rngrdead (rngrdead) wrote in bloodclaim,
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rngrdead
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The Stray # 18

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 16



PART 18

Xander woke the following day early. Spike had slept on the floor curled around ‘Poppie’ (Spike’s name for her according to the request the previous night). The little one was unsettled with only her father’s scent around her and whimpered as she woke.

Though near weaned, she needed comfort and attention like any youngster. Xander went for his run alone while Spike led the little girl to the extra drink bowl that contained ‘puppy formula’ and introduced her to her own pink plate of puppy kibble.

Xander’s last view of Spike as he left for work was a proud father sitting next to the usual sleeping mat while his daughter cuddled up to a soft toy in the shape of a husky pup slightly bigger than herself. He smiled at Spike and mouthed “See you tonight.” registering the dog’s nod before heading out of the house.

Spike would take Poppie with him for their training run, the pup sat up attentive alongside her sister (brother ‘Boris’ had left that morning with his new owner Maxine) as the practice sled whizzed along. The run finished at Xander’s home. Gracie unhooked Spike then allowed a little time for rough and tumble between the two pups while the rest of the team were given a little water to tie them over until they were home.

It was Chloe’s first real run with the team since she had the pups and was feeling the strain. Spike sat beside her and licked her affectionately, she reciprocated grateful for the sympathy and the rest. She was panting hard but really had enjoyed the run immensely.

The farewell was an easy one, Chloe picking up Poppie and putting her inside the back gate with Spike dutifully shut as she left. He guided the now tired little pup to the sleeping mat in the warm sun and enjoyed the role of father-protector as they both fell into a light slumber. The days were longer now and Xander would be home in the light though it was still a few hours away. The pup slept easily, Spike occasionally pricking his ears to any sudden or strange noise.

It was a pattern to be repeated for many days to come. Spike ran with Xander in the mornings conscious at all times that Poppie had been left alone in the laundry for the 30 or 40 minutes of the exercise. It would only be a couple of months before she would join them but for now her little legs (and curiosity) made the term ‘like taking a puppy for a walk’ very pertinent.

Spike was an attentive father, teaching the little pup to relieve herself outside, to wipe her paws on the mat before entering the house, and to sit beside him when told. He groomed her with his hot tongue, encouraged her to settle when she was on the mat in front of the television and taught her to dig (in the ‘right’ places), and above all enjoyed her simple company. Both he and Xander delighted in her antics, her squeaks and growls of delight, her strut as she once again scared away a rather bored looking cat from its perch on the back fence, and her desperate look as she once again tried to sit while her walking lead was attached.

Spike became used to the idea that he was second in line to attention paid as his pretty daughter garnered all manner of attention whenever they were tied (or in Spike’s case untied) outside shops, at barbeques, or walking/running with Xander. The growing pup attracted all manner of admiration, particularly from young humans, and proud father Spike had aught to do but growl a little at his daughter if she became too excited when children attempted to pet her. Poppie’s response would be to sit instantly and wait with an impatient, rather pained look as a child tentatively patted her or fed her an appropriate tidbit. She was always very careful not to lick their faces and took food offered most gently.

For her part Poppie was the model student, she worried at first when her mother was not there, but knew her father’s scent and recognized his human owner instantly, as she followed her father’s lead and deferred to the ‘pack leader’. The only things she really could not quite get the hang of were opening the back door (resorting to a series of whimpers and scratching if she needed to get out), waiting patiently (normally allayed by various antics, most of them involving the puppy version of a child wriggling), and chewing things.

The latter habit saw the rear doormat frayed, a pair of Xander’s old work boots all but destroyed, and unsuspecting pieces of wood gnawed at the ends until Xander provided a variety of ‘chewing’ objects at an exasperated Spike’s insistence.

As summer solstice approached, Xander’s project approached its finish date, the Calgary Stampede loomed, Poppie was a very healthy four month old pup, Gracie was approaching being ‘on heat’ again, and Xander finally received real word from Willow.

Xander spent an impatient last few hours at work after the rather cryptic email, and appreciated Gracie even more for having exercised the dogs in the afternoon, leaving him to simply play with the four a half month Poppie on the warm afternoon. Her current passion was to bite at the water coming from the garden hose, providing both a drink and welcome cool-down in the summer heat.

As soon as Poppie settled for the night, Xander fitted an, of late, exclusively ‘dog’ Spike to his writing implements. As had happened more often in the last month, there was some resistance on the part of Spike, who chewed rather unenthusiastically at the apparently irritating leather, adjusting it to his requirements before noting that the email was open and typing, “What? Look all wound up bout sommit… Don’t tell me, Red got ‘er knickers in a bunch ‘bout some big ‘n bad? Or she finally admitted defeat on the ol’ Spike’s the real boy front?”

