rngrdead (rngrdead) wrote in bloodclaim,
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rngrdead
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The Stray # 17

Title: The Stray
Pairing: S/X
Rating: NC/17
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 , Part 16



PART 17

Xander arrived home on time. He’d had a lousy day. Apart from raining on and off, hampering their efforts to have the fourth building’s foundations laid on time, he had also been required to ‘caution’ two of his better third crew members for their attitude toward a foreman he knew to be rather overly-officious. The spin off was always going to be unpredictable and his apparent backing of the party line upsetting all involved. It was hardly a good start to the week.

He fully expected Spike to be at Gracie’s still, having mulled over his friend’s apparent ignoring of his farewell that morning in favour of attention to the newborns. Xander had found his thinking hijacked by the thought that Spike might somehow now love him less, even preferring his canine existence over anything Xander had to offer.

He threw his bags and the tubes of plans by the door and kicked off his shoes, the absence of Spike’s usual greeting apparently confirming what he had been thinking, but as he walked past the study to visit the bathroom he saw something that negated that instantly.

Spike was sitting patiently with his writing tools on, and in bold letters on the computer were the words, “Joy… Thank you Xan… Love you… they’re yours too.”

He barely muttered a heartfelt “Oh Spike!” before he fell to his knees and had an armful of his beloved dog.

They sat for a time, saying nothing, merely reacquainting, Xander petting and Spike nuzzling his dear friend. The dog/former-vampire suspected some of the cause of upset though could not be sorry for his behaviour that morning. He had hardly noticed Xander’s departure from Gracie’s and spent most of the day with Chloe and the pups but the run home brought clarity. He now had what Xander did not, a real family, borne of him, he was a father and regardless of his current state, there was nothing on earth or beyond that could make him regret that fact.

He waited for Xander to calm then typed, “So… bad day?” His only reply was, “You have no idea… And… I’ve been thinking... silly really but… don’t want to lose you Spike, please? Can you… you know even with the pups...”

Spike looked Xander squarely in the face and typed “You have me, Xan. Always have me. ‘n they’re yours too you big ninny. Least ways that’s how I figure it. Now what happened at work?”

They sat for a time as Xander explained the various circumstances that had led to the dispute onsite, along with his ongoing frustration regards the rather bigoted foreman, not to mention some ongoing hassles with delivery of materials for the build, and the continued concern over looming deadlines.

Spike began to type midway in Xander’s outpouring of angst, “Hows about you take meto work tomorrow and I just bite the bastards whats upsettin’ you? Hmmm? C’mon give em some hurry up at least!”

Xander was slow to pick up on the offer, but seeing the glint in the husky’s eyes that was pure Spike as he read, grabbed the dog pulled off the writing implements and gave him a real tussle and tickle that had Spike on the floor, his back leg jerking helplessly as Xander’s fingers found the most sensitive spot on his underside. What ensued was a much needed light hearted wrestle before Xander lost the upper hand and found himself pinned by large paws and a jaw that did not bite or break skin, merely held him on the floor on his back.

“OK, OK! You win! Gahhh Spike! Get off I give in!”

It was what Xander needed and forlorn mood broken, Spike let him up and sprinted to retrieve his lead. Xander knew what the dog wanted and smiled. “Yeah alright, pups isn’t it?”

He rang Gracie to check if they were welcome then ushered Spike into the car.

This time he was invited to touch the pups, with Chloe’s permission of course and not until his hands were thoroughly licked by Spike. Xander knew that it marked him as part of Spike, the fact that the alpha dog deferred to him not missed by Chloe who barely moved as Xander gently picked up and cradled a small relaxed body while Gracie looked on.

Each pup was lifted and caressed quietly as Xander enjoyed the feeling of a tiny body’s heart beat rise slightly at the imposition then relax against his chest. He petted each one before replacing it at Chloe’s side. The little pups all recognized Xander’s scent as that of their father’s and relaxed at his touch, the youngest, the little blonde female falling asleep in his strong arms. In the end Xander looked with a mixture of resignation from Spike to Chloe then up at Gracie. “It OK if Spike stays the night?”

