhood or the fathers of other humans he had seen through the years. He had decided as soon as their pairing was confirmed, it would be instinct and love that would rule his part in the pups’ lives.
It was an easy call really there was nothing to be but husky around Chloe and Gracie, but like any other expectant canine dad, there were still occasional twinges of doubt, particularly if the near impossible were to happen and he was miraculously returned to human/vampire form.
Eventually Xander came outside as the sun slid away, leaving only pink streaks and the first few stars blinking their welcome to the oncoming night. The silence between the two was comfortable, permeated only by the occasional sound of families beginning their evening meal and a car or two returning home. Xander sat and leaned back on the wall of the house letting his hand slide into his friend’s fur to begin a gentle, familiar tug and stroke, finding a knot here and there only to continue the caress until the tangle was gone. Both lost track of time as they contemplated their lot in life and the possible futures the witch’s arrival had made all too real.
Spike was nearly asleep when the growl of Xander’s stomach roused them both. “C’mon buddy, think my stomach has said it for both of us… I figure Willow will be incommunicado until morning, let’s get some food. Simple steak and vege sound alright to you?”
Dinner was prepared swiftly and eaten in front of the television. Neither was in the mood for their nightly ‘talk’ but the company was comfortable and the movie on Channel four forgettable so Spike’s subtle signal to go to bed was followed with ease.
Willow heard the front door open, the “Paw’s Spike!!! Geez… at least you could*try* to wipe them off a bit before you come onto the carpet!” and caught herself giggling into her pillow a) for the new house proud, grown up Xander, and b) the feigned hurt innocent look she imagined Spike might give in his new form.
She rose surprisingly unaffected by the jetlag that had permeated everything the previous afternoon. Hearing the shower in Xander’s ensuite starting, she braided her hair, slipped on a comfortable pair of sweat pants and white shirt then made her way to join her two friends in time for breakfast.
She heard the hairdryer going as she wandered into the kitchen now flooded with sunlight and idly calculated that she had slept for over fourteen hours. She really had been tired. She unraveled the plastic covering the Sunday paper and began flicking through the Calgary Herald.
The layout was familiar enough though articles on Canadian politics and some of the local concerns were foreign and caught her attention. Still engrossed in a story about the concerns of the organizers of the regular Calgary Stampede and the rising cost of running the event, she just about leapt out of her skin as a muzzle poked her in the backside.
She let out a yelp of protest and turned to see a very fluffy, newly dried Spike and a grinning Xander. “Yeah he does that.”
“I’d say bad dog but it really sounds a bit silly.”
“Oh I think Spike would be happy with that – Mr Big Bad though and through aren’t you…” He wandered over ruffled Spike’s ears and leaned over Willow to glance at the article she was reading. “Anything of interest?”
“Not really, but it’s always fun to see what’s up locally I guess, gives me a bit of a feel of the place my old friend is living in.” She smiled up at Xander then turned to give and receive a warm hug. Spike left them to it, choosing to ‘use the facilities’ outside instead.
Though Willow was keen to have a ‘chat’ to Spike, Xander had other ideas given the beautiful sunny Sunday Calgary had ‘put on for her. Spike knew the signs and as soon as his harness and lead was produced he moved to the front door and sat patiently. They drove past the building site, Xander proudly pointing out the three near complete structures and the last that was on the way. They then headed past the University and on to the city centre and the Calgary Tower.
As they parked the car, Willow was surprised to see Xander pull out a telescopic cane from the glove box, remove his eye patch and put on some dark glasses. Willow’s curious look was answered with a wink and, “Cane was a joke from the guys at work last Christmas, harness is Spike’s idea – gets us into places for a discount.”
He wasn’t kidding. Xander stood with his cane in hand and Spike sat quietly as Willow bought tickets for them to go up the Calgary Tower. There wasn’t even a question from the issuer who immediately charged them for one adult and one concession. Willow smiled sweetly as she sorted through the Canadian notes and coins Xander had given her for the purpose, quipping “Sorry, I’m used to British money. It’s OK for his dog, otherwise…?”