Xander was in a quandary. The email had been clear enough, “Xan, 19 July. New moon. Talked to Blue Feather, she thinks there’s a chance. No promises just hopes. Call me.” Upon reflection Xander realized that it really was just another indication that there *might* be a solution, it really wasn’t news per se.

Spike read the text before typing, “Well? Did you call her?” and looking into Xander’s good eye for some indication of anything extra.

“I waited until I got home Spike… wouldn’t do it without you present. Ghod Spike this is about you after all.”

“Have at it then, ‘n put her on speaker, least that way I c’n growl at her, give her some hurry up.”

Xander did as instructed, pulling the phone close to the edge of the desk within easy reaching distance of the husky before dialing.

The phone seemed to ring forever before the rather excited voice of Willow answered. “Xander! Oh thank Gaia, I was beginning to think you didn’t get the mail”

“Just waiting to get home. Spike’s here… I thought that was the right thing to do.”

“Yes… yes of course. I just never know these days… you know, if anyone is monitoring us. The coven in Uruguay fell to a dark force, we’re still not clear why. The Southern USA covens are in disarray because of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and the covens in the middle east have either fled or gone to ground, and heaven help anyone who tries to practice openly anywhere really. Let’s just say that Gaia is fighting back but wherever she attempts to correct an imbalance, her power is being corrupted and her followers fall victim to the witch hunt mentality. I’m worried Xan… but also sure it has something to do with Illyria.”

Spike typed furiously, “Wouldn’t bet on it Red. Seems as humans have the inside runnnin’ on hatred ‘n destruction, always have had.” He looked up sadly at Xander, “Much as I’d like to blame some trumped up old one, seems as humans have the inside runnin’ on raping ‘n pillaging their own, and the planet. Industrial era not exactly a plus, ‘n I reckon even vamps have the outside bet on killin’. Least we only ever did the one on one for food. Lived through that too many times to count.”

All Willow could hear was furious typing and growls so Xander read the text.

Willow’s sad reply said it all. “I know Spike, but this struggle is heading for the dark ages again unless we start to act, and that first act is to at least take her from their arsenal, even the Battle Brand said that.”

“So how is the boy? Me ol’ Sire gave his unlive existence for the whelp truth be known, silly bugger.”

Xander relayed the message but at the same time began to stroke over Spike’s ears, at first tentatively to calm, then with purpose.

“Conner is fine. He seems to be more than fine really… and he’s really a *wonderful* Battle Brand… We have actually started to send some of our best wiccans… and… others… to learn from him. And Spike? Angel would have been proud. His days are full of reading and teaching and protecting and…”

“Bein’ alone in that Ghod awful Well with aught else but the dearly departed t’ chat to!”

Xander again relayed the message.

“It’s not like that Spike! He is happy… *really* and is changing what it is to be a Battle Brand… Spike he is a wonderful scholar and hero of Gaia.”

Spike growled then typed, “And can’t get laid or have anythin’ like the normal life me ol’ Sire wanted.”

Willow’s voice dropped for a moment, “Spike, he’s happy… all I can do is let you know that. And he is willing to help.”

Another growl from the husky saw Xander pulling the dog over his lap before reading the typed text, “’N how exactly would that be Pet?”

“He… he can summon Illyria. Connor has been working on it. The Old Ones are supposed to be at rest. Wolfram and Hart swung the pendulum, taking out Fred and Illyria in the process. Angel and the AI team were a vindictive bonus, but Spike is something else. They have miscalculated apparently. Spike is more important than they thought… The Battle Brand has stood his ground (along with taking out six of Wolfram and Hart’s best)”

Spike looked up at Xander with a measure of disbelief and scorn before penning, “Well all good for the boy then, but not exactly a guarantee of the two legged variety is it? Get to the point Red.”

“If we do this… there will be a price.”

“Already paid it you stupid bint! Finally ‘ave what’s due to me bar the two legged thing o’ course! You offerin’ more?”

Xander dutifully read the text again.

“No!... No Spike! It’s just… balance also means…”

Spike nipped Xander angrily on the wrist, insisting the reading continue as he typed, “Readin’ between the lines here… you gonna rip away from family in exchange for some promise of eternity again… well F&*% that, heard it before! ‘n this time I got kids and an *owner* to consider. Talk to her Xan!!! Rather be a dog than nothin’!!”

