Title: The Stray
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 > , Part 15
The following days followed much the same pattern, though the conversations between dog and witch became increasingly more philosophical, Willow wondering yet again at Spike’s intelligence and depth of thought; his tenacity and resilience regardless of circumstance; and above all his capacity for forgiveness and love. No more was it apparent than in the final afternoon of conversation prior to Willow’s return to England.
It began with a simple statement one rainy afternoon, Xander was late home and the dog had joined her as she poured over a text she had been sent by one of the African covens.
Spike indicated he needed help with his second paw fitting then wrote, “Taa Red. Just wonderin’, do you reckon I’ve got a human soul, you know given circumstances. ‘Cause even when I let go, let the husky take over… still feels like I’ve got a soul.”
“Spike, I… I would think that you have *your* soul. I… Everything is connected…”
“Connected, yeah got it… plenty of that… but what of the soul? Bloody well change its name if you want… the essence, the spark, I dunno… just… whatever I fought so hard for, the thing that had me in the basement, gave me strength to one up me ol’ Sire in a way… Is all of that just guilt an’ regret or is it more? Universal Collective Morality exclusive to humans? The Great Narrative written by someone else? Or just some random set of evolved genetically bound compulsions that somehow got subsumed when the demon took over? Ya know some deluded bastard even tried convincing everyone he could weigh the thing by measurin’ the dyin’ way back in the day.”
Willow was still considering her answer when Spike began furiously typing again, the computer correcting much of his spelling on the fly.
“And what if the demon compulsions were just playin’ off what was already there – just released ‘em for use. What if it’s not what keeps us all in line, by guilt ‘n such. What if all it did was acknowledge that humans are organisms like any other and so are fit for the kill… you know, food? Same as humans see all the edible around ‘em. An’ what if it’s more Red? What if it really is what ties me to the something after… Been around the turnstile so many times now with it I’m beginning to wonder if this is the last time, or is this all there is, this reality ‘n me in whatever guise – sure gives the religions opting for reincarnation a bit of a guernsey… in which case, what happens after this doggy life hmmm?
“I… Spike I really can only answer with my beliefs. I believe that Gaia exists because it is all I can conceive of to explain all that happens here on this plane – and the Higher Powers for that which is not. It is a name only I guess, but it makes sense of things. There is so much we don’t understand, even as humans with a deep connection to the magical fabric. I know we can tap into the energies of the earth and the energy of other beings, and that every system in the universe strives for equilibrium. And I do believe that is why the balance will be restored somehow. It’s what is wrong here… the equilibrium has been tampered with, the scales deliberately tipped by the Wolf, Ram and the Hart. Their capture of Illyria and ill intent regards her energy is wrong, though we have yet to see any symptoms of them using her. It is that we will try to redress, but we may need to wait for some sign before we can track her to their holding place… we just need to wait to trace the source.”
Willow tried to look her hopeful best, but all Spike saw was how much older, how wiser and how much more fatigued she appeared.
“’S OK Red… Used to rollin’ with the punches. Got another ten or so years ta do it in this round.” He paused for a moment then looked at her with the saddest of baby blue eyes.
“Just bin doin’ too much thinkin’, pups due an all. Can’t help wonderin’… Do they get my human essence? My vampire one? Or my husky??” Spike stopped mid thought then seemed to sigh but looked up with a glint of real love in his eyes, “Chloe’s got a soul ya know, ‘m sure of it… connection with her is real. She’s an innocent, sweet ‘n loving, ‘n loyal to a fault, can see that a mile off. Make a great mum. Still feel like I betrayed the boy though havin’ kids ‘n all, but they’ll be ours too in a way, least ways ‘til they’re… ‘s not fair… but ‘m sure they’ll… even if…”
Spike stopped suddenly, tore off his writing implements and raced for the back door. It was all too much. He made it to the lemon tree and threw up what little he had in his stomach unceremoniously. Still feeling ill, the husky instinctively found a mild thistle in the corner and chewed at its leaves, drank a little from the bucket that had been placed under a slow dripping tap nearby, then flopped onto his mat, wishing only to stop thinking.
Willow was standing staring at the screen, still visibly upset, as Xander came through the door.
Xander froze, “What’s happened?”
