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
Previous Parts here
Sunday brought a very leisurely start, Spike burying the hand and paper in the far back corner of the yard before breakfast. Inevitably there was a run on the intermittently sunny day and Poppie and Spike were on Gracie’s front doorstep by noon, this time greeted by a rather dishevelled Mr Woolnough, Gracie’s father, in his gardening clothes.
Xander was rather taken aback, but Spike knew that manners meant everything so sat dutifully, Poppie following suit, “Mr Woolnough… Hi… Um… Is…?”
“Call me Mike for heaven’s sake. Girl’s still ‘out’. Good to see you Xander.”
“You too, I brought over Spike and Poppie.” Ben Woolnough stepped forward to shake Xander’s outstretched hand then leaned over to give first Spike then Poppie a friendly pat, “Ahh yes, I know these two well. Sorry about the old duds but gardening’s the best thing to forget about the shop for a day or so.”
“Is it a bad time? Just that Spike is always keen to be with Chloe and her new litter…”
“No not at all. I imagine Gracie will be back a little later, it being Sunday and all. How’s the construction business? Hear you ‘n Jerry are heading up a new project.”
The dogs were led around the back to Chloe and the new pups. Mike and Xander stood chatting for a while but ended up inside discussing the project Xander’s company had just completed and the one to come. Mike, the butcher, was well versed in building counting not only Jerry as a good friend from school days but also a brother working for ATCO as a senior electrical engineer in their R&D sector. Consequently he too was genuinely fascinated by all things building – particularly when it came to energy efficiency and ‘green energy’ efforts being made by most top architects.
Several hours later, Xander and Mike were sitting at the outdoor setting, drinking coffee and pouring over some designs for new ‘carbon neutral’ housing solutions.
Mike genuinely liked the young American man, who seemed to have a maturity well beyond his late twenties. He asked about the missing eye, receiving the answer ‘work place accident’ and gleaned from several other comments that the brunette had seen active duty but did not press the issue. Discussions of Africa and Xander’s work on aid projects confirmed Mike’s suspicions and brought a new level of respect. Was it any wonder the young man had come to Canada, and done well. For Mike it also explained Xander’s preference for the outdoors, construction and the company of dogs in his leisure time.
Gracie arrived home around midday to the heart warming scene of her own father and Xander on the back porch, each with a tiny fluffy sleeping pup on their laps, Poppie and Bella lying in the sun together, and Spike and Chloe spooned whilst the rest of their brood snuffled and squeaked their way around the bedding marked by familiar smells. Her mother greeted her at the door with a knowing smile and “So it went well then?”
Greta Woolnough had worried for her daughter who seldom went out with her peers and was even less inclined to ‘date’, apparently more comfortable with animals than people. Greta had met the very serious Russell the night before and approved of the new beau. He was (as she perceived it) quiet, kind, and just right for the sometimes flighty Gracie.
In the end Xander stayed for a very late lunch before taking the dogs home.
That evening he encouraged Spike onto their bed and watched still in awe as Spike changed again.
Spike groaned and stretched, face falling from vampire to his human form, “Seems to get easier each time. Guess that’s bound to happen.”
Xander leaned over and kissed him lightly on the forehead, “You really are amazing… beautiful… Oh Ghod… hrphmmm” Spike pulled him down and gave his protector, his pledged a more thorough ‘snogging’.
It was in the haze after their lovemaking that Xander found himself reaching for Spike across their pledge link for the first time in days. Reassurance and love flowed back just before Poppie, who had been waiting patiently for dinner, pushed her nose under the covers, wet nose meeting Xander’s bare backside.
He sat up abruptly to meet the entirely unrepentant eyes of Spike’s daughter, “Hey! OK, OK! I’m up! Here’s me being up. You’re hungry, I’m hungry… we’re a hungry-fest… But Shhhhh - Just leave your father in peace, yeah?”
Spike snuggled into the warmth of where Xander had been lying and slept on whilst Poppie was seen to by master. There were titbits left from dinner on Friday plus her favourite semi-crunchie dog bites. She sat patiently as master finished his food and genuinely enjoyed having him all to herself. She tried to display her enjoyment of the moment by placing her head in his lap just after he had finished his repast and was rewarded by a slow loving stroke over the ears as Xander pulled the latest geophysics reports from the folder on the kitchen table and began to think of the week to come.
Some hour or so later he heard the shower turn on but knew better than to interrupt if not invited. The prize was Spike standing at the door towel in toga style and curly hair tousled and still damp, “Thought I might take the girl for a run this evenin’.”
“Do you want me to come with?”
“Figure you’ve got work in the mornin’. Her ladyship ‘n I can catch up on a snooze before Gracie fetches us for the usual. You stay… have some time to yourself… By the way, sheets need doin’, we made a right mess.”