Gracie had been amazed by the male dog’s reaction to the pups earlier in the day and simply said, “Sure. He’s special Xan… quite the super-Dad. Never seen anything like it. I’ve already found a really good home for one of them, I’ll take one of the girls, you said one for you too?”

Xander’s voice hitched and he petted tiny sleeping body in his arms once more, before saying in almost a whisper, “Guess I’ll let Spike decide.”

Over the ensuing four weeks, Spike ‘slept over’ three out of ever seven nights and the pups grew fast, going from balls of fluff to enthusiastic active little pups happy to chew on anything and experimenting with their ‘attack tactics’. A definite pecking order was established, the biggest of the girls (Bella) and dominant male (Boris) generally taking point behind their father and mother whenever Xander (or anyone) approached.

On the nights Spike spent away, Xander threw himself into work for the most part, though chose to go out occasionally. Jerry had a bowling team that needed a replacement on several occasions which proved fun, Jerry noting that Xander was perhaps not the best of players, but made up in enthusiasm what he lacked in skill. The banter was easy and the drinks afterward welcome.

As the pups grew so did the day they would be parted from their mother. There was still no word from Willow, other than ‘work in progress’ messages, and Xander began to adjust his thinking to the prospect of having two dogs in his care, one friend and his friend’s daughter or son.

Spike reveled in his role as protector and alpha male of their group, though knew to defer to Defore whenever they were harnessed and training. The two males had made a truce of sorts, though Spike still stood in front of his children protectively whenever the other male was within scenting distance.

As the pups turned eight weeks old and Xander’s project entered its internal phase on the last building, there was word from Willow. “BB will see me tomorrow night – will call after – 8am your time with news.”

He shared the news with Spike as they again drove to Gracie’s for a day of family for Spike. He fancied he saw Spike shrug at the declaration and was still feeling hurt as he did his best to smile as Spike rejoined his family. Gracie was there and noted Xander’s upset, misinterpreting it as a difficulty deciding which of the pups he wanted (it had been a topic of discussion on and off for weeks).

They both stood for a moment admiring the family, four little ones bouncing around with excitement, all trying to nip and touch any part of their parents or each other they could. The boldest little girl became distracted by a tuft of blanket on their soft bed, attacked it then flopped down to chew on it with earnest. “They’re all beautiful Xander, have you decided which one you want to take? I’d like to keep the blonde girl, the Johannsens want one of the boys and my friend Maxine doesn’t mind which of the others she gets, so long as I do the training for her, she’s real keen on the Milk Run idea and they have a pretty big back yard so it should be a great place for a husky…”

Xander looked rather sadly toward Spike who was currently flipping his tail just out of reach of two enthusiastic ‘attackers’, “I… I really don’t know… It’s up to Spike I guess… I…”

“Hey sorry *sorry* Xander, just thought you might have a preference – you know girl or boy. They’ll all still have great homes promise.”

“Yeah… I know… Look I’d better head off… Work calling and all that. Give me a call if Spike’s heading off to home yeah? My cell will be on.’

“Sure” Gracie looked worriedly as Xander walked away. Spike’s owner was utterly devoted to his dog, she liked that, but he often seemed sad of late and she wondered about human companionship. A friend of a friend who worked with Xander had said he hadn’t ever brought a female friend to anything to do with work, nor spoken about his private life. Though there had been a hippy woman from his school days staying with him for a short time that spring. Gracie simply concluded that he, like she, preferred the company of animals as companions, they were so much less complicated.

Xander had a distracted day at work. How could he be expected to choose which of Spike’s children were to live with them? How could Spike for that matter? He knew they would see them again but they were all so young and…

Three or four times during a round table meeting with two contractors, the pertinent foremen and one of the logistics company representative, Jerry noticed Xander being uncharacteristically taciturn. On their way out to the site, Jerry put a friendly hand on his colleague’s shoulder, “You OK buddy?”

Xander jumped a little at the touch, “Yeah.”

“Still worried about Roger?”

“Foreman? No… no not really. Just a few things at home… ”

“Anything I can help with?”