“I still don’t have the answers Xan… I really don’t know if there is a solution to all this, because it’s not that simple is it. I just wish I could do more… you know more to somehow fix all this now! But for all the research we are still waiting for the contact with Battle Brand… I have to go Xan… He won’t talk to anyone else at the moment for some reason. I mean that could be a good thing but what if it’s not, what if he’s just waiting to tell me bad news or worse, nothing…” She stood and flung herself into Xander’s arms, “I’m so sorry Xan! All this way and I’m… Oh Goddess.” Xander hugged his friend tight as hid her tears in his jacket.
Willow listened to the reply as a near rumble through his chest, “You’ll try I know that and… I don’t know Wills… all I know is that I love him as he is and kind of realize how much I really would love him as a man shaped Spike. I guess we just both hoped… I guess we hoped that regardless, the puppies might help in some way… you know either way. And however many times I wish…”
Willow pulled up a little and stared squarely at Xander’s one brown eye with her teary green, “I know you and he will be together no matter what, but if he’s like he is now then chances are you will have to say goodbye someday, and if the spell is somehow reversed then he’ll have to say goodbye to you… Unless…” Willow frowned hard for a moment.
“Oh I just have a… let’s work on one thing at a time. Just before I pack away all this stuff ready for tomorrow, can I just get some extra notes, you know from your perspective. I know we’ve talked, but there are a couple of things missing.”
“Sure just let me put away the work stuff and check on Spike. I’ve booked us a restaurant for tonight – you up for Calgary cuisine? Jerry and co. are coming so it’ll have to be a bit family friendly fare. We’re meeting them at seven. You wanna do it before?”
“If you don’t mind, kind of like to finish it off while today is still in my head.”
“OK back in ten.”
Xander went out the back and sat quietly beside Spike’s rug. The dog didn’t lift his head, merely angled sad blue eyes up and waited for the inevitable pat. It came without comment and the two sat in silence for a time.
Eventually Xander near whispered, “Love you friend… love you always.” Then went inside to converse with Willow for the last time on an ‘official basis’ before preparations needed to be made to go out.
Minor details were covered: where Spike slept; how they conversed normally; how the decision to ‘breed’ Spike came about; along with a strange request to try to recall any particular moments that had involved spells or wishes, of any kind, involving Spike and he.
“Not with the spell making… spells not of the good for the ol’ Xanman here… but… um… couple of times with the real wishes… well lots really but only a couple of times seriously. Selfish times… but not like anyone’s listening right?”
Willow said under her breath, “You’d be surprised…” then out loud, “You have a special connection Xan… very special and that should give hope… Somehow you have bound your essence to his, I can feel that. Every time you are together Xan… it’s so strong. I’ll do my best Xan, I really will. He deserves to have you and you him, but…”
“Don’t worry Willow we already do. Never had a better companion, a better friend. I can be quiet with Spike, can tell him anything, be myself around him… so if this is all it can be I will love him to the end.”
Willow simply nodded and replied, “We *will* try Xan… that’s all I can promise.”
“Yeah…” Xander stood and moved to the door. “So how’s about we go eat. Food all of the good – I’ll just set up the TV for Spike. Dogs a big no-no in restaurants still.”
The evening was a fun one with Jerry’s boys were in fine form and kept up a happy chatter during the meal, particularly excited when the table adjacent had a birthday cake was delivered by singing ‘mounties’ and the entire restaurant was encouraged to sing along.
Spike greeted them at the door at nearly midnight, and was rewarded with a quiet pat from both tired humans. The farewell at the doors of the departure lounge was similar. Hugs and quiet goodbyes but no tears from Willow as she looked back and waved then disappeared into the building. They had decided that it would be there not in the terminus as there was little point eking out the farewell.
There was hope for a restitution but still no guarantees, at least not until Willow had an opportunity to speak to the Battle Brand and sort out what the situation with Illyria was, so the ride home in the car lacked any commentary from Xander. Spike too was feeling rather flat, something not missed by Xander as he let the dog out of the car then waited patiently for him to enter the house first. Perhaps a run to Gracie’s might help.
They had returned the bike the previous night so Xander pulled out his old skate board and hooked up the running harness to Spike who lifted his chin dutifully to allow the soft leather straps might be fastened more easily.
Chloe was in a strange mood when the two arrived. She didn’t seem able to settle and Gracie complained that the soon to be mother had growled at her when being fed the previous evening. Spike calmly licked over her ears as usual but it did not seem all that appreciated, Chloe merely flopping down on her side. Though she did allow him to stand over her on guard as it were, while Xander spoke to her owner.
Spike heard the conversation clearly, “I think she might produce a little sooner rather than later.”
“Is that good?”
