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 , Part 14
Spike’s run to Gracie’s was a welcome relief. He ran hard enough to forget the human/vampire part of himself again but easily enough that he could still enjoy the familiar sights and smells.
By the time he arrived at the old style, white wooden house and slowed to walk around the back to the kennels he was centered again, pure dog and ready to see his pregnant Chloe. Her excitement at his arrival was obvious and they touched noses through the wire of the high gate securing the back yard. Spike noted the burgeoning belly and her scent which reinforced that she was indeed carrying his children.
Gracie was quickly on the scene harnesses her rollerblades in hand. There would be just the two of them pulling today, she would run the whole team minus Chloe, the following day. Spike let Gracie dictate the pace, loping along easily and loving when they occasionally bumped together. At a large park they stopped were unhooked and spent a little time sniffing around then playing ‘fetch’ with a stick Gracie had found.
The game was competitive, Chloe in a particularly playful mood, something which Spike found contagious. Soon they were both sprinting the short distance to grab the stick then run from their partner to ensure it was not stolen before one or other was able to drop it at Gracie’s feet and flop down in anticipation of another round. After the fourth throw a father with two small children came over to chat to Gracie and introduce his twin four year old girls to the “lovely big dogs”. The respite was appreciated, particularly by Chloe, and the two huskies sat by Gracie accepting tentative pats from the wide eyed, pigtailed little girls.
Spike was careful to put his head down and give his most innocent look to the second ‘patter’ squarely in the eyes, blue meeting blue. She gave another stroke over his ears causing them to twitch automatically and giggled with delight as she allowed him to lick her hand gently. “Daddy this one likes me best… can we have a dog like this one?”
What followed was a series of pleas from both girls, all but drowning out the more serious conversation occurring between Gracie and their father, Pete, regards due date of pups (only two weeks away) care and maintenance, and cost of owning such a dog. He seemed very keen and apparently had been part of the ‘Milk Run’ as a teenager so was familiar with the sledding culture and the need for the breed to run.
Spike felt a pang of anticipated loss as he realized that his children would realistically be sold to other families, though Gracie had promised to keep at least one of the females of the litter, and another would go to Xander if he wanted it. But this Pete seemed kind and the pup would certainly be treated as a loved pet if the girls had anything to do with it. Spike buried his worry, there would be plenty of time for that, today was for forgetting.
Spike again found that their run home allowed him to simply relish his role as canine. Chloe licked him after they had both been given a drink on their return to Gracie’s home, and he was allowed some quiet time with her. Gracie had learned in the past weeks that Spike’s presence was a calming influence on Chloe who was inclined to be overexcited after a run. He always pawed at her back door when he was ready to go and politely waited to be released.
On the way home, Spike again turned his attention to remembering that Willow was due to quiz him about the final night… He tried to put the thought away by taking more notice of the birds, very deliberately marking the lamp post at the end of his street and clearing the side fence without even touching his furry hind legs on the wood. And yet the pang of grief and anguish still hijacked his mind… Wooden weapons, pouring rain, demons, dragons, dusting and death, Illyria and Holden Manners.
Willow and Xander were sitting on the back porch when he returned. Panting a little he sat in front of Xander to receive a pat and wait while Xander reported his safe homecoming to Gracie on his mobile. He then leapt up easily, entered the back of the house and came back two beers in mouth followed by another and his bowl. Willow giggled a little as Xander opened the three then poured one into Spike’s bowl.
“OK buddy, a little lubrication probably will help.”
Spike drank slowly, he had learned by bitter experience that canine stomach processes were nowhere near as adapted to burping as human ones, the cool amber fluid still tasted wonderful however.
The chat was light but ultimately they all had to face the session that was perhaps the most important conversation of Willow’s visit. Spike initiated their move to the study by taking his bowl inside and waiting with the back door propped open.
“I think we’re being summoned Xan.”
“He was always the one to face his fears I guess…” Xander said as he stood and pulled Willow easily to her feet.
“Always” she concurred and they followed the dog inside. “By the way… Do you have a bike?”
“Only the stationary kind why?”
“Oh I just figured I might take him for a run tomorrow when you’re at work, or at least go with him to Gracie’s. It would nice to meet her.”
“I’ll see what I can do, I’m pretty sure Jerry’s wife has one that you could borrow, so long as you don’t mind if it doesn’t have ribbons coming out of the handles.” Willow giggled and remembered her bright pink bike with the orange ‘tassles’ she was so proud of way back when they were friends in primary school.
“Oh I think I’ll manage.”
By the time they entered the front room Spike had fitted one of the writing tools and hearing the conversation, typed one pawed, “No more sugary memory lanes you two or I’ll have to bite someone!”
Willow sigh and picked up her note pad as Xander bent to fit the other paw tool. “If only things were as innocent and simple now…”
The next hour was spent with Spike typing almost automaton like. It was his only defense.
He described his role in the Black Thorn downfall; their meeting in the pouring rain in the alleyway; Charles Gunn mortally wounded but still standing; Wesley’s reported death and the final charge of the demon hoards with Angel claiming the dragon was his for the kill. He paused when Willow quietly encouraged, “Go on.”
“Charlie went down fighting, back to the wall, took out four before his throat was torn out. Illyria pounded anything who came for her to a pulp. Angel slew the dragon alright but stupid git didn’t figure on the fire breather letting him have it with a blast that blinded him as it expired, could defend my Sire then… just could get to him in time… bastards had him then, pinned him like a bug in a collection then…” He was beyond feeling the quiet stroking Xander had begun, “Then they ripped his head off, felt him go, Ghod Xan! I felt my Sire dust! There was just the two of us, Illyria and me and the rain. Figured I was all done then the lot of ‘em just melted away, literally.