Xander groaned then smiled as Poppie stood and padded to her father’s side, tugging at the towel abruptly and rendering Spike utterly nude, “You minx! Just you wait ‘til I teach you some proper respect!”
“Hey you weren’t the one with a cold nose on the butt!”
Spike sauntered over, private parts on display, “Didn’t complain when it was mine earlier though did ya?”
Xander groaned and looked at the ceiling then pulled Spike close to kiss his flat stomach just above the belly button before they both roused for a quiet evening of food and television before the busy week ahead.
The new pups grew, Spike and Poppie exercised and were dropped home and Xander worked for the next few weeks, their only real respite, Sundays. The worry of the vampire message was all but forgotten as Xander argued over taking Spike, Poppie and the seven week old Luka to the vet for shots and a check up.
“It ain’t bleedin’ fair! Why don’t you get checked over for cruelty to sometimes vampires?! I *hate* doctors… D’ya know how many times bloody Dr Gull visited mother with *no* improvement? Hmm??? Twenty seven! Father died of typhoid, courtesy of the bloody Thames… just like his namesake, Queen Vic’s Albert… No doctor ever helped that, so what’s the vet gonna do? Little chap’s only comin’ up for two months… ‘n Poppie ‘n me? We’re fine!!”
Xander sighed a tired breath before answering, “Spike, it’s the *law*. And besides distemper, flu, fleas, tics? Give your kids a bit of leeway here… You might be immune in vampire form, but I’ve seen the scratching of itches so don’t tell me your fur is free of little jumpy things! We talked about this the day we brought Luka home!”
Spike conceded the point and the battle, and gave credit to Xander. He had been in a quandary as to which of his children was to come home with him, the little boy winning his heart. Luka was the smallest but feisty and determined to keep up. Spike had seen much of himself in the little boy. In the end it had been Chloe who pushed Luka toward Spike, instinctively knowing what was going on. Spike had caressed her ears lovingly before lifting the little fellow by the scruff of the neck and depositing him at Xander’s feet much to Gracie’s amusement. But Xander had insisted it was Spike’s choice, Gracie stating that a vet session was imperative as the little ones had yet to be immunized.
In the end Gracie kept the little black girl she named ‘Midnight’ and Jerry’s boys had chosen the second youngest by birth, a ginger marked girl they named ‘Libby’ for reasons unknown. The other two male pups, Donnie and Edward, were to be sold to a couple in BC, fellow mushers, and would live out their lives on a huge cattle property, running with the Dalgety teams.
The trip to the vet included all the dogs, Spike almost as nervous as Poppie as they fronted up to the clinic on Saturday morning of Luka’s seventh week of life. Spike did not want to admit it but he was relieved to see that little Luka was given a clean bill of health, yipped a little as he was given the injection and took solace in his father being present. Poppie and Spike were next. The flea issue was easily dealt with via a cream that was applied around their collars, though Spike did grumble a little in the car on the way home and even more so that night as soon as he was about to talk.
“Wormin’ tablets, flea treatment *and* a bloody injection… I should have you for this Harris! ‘m a bloody vampire and clean as a whistle, you should know… You’re the one I shower with!”
Xander sighed. He had been expecting the diatribe, particularly after the shots and the rather foul tasting tablet that he had been forced to hide in the food with strict instructions to Spike *not* to expose to his children.
The advantages of having three dogs (two and a pup) were obvious during the day. The little fellow was a delight, doing all the puppy things including pouncing on tails, growling at shadows and snuggling into protective family for mid afternoon sleeps. Spike loved the little boy, he was an innocent, sweet and trusting and very funny as he experimented with his growing body.
On days when the others ran, Luka joined his sister Midnight in the training sled as an eager Chloe began to train with the team again. And Xander found himself a little jealous in quiet times.
He was master and provider for the three, with no regrets about the latter but that he was extending himself further than ever before with the project. It was great experience and he was finding he *was* good at managing people and a myriad of issues as the building literally ‘got off the ground’. But just over two months into the project, with the heavy equipment beginning to make its mark on the site, Spike voiced his concern as they sat together on the couch one evening, Xander between the vampire’s legs, leaning back on the strong torso of his partner.
Spike silently removed the eye patch and gently massaged Xander’s tense shoulders and said in his again familiar baritone, “Think you and Jerry should ease up a bit, Pet.”
Xander’s shoulders tensed even more and he began to turn around but was held firm by Spike who continued to rub small effective circles over knotted muscles. “And before you go all corporate imperative on me, hear me out… By ease up I mean take the weekend… even God had a day off they say and the last two Sundays you’ve either been on the phone or sittin’ on the damned computer (not that I don’t like admirin’ that arse of yours from the floor but still!) I can feel your worry through our pledge link, and Ghod knows I feel it in bed… and this is only going in to week nine of the bloody thing.”