“Well she’s only carrying four according to the vet, so it could be early. And she’s really healthy. The change in behaviour is kind of consistent with an approaching birth, so it shouldn’t be long now. I’ll give you a call when she starts.”
“Is it wise for Spike to be with her?”
“Normally I would say no, but I’m sure it would be fine, so long as he lets her have her space. I’ll give you a call when she starts.”
Their Sunday was taken lazily after that. A quiet walk to the park and bit of a romp around for Spike, then home for a baked dinner and evening of television while Xander read over the plans once again.
There was no call from Gracie the following day or the one after, though Spike was run as usual with the team and stayed for a little to fill in his day while Xander was at work. He was a little dismayed as Chloe became more and more solitary in her actions. Gracie reassured him with a pat each time. There was little to do but wait.
On the fourth night after Willow had left, an excited Gracie rang around nine pm announcing that Chloe had given birth to four perfect little pups. Mother and babies were well and Spike was nervous, he could hardly wait to see them though indicated he was prepared to wait until the next morning as Xander stroked over Spike’s ears.
“Do you want to go now.” The shake of the furry head indicated Spike’s answer. “We’ll wait until morning then?” The simple nod and begging eyes were all that Xander needed. “First thing it is.”
That night dog and ‘owner’ both slept under a single cover, Xander curled up around his friend, arm over the strong torso protectively. Tomorrow would be Spike’s day, Xander had to work but decided as he fell into slumber, that he would go in late so as not to miss the first meeting of Spike and the puppies.
It was barely light as Xander loaded his dog into the car and they took a quick trip to Gracie’s.
Spike could not sit down during the short journey, despite Xander’s repeated pleas, instead turning and giving out tiny whimpers of agitation and excitement. Xander barely had the door open before Spike leapt out, took a short run up and all but cleared Gracie’s side fence. In his rush for Chloe, he didn’t feel the harsh metal bar as it scraped his hind legs, nor register at first that Gracie was bending down to open the lock on the gate and that Chloe was nowhere in sight.
He checked the back yard swiftly, panic taking over from all rational thought. He could smell her in all the nooks and crannies, her kennel was empty, but the yard was devoid of movement. Spike howled to the heavens, to anyone who might listen. It could not be! Where were his children? His Chloe?
The bereft husky rechecked the yard before noticing both Xander and Gracie standing at the back door to Gracie’s home, apparently encouraging him to enter. He raced for the door then paused, frozen on the spot as he heard small whimpers from within. He could hear them…
Spike rushed past the humans, his Chloe had heard his howl and grunted a low acknowledgement. He had no time for niceties, instead flew past the two bipeds and to his family. Chloe, though still feeding the last of the litter, stood to greet him. After which she flopped back down exhausted and waited while he inspected his… and her… firstborn four.
He nudged each tiny furred bundle gently, then licked over them. Their taste was sweet with mother’s milk, and tiny tails and ears twitched as they were caressed with a tongue that smelt somehow familiar. Even as newborns they knew and instinctively and lay on their backs as he nuzzled.
Spike was utterly overcome by the moment. They were beautiful, and they were his, *really* his, and he adored Chloe even more. He noted her eyeing him carefully and knew she too needed his mark, his reassurance. He finished licking the last, a silver coloured little girl then looked at the mother of his children with adoration and wonder.
As a concerned Xander and Gracie watched on he moved to a full down position in front of the mother of the matching set - two girls and two boys and placed his own head under her chin. She licked him, then the position was reversed and he gave her a thorough caress with hot tongue over her muzzle eyes and ears, after which he stood behind her in sentinel pose while the four little ones again sought her teats.
Gracie looked on in wonder and said almost as an aside to Xander, “Our family has been breeding huskies since I can remember… I’ve never seen such a reaction from the father before. In wolves one expects it… Oh look!”
Her last expression of surprise was response to Spike moving to cradle the little ones on the other side of Gracie, their two prone forms making a perfect circle around the young ones. She then stood and in the process detached the four little mouths still suckling and moved toward her food bowl and the water that she so craved. The pups whimpered their protest with high pitched voices then found their way to the offered warmth of their father.
Spike looked up at Xander with his own devotional thanks to his human protector then retuned his attentions to pushing the last of his brood into the warmth of his body while Chloe had a break.
Xander left for work with the image of Spike, his father-husky Spike, curled up around four tiny sleeping furry forms. All had his blue eyes. Three had dark markings and one was ‘blonde’. A twinge of jealousy and sadness mixed with joy as he pulled out of the drive.