Spike fingered the collar hanging in the shop. Made him a bit nostalgic, truth to tell. Those were good times, when Dru had kept him in collars and cuffs. Decorative, mostly. Didn’t often go that route anymore, but there was a chance that he’d get a giggle if he surprised her. He slipped the collar into his coat pocket along with a few other fancies before heading out into the autumn evening.
He’d check on Dru before going out to make use of the bit of mischief she had foreseen would weaken the Slayer tonight. He’d been studying the girl for weeks, and weakness wasn’t what she generally had on offer. He shook his head in admiration. Had to admit that a touch of Slayer kryptonite wouldn’t go amiss with this one.
Just outside the factory doors, he remembered to fasten the collar around his neck.
“Trick or treat,” he murmured, giving it a tug to check the tightness.
Then the world went gray.
He scratched at his ear with irritation and shook his head to clear it. Then he perked up. Something marvelous was out there, just beyond his senses. He sniffed up and down the alleyway a few times before catching the shadow of a scent. He took off at a run, howling with excitement.
He hurtled around a corner, scrambling to keep his footing, and collided with some trashcans. One toppled over, spilling out a cornucopia. He investigated, but a hissing cat distracted him, and he was off again at once. It scrambled over a wooden fence, taunting him. He barreled through the loose boards to the other side barking in triumph. Right away, he found a pile of boxes leading up to where the cat was cowering. Not so haughty, now, eh puss? He put one foot on the bottom box and growled at the cat, who began licking itself as if to say, “Whatever.” Bloody Californians.
But, that remarkable something pulled again at the edge of his awareness. It was close. He circled until he got a bead. It was coming closer. He loped to meet it. There.
A girl. His girl. She was frightened. A foul-smelling lout was interfering with her, had his paws on her, was bending her over backward. He found his target — it was a wide one — and sank his fangs in deep. The ruffian straightened with a scream, swatting at him, but he clamped his jaws tighter and shook his head for good measure.
Then they were both sailing arse over teakettle. He jumped to his feet to see a panting youngster looking down at the unmoving evil man with satisfaction. His girl was sitting in a tangle of skirts, eyes wide. He trotted over to check that she was unhurt.
“Oh, you were so brave!” she cried, holding out her arms. He wriggled with joy and bounded into them, licking her hands, her neck, her tender cheek. It went a long way to getting the awful taste of hooligan out of his mouth. She stroked him all over, scratching him in the places he liked.
“Someone you know?” asked the young man.
“He grew up on my father’s estate,” she said, ruffling his ears. His tongue lolled happily.
A large man and a woman came running up. He was pretty sure he didn’t like this fellow.
“We’ve got to get some cover,” said the man.
The great oaf scooped up his girl without any preliminaries and took off down the alley. The others followed. He could smell that she was frightened again. He lunged for the bloke’s leg and got a mouthful of his pant leg and boot. The hulking brute just kept moving. He growled but hung on and was dragged along the alleyway.
The group ducked into an old building. The big guy finally put his girl down so he let go of his boot. She cringed away, trying to huddle with the woman, who shook her off.
“Faboo. More clinging,” the woman complained. He might not like this one, either.
While the others piled things in front of the door, he did his best to comfort his girl. He herded her toward a crate so that she could sit, jumping up to settle next to her. He lowered his head into her lap, snuffling with satisfaction. This was his place, surrounded by her scent and at her service. She calmed a little, but he stayed vigilant. His eyes darted between her face and the doorway where the others defended against the shouting and pounding coming from outside. She clung to his head, murmuring “good boy” until he was nearly overcome by the combination of her soothing voice, rhythmic caresses, and intoxicating perfume. His leg began to twitch.
Suddenly, the door burst open, and a crowd of little hellions burst through, screeching. The defenders fell back. He jumped down to do battle.
“I’ll protect you, Buffy!” cried the big one.
It was too much. He rolled his eyes and lifted his leg.
He felt the boot in his side and went sailing through the air. As he tumbled through the tiny attackers and out the doorway, everything shifted. He fetched up against the wall across the alley. A moment of eerie silence hung in the air. Then the Slayer’s voice rang from the building opposite.
“I can’t believe you kicked that poor dog, Angel!”
A tinny chorus of "I want my mama" started up inside. Spike headed for home, clutching his ribs.
He trudged up to the factory. His duster was in a heap near the door. He scooped it up and carried it inside.
“You’ve been a very bad doggie,” said Dru.
“Not helping, Dru.”
She looked him over and giggled. It was what he’d wanted, wasn’t it? To amuse Dru? Didn’t thrill him as much as the scent lingering in his nose and the flavor on his tongue.
Bloody buggering hell.