“Not really…” Xander frowned a little and pondered telling Jerry his current dilemma, but quickly discounted the notion as ridiculous. Even to begin to tell Jerry the truth of Spike and his ‘relationship’ and immediate worries would open a can of worms that would probably lose him his friendship, not to mention his job. Such a far fetched tale would be impossible to believe, on days Spike slipped into pure dog, even Xander struggled.

He settled for the immediate truth, “Just that… Spike’s pups are being handed over to their new owners at the end of next week. I can’t take them all, gotta decide on one… they’re so small and vulnerable and they’re being moved on.”

Jerry looked somewhat bemused then realized Xander was serious and sobered. He knew how hard Xander had taken the demise of his former dog, Mace, and checked himself before replying, “Dogs are supposed to go live with their new families around eight weeks old Xan. It’s the normal thing, anyway, I thought you were going to keep one for yourself? If you’re changin’ your mind it’s not really a big deal is it… Pups are hard work.”

Xander nodded then said quietly, “It’s not so much that as we… I have to choose one that’s the thing. What would you do Jerry? You know if it were your boys that you were choosing between?”

“C’mon Xan! You’re starting to sound like the wife! She’s worrying about them moving out even before they hit high school! Boys probably won’t leave ‘til they’re in their thirties and even them they’ll probably bring home their washing for her to do if figures are right. Anyway – you never really lose family do you (well not if you’re in mine! All that ‘compulsory family Christmas’ with my folks or hers) Anyway… But hey… Don’t get me wrong, Cynthia ‘n I are already saving for college, and at this stage the two of ‘em seem set on being ice hockey stars… and if so it’ll be them moving out against their mother’s wishes… Oh and heaven help any girl who tries to winkle one of them out of home ‘too early’ and goes under the wife’s scrutiny! ‘Course I’m with the ‘As long as they’re happy’ camp… not much help for the other half at that point.” Jerry gave him a hearty smile and a wink.

Xander thought for a moment then snorted a bit of a laugh as they walked toward the temporary carpark on site, “Yeah… As usual, you’re right. Look, sorry ‘bout today. Won’t happen again.”

“Don’t sweat it… You up for a barbeque Sunday? Jim’s bringin’ a few of the salmon he caught last week and I’ve invited the other neighbours. Be nice to have a few more of the old fishing crew there.”

Xander brightened, “Dog ‘n pup OK?”

“Boys would love it! Although no puttin’ crazy ideas in their head ‘bout getting their own canine friend alright! Got enough trouble as it is managing the two of them and the missus.”

“Promise, no ideas… What can I bring?”

“Not really my department but a few extra beers wouldn’t go astray, maybe a wine for the girls?”

“Done… ‘n… thanks OK?”

Xander felt strangely buoyed by the conversation as he drove home in the warm sun of early summer. The other pups would all go to good homes, indeed one would stay on at Gracie’s, and they would not really lose touch. He resolved to talk to Spike and make a decision that evening.

The drive home was a familiar one, the arrival to an empty house was not. The “Hi Spike, I’m home” greeted with silence. Xander was worried but not overly concerned – until he rang Gracie to learn that Spike had left sometime during the afternoon. He rang the city pound, then every animal shelter and late night veterinary clinic he could think of, the former with a majority on voice messages, the latter with no luck.

He could not lose Spike now! The ID chip was in his collar, what if the collar came off? What if he had been hit by a car and injured? What if… What if Willow and co. had done something and Spike was on another plane or worse… dead… really gone?!

He trolled the streets of Calgary in a futile effort to find the dog, somehow expecting to see the moving form of his husky friend, or worse a still one.

Home again, Xander emailed Willow, then rang the coven, waking the a rather unhelpful on-duty wiccan who was only able to report that no spells had been done and that Willow was currently ‘somewhere in Russia’.

He was helpless. Dog or vampire or human, he didn’t care anymore! Spike *had* to come home, Xander needed him in his life. All thoughts of the pups were subsumed by the desperation of loss. Unlike with Mace, any of his African charges at the camp, or even Anya in Sunnydale, this time the grief was in the notHe knowing.

