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
For the next two weeks there was no more indication that Andrew (aka Master of Calgary) was ‘in the building’. And there was only a short message of Yuletide cheer from Willow and the coven, with an added, “Deeper Well seems sealed until ‘silly season’ is over. Blessings to all, W.”
But for a few days Xander worked through and the dogs ran with Gracie as usual, Spike particularly enjoying the feel of deliberately letting his instinctive ‘dog’ take control. Chloe was a sweet and attentive as ever, and due to be in season again soon, Spike could smell it.
The upsetting piece of news from Gracie’s ‘chat’ with her dogs on their midday run at the end of the week was that three of Spike’s boys and one of his girls had been ‘fixed’ by various owners, Spike resolving to appeal for Xander to keep the children ‘in tact’ if there was ever an opportunity to raise the issue (or more pointedly from Spike ‘Bloody-well make it raised!”).
For the most part, though, Spike’s time as a dog these days were a welcome respite. He lost himself in the run, the crunch of bone at the return home to full food bowl, the time with Chloe and children. He was torn as to another litter, Chloe’s teats were just reshaping, but she felt it as did he. It was time for her to be serviced again soon, and more worrying, Poppie would be in season sequencing with her mother.
Spike split his time at home during the daylight hours with the computer, meticulously (and sometimes with boredom on the part of the two sometimes humans) insisting that the children learn to read. As soon as the change came the two children took turns on the treadmill, soon adept enough to walk then, gradually, run. And Spike noted their aging meticulously, indeed it seemed that seven dog years for every one human was approximately correct. He reported the same to Willow via Email.
Twice in the month following Willow’s departure there were incidents at the house that Xander only learned of post fact.
The first was a number of poisoned baits were set around the rear yard of the house (easily detected by the sharp noses of father and children), and the second a more serious, a ‘wolf trap’ spread open and near their toileting place. The ground had been disturbed and it was only Spike’s warning growl that prevented any of them losing a limb, the trap sprung by a piece of off cut wood courtesy of Spike. Despite the successful avoidance of harm, the attacks seemed to be escalating.
A week out from the Mail Run, Willow had news. She Skyped Spike, Xander still at work at five in the afternoon, despite the dark.
“The Battle Brand said he will come to visit in the spring.”
Spike replied quickly, “What and leave the Deeper Well? Is it that serious?”
“There is a precedent, Drogan left it for LA.”
“Yeah… and we all know how that worked out… and now *why*!”
“It’s not quite like that Spike. He wants to see you, talk to you in person. There are other precedents, in history I mean.”
“Whelp is online. What’s wrong with that? Don’t want him missin’ if W&H choose to come a callin’. He shouldn’t risk it on our account.”
“I think we’ve got that covered. Giles is going to step in for him for a couple of weeks. This is important Spike, and I think the children might appreciate his company.”
“*Giles* is goin’ in to bat for us? Last I heard the Battle Brand was a right bore and Connor was a murderous prat. How is this good?”
“Giles is doing this for all of you. Will you just trust me on this Spike?”
“A reluctant yes at this end. Only for you, Xander and the kids mind… any brat that’s product of me ol’ Grand Sire and Grand Mama still has a lot to prove, vamp-family or Brand. Now what of Poppie. Can she or can’t she have a litter?”
“Spike she can, but it would be a multiple birth. Three maybe up to five pups. It will be OK in her husky form, but as a human it is *very* risky.”
The tone over the connection became very serious, “Risk her?”
“Well… Yes… and the pups… They will be forced to change in vitro and I don’t know of any precedent. The gestation time will approximately line up with her development – you know dog years to human years… but…”
“Can you tell her? Red? I’m callin’ in a favour… Would you tell her? Ultimately it’s her decision.”
“I promise Spike, I’ll tell her. But let it be by voice… you know, privately. I will ask her to think about it before letting you know.”
The Mail Run went more smoothly than anyone in the Harris household expected. There was no running past dusk at the insistence of the race organizers. A previous year’s experience of sub 30C and near loss of a number of teams was the imperative, and it suited Xander who, this year, insisted on keeping his own dogs inside a three man tent rather than sleeping in the open as was tradition.
Gracie respected his wishes reluctantly, but had also seen the man with the dogs that were part of her crew. Spike, Chloe and Poppie were as strong as ever and Luka was shaping up nicely, running alongside the main team, though she did hold some concern for the younger dog as he panted his way through the second leg. All bets were off, however, as the final day’s racing began, she with the team of five including Spike and Deefor, whilst Xander was pulled on the snow ski by his two younger dogs.
Gracie placed third overall and was thrilled by the result, her now semi permanent partner Russell with the second team coming in fifteenth. There was speak of an Alaskan marathon the following year, but it was early days, and Xander deflected any conversation of the same, claiming that he was uncomfortable with the idea of sending his dogs away without his being there.
Chloe was pregnant again, the sire, Spike, unapologetic as he serviced her for the third time. The worry was Poppie.