Xander was also audibly upset as he passed on the text, it was an impossible choice, one that he too would choose to err on the side of family and the status quo.

The reply was desperate, “No!!! No Spike? Xan? This is a chance to have both, to balance it all… to… ‘scuse… [phlegm filled coughing ensued]… sorry… Goddess Spike… this is your chance to have both. [cough] Battle Brand promised…”

It was Xander who jumped in, “Willow… Wills… Please… Gotta say not with the confidence here… What *is* the price and how do we proceed?”

“The offer is a one off Xan, Spike… With the help of the Battle Brand, we recover Illyria, return her to her rest, and at the same time restore Spike to… Well we can quite get it all back… but we can offer him the night… night in his human/vampire form… over time we might be able to… you know like Oz… but initially… at least he has the sun?! That’s a plus right?”

Xander was still digesting the news as Spike typed, “Let me get this right… I do doggy in the day and vamp at night. Seems fair, sort of, but what’s the *real* catch, witch? Bin around too many times to just take it as read. Mean I’m still on doggy time? Mean Xan here gets crewed over somehow? What?”

Willow paused as Xander relayed the concern. “It does depend on a few things… the moon for one, Spike pledging himself to you, and you to him. Properly pledging has to be consensual. Xander you will have to *really* want Spike’s return to his former form as your partner in all things. Without a magical connection there can be no pact with the Powers or Gaia. The Battle Brand will summon Illyria using a far more ancient spell than they invoked, one known only to him. With the covens also adding to his energy, we think they will be able to restore her presence on this plane – and more specifically draw her to rest in the well.”

“You lot daft? According to Drogan that would drag a virus all over the planet, reason we didn’t do it in the first place. Fred wouldn’t have wanted that and bloody hell I don’t either! Rather stay doggie than kill thousands.”

“She’s not in our dimension Spike so the call will be made from the well and she will emerge there to take her final rest if all is well.”

Spike snorted, “’n all those spells past went so very well… not. ‘n what if the bird ain’t too keen for the ‘eternal sleep’ scenario. Don’t fancy her runnin around renegade do you?”

“Spike we’ve put safeguards in place. And I have the Battle Brand’s assurance. Once she is settled in her… Once she’s back there’s no reason we can think of that you won’t be… put right, it’s just hard to tell until that happens.”

Spike looked up sadly at Xander, “Hmmm, so it’s wait an’ see. Used to that. Better contact the Calgary witches Xan… they’ll be waitin’. But tell em, no soul, no deal yeah?”

It was Willow’s chance to be silent as she heard Xander almost at a whisper, “Spike… I… do you still want this, you know to try?”

Willow could hear the typing but had no access to the text without Xander reading, “Be nice Xan, but no bettin’ on it working. Here an’ now is alright… here ‘n now… with you is all that matters. Really do love you, you silly bugger, do you good ‘n proper if chance offered… ‘N if all goes to hell, promise me a stakin’ and decent burial… like to give Chloe ‘er second lot before… you know, let me have that at least… leastways at least me kids can keep you company… Read the next bit to the witch would ya?”

Xander nodded. More and more his own loneliness and Spike’s devoted friendship had found him dreaming and fanaticizing regards their ‘human’ coupling. Indeed it had been his dream since they met in Spike’s current state. He had even wished it, sincerely. The prospect of being celibate until death, were dog!Spike still in his life had been a promise to himself.

“I’ll contact the coven here Wills… and thanks… but you know? I love him in whatever form, if it can’t work, I just… I can’t lose him Wills… if it’s gonna risk Spike, we bail OK?”

The final statement saw the dog roughly tug off his writing implements and place his furry head in Xander’s lap. There was still a couple of weeks before ‘D-day’ and the mantra ‘here and now’ was a mutual one.

“I’ll make the call to the coven… but Willow? Whatever happens? Thanks, from both of us. Thanks.” Spike licked over his hands then lay quiet, “Nothing is ever easy for us is it. Just wish I’d…you know back in Sunnydale.”

“It’s right to be scared Xan… we are too… just… Please try.”

“Yeah… trust the Xanman on that one – ever the trier for the good. 19th you say? Got it… and… thanks Wills, this means a lot, regardless of outcome, you tried.”

The rest of the exchange was brief and full of common niceties, Spike choosing to wander out and join his daughter on the mat in the lounge. He spooned her then snuggled a little for extra warmth, an act which was met by a warm tongue lazily lapping over his front paws before Poppie fell back into slumber with the knowledge that her father was there.
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