The cashier simply shrugged, looked at the short lead and harness, and said, “Not really, but in this case, eyyy, we make exceptions… Unusual for it to be a husky…”
Willow smiled again, took the change and put her hand on Xander’s arm, “Thank you. It means a lot.”
It wasn’t Xander’s first time up the tower but it certainly was Spike’s. The lift was swift and the view breathtaking. Fortunately there was a guide with a tour group explaining all the sights from the top so Xander did not have to ‘blow his cover’. Spike was tall enough to see through the windows and pleased when Xander squatted down to give him a fond petting and see the view from the dog’s height.
Willow noted the soft touches and smiled ruefully at Xander as he stood back up. She proceeded to describe some of the scenes, knowing full well Xander could see but still kept up the ruse until they were back at the car, Spike walking perfectly calmly occasionally touching his ‘blind’ companion’s legs.
There was coffee and a light snack taken at one of the many cafés somewhere in the maze of arcades that ran through the city centre and again Spike lay down by Xander’s chair, occasionally accepting another pat or a tidbit of sweet Danish.
Willow and Xander kept up a light banter as they returned home just after one in the afternoon. Spike had run in the morning but really felt he needed to let loose again as the topic of conversation turned to the questioning of Spike via computer. Still might as well get it over with.
Willow watched with interest as writing equipment was fitted. “OK Wills, want me to… you know… go?”
“Of course not! This is about you too…”
Xander sat beside Spike as Willow began, her notepad in hand. They would save the file but she wanted more than just the words. Spike had a magical signature as did the connection between dog and owner something she felt immediately when in their company. It had implications, though of what she was unsure and intended to note any changes as the questioning proceeded.
“Spike, I want to start more from way back when you arrived in LA… Do you mind? I mean Fred filled me in a little on the whole ghost to corporeal thing – well as much as they knew… And then of course there was the arms and Andrew was in on that – even though I was…”
Spike typed “Just bloody get on with it, doggy years remember. I’ll expire ‘fore you get to the point.”
And so they began three hours of question and answer covering everything Spike could remember of his time in LA. Along with the vampire/dog’s answers came distress, Xander found himself on the floor beside Spike lending quiet support, particularly as the death of Fred and the events that followed were detailed.
Spike’s typing faltered and came to a stop as the desperation of the last few hours before the final Black Thorn confrontation hit him as though the event had occurred days not months before. He whimpered, and pawed at the writing tool on his right leg, finally holding it out and growled as he buried his head in his Xander shaped friend’s lap and waited for the item to be removed.
“Think it’s time for a break for all of us Wills… Coffee?”
Willow stood and stretched, rubbing the small of her back then closing the note book. “Tea if you don’t mind Xan…”
“Tea it is.” Xander had removed the writing aids and moved to open the back door for Spike, “Come back when you’re ready OK?”
Spike gave Xander a lick on the hand, Xander knowing full well the dog would jump the fence and take the back way to Gracie’s. Xander had given up on trying to keep him in, the musher and Xander had agreed that they would ring each other whenever the dog visited or arrived home safely.
A rather pale Willow was pouring over her notes as Xander came back into the kitchen.
“I didn’t mean to push him so hard Xan. But we have to get as much as we can before we can even start to work out what happened, you know what magicks exactly are involved. There is so much pain there too… thanks for staying with us. It helped. Where’s he…” Willow worried, the magic had changed around Spike as soon as he made for the door.
“Gone for a run to see the mother of his soon to be children. Gracie will give me a call when he gets there.” And she did. Just a few minutes after they had finished their afternoon tea the phone rang.
Willow caught the end of the conversation. “… that would be great thanks. Yeah well we’ve got a visitor in the house. Figure he needs to let off a bit of steam… An hour? OK.”
Xander returned to his guest. “It’s all OK, Gracie’s going to take Chloe and Spike for a run. It’ll give him a chance to let off steam. You want to go for a walk too? Just a nip around the block… show you the park, that sort of thing.”
“Sounds nice… I’ll just get my sweater and walking shoes.” She stood and gave Xander an easy hug, mumbling into his chest, “Mmmm missed your hugs… and walks, walks are good.”