“Then there was that bastard Manners, with all whitty quips an’ negotiations. Next minute I know there’s a big blast and she saying she wants me as ‘er pet and rule her own domain then a big flash of light, leavin’ me to pull Charlie to where he’d be found and...” Spike paused again, “’Cause it was just me like this and nothin’…”
Willow looked up and interjected at that point, “She wanted to rule her domain… That’s sure to be it. They’ve trapped her, Xan! That’s what they will have done, they’ve trapped her somewhere for their own use! The key to getting Spike out is the Deeper Well. The Guardian of the Well will know, even if she is not on this plane… the Battle Brand will know!”
“No such luck love, Drogan was killed by Angelus as part of his ‘test’ to infiltrate the inner circle of the Thorn.”
“Another was appointed the instant he passed.”
Spike looked up at her wide eyed, “Who?”
Spike looked up amazed for a moment, “*The* Conner… you mean *the* Angel’s and Darla’s Conner?? My half brother by vampire birth Conner”
“It was his status and his wish when offered. He came to us after he felt Angel pass… He was drawn to us. His role was always to restore balance and his essence so strong it was always to be.”
It was Spike’s turn to be shocked and looked at Willow with a mixture of incredulity and hurt, “Poor bastard. Was s’posed to be a normal life, least that what old Sire said… ‘e c’n tell no lies now, you know, hell uv a job.”
“Hey Spike… it’s OK… really it is. He just turned up at the Well, said it was his destiny and… took it on… Spike? Look at me. What do you know of the Well?”
“Only that there’s a non refundable on the Old Ones leaving it, so him too. And that the Battle Brand can only speak the truth.”
Willow sighed a little then added, “And that any skullduggery on the part of the Senior Partners, using Illyria as a weapon, or shift her inter-dimensionally will be impossible to do without the Brand’s knowledge. Besides he is on the side of the Powers. Spike this is *great*.”
She turned to Xander, “If we can get onside with the Battle Brand *and* use the global network there is a chance… just a small chance Spike can be restored! Leave it with me for the night… I have to do some research.”
Spike began to take off his implements again and gave Willow a rather resigned, sad look as he held up the second paw for a little assistance. Her heart melted once again. “Oh Spike! If I can, Spike, I will – but this might take time and Illyria’s disappearance most definitely seems to be a key factor in this equation. She made a fools deal. The balance has been deliberately tipped – Holland may have been the messenger, but it’s got to be The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart who are playing games. Mother Earth looks after her own as you are now, and there is the Powers and we will need all the wiccan groups, indeed all gatherings who can to tackle this.”
Spike nuzzled her hand then went outside into the still of the evening to try to regain his composure, his acceptance of his lot as it was. He had no doubt Willow would try, but at what cost? He chose not to think on it any longer, instead focused on the sounds coming from the kitchen as Xander made dinner, and the familiar smells around him. He stared up at the patches of clear sky and the rising moon peeping in and out of clouds that had permeated the heavens since his run that afternoon. He relieved himself once more, scratched a little to cover the patch, growled at a rather cheeky squirrel that chattered her annoyance at his presence, then padded back inside.
Willow worked late into the night Emailing and speaking to as many of her contacts as she could safely do. Conversations and messages were deliberately obscure even when placed through the encoding sequence as she did not want to alert any hostile parties looking on of her real intent.
Xander and Spike went for their morning run, Willow slept on, though did manage to rise for a communal breakfast this time. Xander left for work, Willow showered and Spike did as he had done for over a year human time – he did his morning ablutions then lay in the expanding triangle of sun near the corner of the house.
Today he would relate his story of his doggy existence up to today. Xander was now familiar enough with that to warrant Spike relating the same without his ‘owner’s’ presence. Spike really didn’t feel like running over this part, it was full of the bad and the good of his existing status, but Spike’s memory and intelligence was not so subsumed by his husky form and instincts that he could leave it there. His gut would not let him. He had children to consider, and if the witch had answers, or even some fandangle pop culture theories that would shed light on the status and fate of his offspring, regardless of the outcome of her musings, then he felt compelled to challenge and find out all options.
The experience of his run for freedom was related simply and with little upset midmorning, interrupted only by Xander dropping in home with Jerry’s wife’s bicycle and the amusement that ensued as Willow’s small stature caused several mishaps before the bike was adjusted to suit.
After a light lunch, all departed. Spike and Willow (still rather wobbly though valiantly attempting to keep up with the husky) and Xander back to work.
Gracie was pleased to meet them and happily agreed for Willow to ride on the wheeled training sled for a not so wild ride around their regular training run. The entire team minus Chloe was running and the pace though fast was controlled, something Willow appreciated as she held onto the rails at the side of the small sled. Afterwards she and Gracie chatted easily while Chloe and Spike communed. Chloe was only a ten days or so from delivering her litter and Willow couldn’t help but note the very attentive Spike licking over her ears tenderly before lying alongside her protectively.
The young outdoorsy Gracie with her wild dark blonde hair, determined brown eyes and wide smile was both curious and friendly, and Willow relished sharing tales of her own, rather interrupted university life. Gracie was studying exercise physiology and sports psychology, with an intention to work in the outdoor education or tourist adventure area.
Their common ground was friendship with Xander (and Spike), a love of the earth in all her glory, and of learning.
The cycle home was easy and Spike left to his own devices until Xander returned from work while Willow refocused on her research. Her notes were meticulous but the news from her various contacts still had not borne fruit. She consoled herself (and later Xander) by saying it was only early days.