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
The new day brought further embarrassing moments. Poppie unable to control her canine instincts (and human enamoured state) and spent the entire day lying in front of Connor, waiting for a pat or some sign that he was interested, despite her husky status.
She was rewarded with a hearty petting and genuine hugs whenever it seemed appropriate, something her father noted.
Luka was a little put out by the extra attention his sister was receiving until Connor flung a ball into the garden repeatedly, congratulating the youngster on his speedy recovery of the same time after time.
Xander was at work so Connor took the dogs for their run to Gracie’s and marvelled at her handling of the dogs and her sincere concern for each one. He also visited Chloe who was about to deliver Spike’s third litter any day, Gracie impressed that Chloe was entirely relaxed in Connor’s presence when she was normally wary of strangers.
On the way home (a very swift sprint) Connor veered into the park and spent a joyous twenty minutes of ‘tag’ and ‘fetch’, and more than a few simple wrestles with enthusiastic dogs – Spike choosing to defer to his children on all accounts.
Another ‘gift’ awaited them on their return home – this time sent via mail. Dog biscuits and a covering letter stating that Xander had ‘won’ the contents as part of the Bow-wow pet foods promotion. As soon as the package was opened Spike’s sensitive nose knew, they were laced with rat poison. It was time for Connor to put their plan into action.
Connor took off just as sundown marked the change of the children and Spike. Time for talking to Poppie would come. For now he needed to be a solo ‘vampire’ seeking the court of the Calgary and Surrounds Master.
He quickly found the court, and presented the Master with the head of a Groxlar demon as tribute.
Andrew was everything Xander and Spike had described, self-interested, over confident and more than willing to welcome a ‘European cousin’ to the fold.
After the initial meeting Connor took a position at the back of the nightly gathering as ‘Master’ Andrew began.
“Firstly I am bound by Vampyre Lore to welcome an esteemed colleague from Europe, The Battle Brand, who has come to pay tribute to yours truly, that’s me, the Master of Calgary and Surrounds. It is with gratitude that I accept his gift of a Groxlar head and acknowledge his position as guardian of the Deeper Well. I shall be giving a short lecture on the Well and its contents following our formal proceedings, as I am sure most of you are unfamiliar with its origins and I am, well, quite the scholar in this area.
“Also please welcome three new minions – Daemon, Cassie and Les… welcome.” Andrew nodded at the three game faced vampires chained to the back wall of the warehouse.
The other members of the court turned, some grunted, others nodded but Andrew was apparently unsatisfied. “Come on, at least a round of applause for these who have so recently joined us to support our cause.”
Andrew waited and pointedly looked at his ‘second in charge’, a very burly individual who resembled a professional wrestler who began the reluctant round of clapping.
Andrew sat back satisfied and continued “Thank you all for that. As you know we are all happy evil family here and though for now they are restrained, I am sure you will all show them the normal courtesy and instruct them in the pecking order of our court. Now to business…”
Connor understood Spike’s disdain for the upstart. The meeting was long and tedious, filled with various reports from ‘team leaders’ of minor forays with demons of the lower order, several very amateur protection rackets, a rather ridiculous effort at graffiti tagging the city with VampRulz (which Andrew announced was an act of Guerrilla advertising) and a presentation of their new website, masterofcalgary.com, complete with online shopping facility and chatroom.
Connor noticed a number of the crowd nodding off as Andrew gave his treatise on the Battle Brand (thankful that he was not asked to speak) before launching into a diatribe as to why they were targeting one Alexander Harris… “And so as a *former* alumn of the ‘Scoobies’, I feel we have a real opportunity to impress upon the side of good that we are truly evil and not to be reckoned with… plus I think Xander (as he is known to his friends) would make an excellent minion in our court so he must be captured not killed – got that? First we weaken him by killing all his pets (three well trained *assassin* dogs) before next Monday – Larry and Christina you are coordinating that, make it obvious who did the deed… Then my cunning plan is to invite him to a speed dating night – run by us of course – as it is well known he is ahem, ‘gay’ and currently unattached (except for some slim yet attractive student he is occasionally seen with) this should be easy enough. Roger and Carmen – over to you.”
And on and on it went. Connor ultimately amazed that the vampires present had any time to feed.
Close to midnight the ‘teams’ set off to feed and Connor was finally left alone with a slightly distracted Andrew, Master of Calgary.
“So… I think that went well don’t you?”
Connor was careful with his words, speaking the truth did have its pitfalls. “I believe you are pleased with the meeting.”
It seemed to satisfy Andrew immensely and he went on to fill any silence by showing Connor around his large network of tunnels that extended under the south east of Calgary’s central university district. Computer room, larder, weapons room and ‘command central’ with whiteboard “… and this door was even custom made so if there is a raid… I designed it according to a plan I found for the Captain of Deep Space Nine (the second series)… Ooh and I would ask you to stay here but umm… I’m sure you have your own contacts so…”
Connor knew the vampire was fishing for information, but since there was no question he chose to remain silent.