She had come into season also but had requested to be locked in the house instead of taking her usual run, local dogs all taking too much of an interest. Though still telling no one of her discussion with Willow, she feared a ‘rape’ scenario, despite her dog yearnings for pups.
Gracie had quietly counselled Xander to ‘fix’ the young dog if he didn’t intend breeding but in the end, gave up her plea. Poppie was to be whole for a while longer even if it meant keeping her inside during her menses.
The critical time passed without incident and Gracie suggested that next time she was on heat, one of Deefer’s progeny might breed with her, though Xander did seem vehement in his reluctance, much to Gracie’s confusion. In the end the topic was left for another day, instead they returned to the matters of training and the possibility of showing the dogs, not just racing them.
Obedience classes were a bore, but Luka endured them, as he did learning to read. Spike quickly discovered that a ‘reward’ system was far more effective with the fast growing boy than any punishment he could think up. And on the eve of Luca’s eleventh birthday (human time), the boy read aloud for the entire family for the first time. All were impressed, including Poppie who had proven a quick and dedicated student.
Gracie rang Xander two days later again appealing to him, “I really am serious about showing the dogs. Xander, I know Spike is only three quarters or maybe seven eighths husky but the children are, according to the rules, pure. And what a bloodline! And look it, You’re mostly away in the day. This way the dogs will at least be occupied and learning.”
There was no argument that could match Gracie’s, so, for two months after Willow’s visit, the two children and Spike were schooled as to what to do at the show. Sit. Stand. All the usual running around in circles keeping pace with first Gracie then Xander. They need stand for what seemed like hours being fussed about and coiffed. It was all not a thing Spike nor Xander approved of particularly but it took the pressure off the waiting game that had been the past few weeks regarding the children’s real status.
What was unexpected was the ‘best new dog in show’ blue ribbon that Poppie returned home with, and several offers from breeders and mushers alike to purchase her offspring and that of Chloe’s.
On sundown Poppie was almost apologetic about her win, but still sought approval. “Papa? Master? I did what Gracie wanted and we… well they said… I was *very* well trained… but so was Luka. We were *both* so very, very good. He would have a ribbon too, but he did wriggle a bit… Oh and Mama was *so* beautiful and they will make wonderful pictures especially with us all standing together after when I won. Master will we have the photos soon? The official ones Gracie said it might even be in the paper or a magazine.”
Spike hugged his daughter close and smiled at Xander. “You did very well Pet, so very, very well. And don’t you mind Luka, he will learn in time, he’s only young.”
“Thank you Papa. May Luka and I have some ice cream tonight? We do both enjoy it so. And he really has earned it as well. He was *very* good at the obstacle course.”
“He was indeed” Spike hugged the ten year old boy tight, as Xander went to fix the children a treat. It was apparent that the children were growing at an accelerated pace in human terms, virtually aging by a year at least every couple of months, yet had perfectly normal progress as dogs. And for all her apparent sophistication and devastatingly beautiful good looks as human, for all her seventeen plus human years, the girl was still only really two and a half. Spike and Xander had to keep reminding themselves of that.
Xander retrieved a large tub of vanilla and piled the children’s plates high, adding a squirt of chocolate topping just for good measure. But also know that ‘afters’ would include their father’s blood, a nightly occurrence these days.
The quiet “I’m *very* proud of you Poppie” and kiss from Papa was a bonus, and though only eight o’clock, teeth were cleaned and the teenager took here place beside Luka on their mat to read him to sleep after what had been a very big day.
Spike and Xander made for the kitchen and a quiet discussion. “Glad I just got to stand on the sidelines… thanks for that.”
“I hardly thought it appropriate for a master vampire to be put through his paces as ‘dog’.”
“Cheers mate, p’robly would have bitten one of the poncey judges anyways. But give a thought for the proud dad… Was the kids’ day. An’ she’s everythin’ I would ever have wanted as is he… Keep ‘em safe, Xan… no matter if I dust or whatnot, promise to keep ‘em safe. Yeah?”
“Do you even need to ask me that? Ghod Spike the two, you three are *family* and all I’ve really got I love you all *so* much…”
Spike smiled rather coyly at the admission, and said in his most seductive baritone,“Well come to bed and give this member of the *family* a right decent seein’ to.”
The following day brought some interesting developments, Gracie was having a lay day after all the efforts of the dog show and Xander decided to take the dogs to work.
Luka was terribly excited but still on best behaviour as they approached the site. The main structure was nearing completion with only one more floor and the roof to go on. Lower floors and the underground carpark were being fitted out with wiring and all manner of piping and special flooring ready for specific needs.
The morning break for the dogs was spent catching titbits and (for Luka particularly) enthusiastically retrieving a tennis ball and various sticks that were pitched, fetched and let go at the ‘pitcher’s’ feet, much to the delight of the men. Luka was generously rewarded with rough pats and play wrestles (complete with fake growls on the part of the crew member/opponent). The husky, though excited, knew not to bite for real. Father would be devastated and angry, and master shamed – he knew that instinctively.