He rose for work from an empty bed after a series of nightmares, still hoping it was all a bad dream. Xander forewent his usual run, ate hurriedly and headed out for a drive around the same streets as the previous night, ‘just in case’.

He was first on site and had hardly had time to settle when his cell phone began to buzz. It was Gracie. Spike was there, ‘a little worse for a night on the run’, but there. Xander excused himself as soon as Jerry arrived, claiming that he had left something behind at home rather than engaging in a dialogue regards his night of panic, and drove directly to Gracie’s.

A mixture of relief and anger welled up as he drove, along with a fair measure of self-recrimination. How could he! How could Spike just take off like that! Hadn’t he been fair enough, committed enough to their existence together… Hadn’t he fed him and sheltered and… It was all he could do to concentrate on the road, every traffic light was apparently scheming against him, and what the *heck* was that bus driver doing going so slowly!

Spike for his part knew he was in for a rather cool welcome. He knew when he took off in the direction of the car that contained his first borne son the previous afternoon that it was the wrong thing to do. But he had to see where the pup would be living. He had listened to the address, or a vague description of the same when the family had come to pick up the little one and yet it still took him almost three hours to narrow down the street and then house, after which it was dark.

He had been spotted loitering around outside the home and recognized at around nine by the man of the house as the garbage bins were taken to the sidewalk, after which he had been tied in the back yard alongside a bowl of water and a few meat scraps from dinner. Not a particularly dignified end to an otherwise emotional day, but at least he thought they might ring Gracie or Xander.

Xander was in no mood for talking but managed the barest of niceties with Gracie before loading the dog into his pickup.

A long few minutes of silence was followed by, “How could you? How could you Spike!? I’ve been so worried! Where have you been?!! No strike that. You can tell me when I get you home.”

Spike simply put his head down eyes begging and ears a little drooped. “And don’t think you’re getting away with the puppy dog eye thingy. Geez Spike…”

By the time they were home Xander’s anger had waned, relief taking its place. He opened the door and ruffled Spike’s fur before letting the dog out. “Sorry buddy… was just upset… C’mon, I’d better not be too long away from work.”

Spike padded into the house a few steps behind Xander, tail still down but feeling a little more chipper than he had in the car. The answer machine was flashing, Gracie had obviously rung home before contacting Xander on his mobile.

Xander walked straight to the study and logged on to the computer then fitted Spike’s writing tools. “Come on… Now you can tell me your side of the story.”

Xander watched patiently as Spike relayed his story, “One of the boys was adopted yesterday, nice family ‘n all, they’re calling him Tristan… I like that. Needed to see where he was gonna be livin’ is all, so got the address and followed the car a ways, finally found the house. Young girls out the front gigglin’ an such and me little bloke havin’ a wow of a time… He’ll be alright. Right bold little fella, proud of ‘im.”

Xander was about to reprimand him for not thinking to let Xander know before taking off then remembered his own frantic actions the previous night, some of which had limited logical basis.

“Gracie has dibs on our blonde girl, I’d like us to have the other girl Xan… She’s bright as a button and… just always wanted a little girl. Mebe get one of the boys next time… if the witch don’t come through.”

“Sure Spike – whatever you want… Is it a good idea to bring her here or should we leave her with her mum for longer do you think?”

“Reckon that they’re all about ready, eight weeks is a good age and this lot will be nearer nine. Be nice for her – and she still has extended family ‘n all that.”

Xander stroked behind Spike’s ears and sighed, “OK… I’ll pick you *both* up tonight after work from Gracie’s – just no shenanigans with chasing cars or getting lost, OK?!”

Spike nuzzled Xander then typed, “So… You heard from Red lately?”

Xander simply shook his head and looked apologetic.

Spike grunted a little then wrote, “Status quo then. Least there’s family.”

Xander smiled weakly. “Yep… family. I’d better go, see you tonight Spike.”

It was enough. Spike nuzzled him again waited while Xander removed his writing tools, then followed him to his feeding bowl and ate breakfast with relish before accompanying Xander to the door and wagging his goodbye.

That evening after work Xander drove directly to Gracie’s, apologized for the fuss then picked up a tiny furry, sleepy female pup gently, settled her next to her father and the family returned home.
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