Andrew looked quizzical for a moment then seemed to change gears, “Yes well, I too know the value of secrecy with, you know, the secret stuff we have to deal with. Ahhh yeah… Well it’s been good to meet you and… I’ll just show you to the exit shall I?”
“That would be good.”
“And you’ll visit us again before you leave?”
“OK… um… perhaps not another Groxlar head though – they’re a bit whiffy after a day or two down here.”
“Understood. My movements are unclear at this point but I will visit again. You have a very modern and unique court Master of Calgary and Surrounds.” Andrew beamed as Connor (gratefully) departed, though Andrew later kicked himself for not inquiring about Dawn or Buffy. But The Battle Brand would be back so he resolved to put that on the agenda for the following night’s meeting. Reminding himself also to send out a couple of minions to the all night video store (protected my his court of course) to obtain a full set of re runs of the last two Dr Who series plus Queen of the Night . His Canadian court just had to have an education.
Connor arrived home well before sunrise. Spike was first to rouse as he sensed his sibling and met him at the door of the kitchen as Connor availed himself of a good red wine bought by Xander just for the occasion.
“So little brother… Can we take them out – or at least the prat?”
“With pleasure and ease I am sure. His tactics are laughable, His arrogance immense and overconfidence off the scale. In Quortoth he would have been a smudge on the ground in seconds. Were Angelus around… his face not even a memory.”
Spike remembered the rules of engagement with the Battle Brand so was careful, ”Did you see their lair in full?”
“All of it.”
“Can you recall it to map it for us above and at ground level?”
“Will you be able to reproduce it for Xander?”
“Yes. It is why I am here. Spike can you write in Aramaic?”
“Bit rusty but... sure. Xander is a pretty dab hand at most things too these days… and where’s the witch fit into all this - she's the expert?”
Willow is detained, we’re on our own for the moment.”
“Hmmm... leave it ‘til mornin’ for the full report if you can. Will you still recall in the morning?”
"So let’s you an’ me just have a conflab about the so called Master. Was he as I described?”
Connor sat back relaxed and accepted the offered beer laced with Spiike’s blood, “And more. He is an idiot of the first degree. As I stated, he would not have lasted a minute in Quortoth or in an Aurelian court for that matter.”
“No arguments here Pet. Strategy?”
“We draw him toward the surface – along with as many of his minions as will follow. His secure vault is the perfect for a single well placed simple blast over command central with incendiary flares. We can have the dogs and key slayers at the exits and it should wipe out most of the Court.”
Spike was already in attack mode and Xander had roused from sleep to pull out the plans for the whole of underground Calgary. “Our primary targets?”
“Master Andrew and his second in charge. He gives a ‘prickle’ I simply don’t trust.”
“And then? C'n hardly take over the region when still needin’ kibble ‘n bits fer lunch. Alternatives?”
“Pull in the native coven, create an event via their connection with Gaia rather than the Powers that be. That way the attack will be seen as a natural occurance and the coven will welcome relative peace on a magical level.”
Spike recognized the resolve and the sense of the plan. If the court was completely wiped out it would take decades to establish a new one. If it were done under the auspices of a natural blast or even one related to building purposes then Wolfram and Hart would simply let 'nature' take its course and take the demise of their propped up Master of Calgary in their stride.
Connor added - without prompting from Spike, "I am certain they have no idea of Andrew's plans to ingratiate himself via killing Xander."
"Clock that. 'N thank mate... so how's about you take some shut eye. Me got a couple of hours of cuddlin' to do afore I go all furry again. You c'n fill the boy in on the morrow."
Connor simply nodded and adjourned to his room. Poppie and Luka were on their sleeping mat, Poppie with her arm over her little brother and fur cover and pillows in place.
Xander roused a little as Spike joined him in their bed. "Connor back.?"
"Yeah pet, now back to sleep - he'll talk to you in the morning."
Xander merely grunted, pulled Spike's cool form into a spooned position and they both relaxed into mutual slumber.
The morning brought a very different picture. It was Sunday so the run was late, but the dogs and Xander slipped out quietly for their run as Connor slept on, returning some hour or so later, Xander puffing and the dogs happy for having had the exercise.
Connor wandered into the kitchen some time later as Xander was reading the paper and munching on a piece of toast.
Xander quickly swallowed and smiled at the rather disheaveled looking Connor who was clad in one of Xander's sweat shirts and drawstring pajama pants, a far cry from the traditional Battle Brand garb he had been wearing the previous night.
"Hey yourself. Hungry?"