The three dogs were not restrained through the day but by and large kept close to master, sitting dutifully by the car in the sun toward the end of the day. They had been for a good run, so were at ease to rest and groom each other when work by the humans took precedence. It was early spring and a cool but perfectly still, clear day.
But something caught Spike’s eye, and nose early afternoon. Before anyone could catch him, he was up through the structure via the recently made, still door-less and handrail-less concrete steps of the fire escape and onto the second floor barking wildly.
What was found, after all the fuss, was a very dead young woman carefully laid out with her arms crossed over her chest much as the kings and queens of old. The police would later admit being rather at a loss as to the lack of blood at the scene, given her deeply torn neck, but put it down to her being deliberately transported there.
The crews were all interviewed, then counselled, and a very worried Jerry rang that night and turned up early morning the next day to thank the onsite teams and lend his support. No one had been near the second floor that day, other than to ‘go on up’, and Jerry was more than satisfied as he reported to the media, who of course had monitored the police radio, and were waiting outside around three.
Jerry was calm and utterly professional as first he then the police sergeant in heading the murder investigation fronted the media.
“The time of this young woman’s sad demise exonerates any of the staff on the day. Every one of our teams on site has been both interviewed and counselled and all have willingly agreed to DNA testing if that is required by the police investigators… Yes Ma’am we do appreciate that the site is dark at night, but the public must also understand that the construction company does put up significant barriers to the intruders (for their own safety) *and* has security guard inspection several *random* times a night.”
The young sergeant was comfortable to answer the next question, “No ma’am. At this point we are not at liberty to say. Once her family have been fully briefed, and regardless of circumstance, it is up *them* to decide how they wish to honour her life and grieve. I would ask that you all respect that… We will keep the media informed if there are any further developments that might impact the community of Calgary. Thank you all for coming.”
The tapes of local streets and nightclubs confirmed that indeed someone had dragged her from the street as she hailed a taxi around one in the morning. There seemed no connection with the building site other than it was ‘convenient’ to dumping a body, though the trouble the killer had gone to in displaying the body was a worry as it smacked of serial killer. Spike too saw more.
He kept the children close to the car after his initial alert. He worried for both them and for Xander. This was pushing into new territory. Andrew obviously knew of Xander’s movements and where he worked, and with winter abating but the building task often spanning beyond sundown, all the crew would be targeted in order to get to Xander. ‘Master’ always carried a stake in his pocket, but Spike still worried. This wasn’t Sunnydale, explaining just why you had to carry a piece of wood and what to do with it would have Xander in a straight jacket before he kept anyone safe.
Xander barely registered the three dogs’ change as he drove in deep thought. The site had been closed for the interviews, all men and women paid for the full day and encouraged to take the rest of the day and half the next ‘off with family with pay’. It was late afternoon by the time Xander headed for home and sundown ‘had it’s way’ with the children and Spike.
Poppie spoke quietly from the back as the RV turned into their street, “Papa?”
Spike’s low growl startled her into utter submission, Luka too. Spike belatedly realizing the husky in him had pulled rank rather than answered the question. “Yes dearest… please sit up… it’s been stressful for us all.”
“Papa is us, Luka and I… Are we the reason for the killing?”
“No dear heart. But if you train right, you might just stop it.”
“Really? Because that girl… the one everyone was talking about… she might have had pups… you know? She was the same age as me… thr… sorry twenty one in human years.”
“That’s right Pet, and she made some wrong decisions… but we all need to be on the alert, you understand?”
Poppie looked to her father from under impossibly long lashes, “Yes Papa… Papa how old are you, in dog years I mean… how old are you as a husky?”
Spike made a quick mental calculation “In real dog years twenty three or thereabouts… but as a vampire all got stopped at around three to three and a half.”
As Xander pulled into the family’s drive, Poppie looked up in utter wonderment, “But Papa… how is that possible?”
They were just about to car as Xander stopped it in the driveway, “Ask your Aunt Willow… she’ll… Hang on a minute Pet… Xan, sommit doesn’t smell right. Everyone stay in the car.”
The command was absolute, “Stay here! And if anythin’ is up? Drive like the bloody wind… Keep ‘em safe Xan… Just keep you and them safe.”
A dark figure stood at the front door of the house, even Xander could see that, but the man was unable to stop Spike from flinging the right hand door open and confronting the individual (albeit only clad in a black t-shirt and hastily pulled on overalls that were kept in the car for just such emergencies).
For effect Spike leaned against the car and pulled out a cigarette, patting the pockets to finally find the stashed lighter. Quickly using the same he rounded into the headlights, expecting Andrew or a minion.
“Well, we’ve had an interestin’ day. Care to play ‘Sticks’? ‘Cause gotta say, a bit over you threatenin’…” Spike felt a different presence… and could barely utter the next word, “Connor?”