A very tired Xander looked to the ceiling and muttered, “Just need to look after you… family… need that for me too. You know my history… My parents did care and tried their best but with everything else in Sunnydale… I dunno… Wish dad could see me now… I mean apart from the gay thing. He and mum used to boast about the new High School and their son the ‘loser’ making good… Now? Just need to look after you and your kids… our kids even if they are of the doggy variety.”
“Xan, I *know* how important this is for you, but for all of us, *please* talk to Jerry… and your bosses, if you have to. You’re killin’ yourself – albeit slowly, I could drain and turn you… if you’re that determined that is… be much quicker…” Spike put his human teeth against Xander’s neck and nipped then kissed the spot to illustrate his point
Xander hung his head, “Yeah… It will get better, promise… Tell you what, let’s go out Friday night… You ring David… Just the four of us, Poppie and Luka should be OK here if we leave late enough.”
Late enough meant a drink and dancing was on the offing and Spike smiled a little. The evenings were getting longer as winter took hold again, and he consequently had more time in his vampire form. Xander had even ordered blood from the butcher last time he visited, though Spike had only taken a cursory sip. Of late, and rather unexpectedly, he preferred the dog food when in dog form rather than consuming pig’s blood of an evening – and since Xander occasionally donated during or after their lovemaking, such as it was, well...
“Sounds like a plan, Pet. You sleep in tomorrow, I’ll take the dogs early – before sunrise, now come on, come to bed.”
A pliant Xander rose with a groan and followed Spike to their shared bedroom, standing with his eyes already closed as Spike eased him out of his clothes and directed him to bed. Xander was asleep in seconds, but Spike stayed awake mulling over the past couple of months and tried to make sense of their current predicament.
He left Xander asleep and Poppie likewise, left her little brother on the mat in preference of the two sitting outside together while Spike smoked and drank a beer then rang David and arranged an evening on the town before their run.
Poppie lay her head on her changed father’s thighs and received a long, leisurely petting for her trouble. Father always seemed less happy when in human form, and she understood that. Walking on two legs seemed ridiculously tiring (having tried with master’s encouragement once or twice), and there seemed to be all sorts of other responsibilities that went with her father’s human guise. He often talked to her of a before, and a before the before. Father, unlike other dogs, seemed to have a long history that she did not quite understand. What she did understand, however, was his concern for family and safety. She had seen master growl twice in his sleep in the last month, it had been the low threatening growl of the leader of their pack. She wondered if master even realised, but knew that father did.
Like other evenings, after the cigarette and drink were finished, her father led her on a fast run, always to cemeteries or the less savoury parts of town.
Vampire numbers seemed to be building, at least in minion terms, and Spike knew it would only be a matter of time before the Master of Calgary paid Xander a real visit. He wrote to Willow on their return.
“Boy’s attracting attention. Figure it’s the pledge or something… He has a magical signature. We have a new (?) Master in residence here, please advise. S – P.S. Proud as punch… litter of five, all well, son Luka’s with us, so now a house of three dogs. Come visit before Luka gets too cocky. S”
He was privy to the almost immediate reply, Xander still in an exhausted sleep on the couch. “On my way in a month all being well. Will contact Battle Brand again, may shed some light. WR&H been on the move in London. RU OK? W”
“Apart from the comin’ winter, peachy. Just get your witchy arse over here and make the boy slow down. S”
The following night Spike dusted three vampires and took on a particularly nasty Impthett demon, Poppie deftly distracting it by biting at its multiple appendages, while Spike focussed on removing its head from the ugly body. He wasvery proud of her quick thinking and even quicker actions, but kept it to himself, Xander again deep in slumber as they returned, Luka dutifully greeting them at the door then settling back down with his sister. Spike had yet to venture out with Luka of a night time but there was plenty of time for that.
The increase in demon numbers made no real sense. There was no Hellmouth in Calgary, the only explanation was the attraction of some kind of negative force or some group of rather misguided individuals ‘calling’ them. But the newly made vampires could mean only one thing, the presence of a Master who was building his court, but the reason Xander had been sent a message was puzzling, perhaps since his essence and soul were tied to Spike’s, he was marked as demon also, certainly there were aspects of his subconscious that seemed to be leaning that way if the growling at night was any indication. There was no hint that anyone outside immediate family or the coven knew of Spike’s presence or his special status, which was an advantage.
As dawn approached Spike kissed the exhausted Xander and lay on the floor with family. Flanked by Poppie and circling Luka’s adolescent sized husky body, like so often of late, he welcomed the change, reflecting as he let sleep take him, that he really had a lot to be thankful for in his ‘dog’s life’.