Connor seemed to consider the question for a moment then replied with some measure of surprise, "As a matter of fact, yes. In the Well I seem not to need much in the way of sustenance. Perhaps the rules are different when on the outside."
"Hey, food is of the good. Sit and I'll fix something - eggs and toast OK with you?"
"Thank you, that sounds just fine. Are the dogs...?"
"Outside having a bit of a muck around after our run."
Connor sat down, ruffling his 'bed hair' and gratefully accepting the orange juice Xander had placed in front of him. Xander suddenly felt like the older cousin, though was aware that Connor would, like Spike, remain ageless.
"Help yourself to fruit and the paper... Sunny side up?"
"Yes, that would be fine. Thank you." Xander busied himself with preparing breakfast while Connor considered his plans for the downfall of the Calgary Master and court, and the previous evening's discussion with Spike.
The Brand nodded his appreciation as Xander served up breakfast and ate in silence, Xander eventually choosing to do the crossword on the back page rather than break the mood. It was the appearance of Spike, Poppie and Luka that shifted the quiet scene to one of 'business', Spike electing to place his muzzle on Xander's lap and looking up expectantly. Xander took the hint but waited for Connor to finish his meal.
"So... last night went well?"
"Yes. I have the location and a relatively simple method of eliminating the court of the self proclaimed Master of Calgary."
Xander idly petted Spike as Connor went on to explain the location and set up of the court, also suggesting the 'natural' attrition of the same. In the end both men sitting in front of the computer and plans of the city's subterrainian networks.
The plan was as simple as it was obvious, but to be one hundred percent sure of working would need to happen in the day and in the next day or so while the element of surprise was still available.
Xander ruled out the idea of a city approved building 'blast', however according to Connor's detailed account there would be no reason that a cave in and consequent dusting of the members of the court (courtesy of the 'destroyer' and canine helpers) might not occur.
"The buildings above and the other city networks are too close to risk more than a very localised explosion, it's just too dangerous... but I think I can ask a few questions. The guys that helped us on the latest project are pretty cluey. The right charges in the right spot won't do more than bring an existing tunnel down. From what you say it's an old unused section of the sewer network? And from the looks of it all that is above is a warehouse."
"I believe the entrance tunnel to be that, yes. "
Xander pondered for a moment, "Let me call Barry, he knows explosives. I'll tell him it's to do with a future tender and just for 'argument's sake'. Perhaps a back up is worthwhile though. Are you..."
"Able to contact Mistress Black Feather and her coven? Yes of course. She will need to be notified anyway, in case something goes awry. Though difficult, the coven may well be able to call for an unusual very location specific seismic event to cover our tracks."
"We won't really be able to do anything until tomorrow or even Tuesday..." Xander suddenly had a thought, "I think we've ordered the two cranes for Tuesday. What if we were able to move them over in that area, you know, timing it with the blast to mask the noise?"
"It would mask the sound and the event. Could you do this?"
"Yeah... In fact I should have thought of it before. I'll talk to Jerry in the morning."
"Then it is settled. I need to discuss a rather more private matter with you and Spike once the change has occured."
Phone calls were made while the dogs (particularly Spike) paced impatiently in the garden.
It was just after dark on Sunday night when the shift from dog to human form happened, and coincided with a call from Gracie to Xander indicating that Chloe was showing all the signs that she was about to deliver Spike's third litter.
Xander was a little distracted on the phone, but did promise to bring Spike over as soon as the pups had arrived. The whole family was excited, though Poppie was somewhat sad when Connor chose to take himself to his room and work on the computer. She had hope for a little attention, apparently he had better things to do.
The following morning Connor ran with Xander and the dogs, Xander falling behind as vampire speed pushed the dogs to a flat sprint for the final kilometer. There was no wider grin than Spike's as he watched his daughter and son out sprint him for the first time, though in truth he simply wanted time with 'master'.
Upon their return Xander served up breakfast but then felt a gentle pawing at his left foot. He knew the sign, excused himself and fitted the writing tools to Spike's canine legs.
"Of course. But I think Connor wants to have a chat to you tonight - imagine strategy for tomorrow and all that. The warehouse above the tunnels of 'the Court' is derelict and due for demolishing. I've spoken to the guys doing the job and they're happy to push the scedule forward, although I need to have a meeting with them today - we've got the cranes and digging equipment hired but really need to shore up the deal that allows us on site to do the job. Can you wait one more day?"
"Up to the Brand innit." came up on the type screen, then "Trust in you Xan. Do what has to be done - we'll be ready."
Xander contacted Gracie early and dropped the dogs off at nine in the morning, watching with great affection as Spike communed with Chloe then sytematically licked over five little bodies, his children, three boys and two girls. Xander left for work still preoccupied with the rather loose plans for the following day's attack on the Calgary Court.