Setting: Post- "Not Fade Away"
Pairing: Spike/Fred; some Angel/Nina
Summary: Oz is back, and he needs the Fang Gang's help. Sequel to Reentry.
Disclaimer: Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel canon characters belong to Mutant Enemy.
Author's Note #1: For readers who aren't familiar with this series of stories, Fred has been resurrected and now shares her body with Illyria, and they, along with Gunn, Angel, and Spike, have relocated to a hellmouth near Phoenix, Arizona. This series also contains some recurring original characters: Paloma, Kay, Thu Kheim, Dilip Singh, and Michael Wight were introduced in Reentry. They're another band of "white hats" similar to the Scoobies and the Fang Gang, because with all the evil in this 'verse it wouldn't make much sense for Buffy's and Angel's groups to be the only two in existence. I've made every effort to beat my original characters very thoroughly with the Mary Sue whuppin' stick before letting them wander out onto the pages.
Author's Note #2: The story's title is a play on Canis familia, the scientific genus and species name for domestic dogs.
"Hmm?" The man in the armchair raised his eyes from the TV screen and glanced questioningly at his wife.
"You want more pie?" The wife's own plate was empty, save for some smears of pumpkin and whipped cream and a semicircle of crust. She'd never liked crust. On the floor beside her a small boy sat crosslegged, setting up dominoes in an intricate pattern. Late November breezes set a tree limb in motion and it scratched against the living room roof.
"Oh. No, thanks." The man turned back to his program. "Better get ready for bed, Peanut. It'll be dark soon."
"Okay." The boy gave one of the dominoes a small push and watched as the little blocks began to fall against each other in a series of ripples. When the last one hit the floor with a click, he rose and followed the woman into the bathroom.
"Here's your medicine," she said as he brushed his teeth. He washed the pills down with a handful of water. The woman smiled at him playfully. "And don't forget to pee or you'll wet your bed."
The boy rolled his eyes at her in mock disgust and smiled back. When she left the room he peed obediently, then padded down the hall to the basement door. "G'night," he said to his mother.
"'Night, Baby," she replied. She watched until he'd reached the foot of the stairs and turned on the little portable TV, then she closed the door and locked it. The boy plopped down on the mattress bed on the floor. He wiggled out of his clothes, crawled naked under the covers, and drowsily began to watch the Disney Channel.
"Can you give me a hand with this recycle stuff?" the woman asked her husband a few hours later. "Just put these bags in the trunk of the car. I'll get the soda cans."
As she passed the basement door she remembered a stack of newspapers she'd left on top of the dryer. "Honey?" she called, tapping on the door with the back of her fist. "You asleep?" She listened, heard no response, then unlocked the door and started down. In the semidarkness the TV flickered black and white; Disney Channel was rerunning old episodes of the original Mickey Mouse Club.
"We're the Mouseketeers / We want to say Hello-"
Something exploded out of the darkness, smashing into her legs. It hurtled past her as she grappled for the handrail, missed, and tumbled headfirst down the flight of stairs to the bottom.
On the opposite end of the house, the man came through the front door for another load of boxes. He squatted to lift one. At the distinctive sound of claws on tile he looked up, and froze.
The animal was roughly the size of a German Shepherd, with a dog-like snout and brown, coarse fur. Its shoulders and butt were set higher than a dog's, though, and it bowed out at the elbows. It stopped when it saw the man; crouched and laid back its ears and growled a little.
"Maureen," the man called quietly, warily. No answer. His voice rose in dread and near-panic. "MAUREEN!"
The animal lifted its snout and sniffed the cool air of the opened front doorway. It pricked up its ears and suddenly bolted toward the threshold.
"NO!" the man shouted, and without thinking, grabbed the animal by the scruff of its neck. The Dog-Thing yelped in surprise and twisted wildly, clawing at the man. Razor-sharp nails tore his chest and neck open, and he released his hold and fell backward against an endtable, sending a ceramic lamp crashing to the floor. His elbow landed on the buttons of the living room TV's remote control, ratcheting up the volume, and the set roared, "MOUSEKETEER ROLL CALL, COUNT OFF NOW! CUBBY! DARLENE! CHERYL!" The animal screamed in fear and scrabbled to gain a foothold on the smooth tile flooring. It skidded to the front door, kicked over a potted palm, leaped a hedge, and galloped off into the night.
There was nothing like the holidays for bringing out the child in people, Fred smiled to herself - or the inner dork. After Thanksgiving dinner and enough parades and football games to sink a satellite dish, they'd all driven to the town square to watch Ashcraft's citizenry light its community Christmas tree, and then Charles and Spike had wandered into a honkytonk and gotten completely and cheerfully drunk. ("Look what they gave the out-of-town brothers! Mistletoe! You know birds spread this stuff by shittin' it.")
A phone call from Angel had come next: in the four months he'd been in L.A. there'd been no sign of Wolfram & Hart, no attempts on his life, no incidence of being recognized by anyone (although granted, he'd kept a low profile.) Still no word of Lorne, sadly, "But Con- ...but considering everything, it looks like we can all breathe a little easier now. Well, most of us. Breathe, I mean. Most of you, that is."
"Angel, you're babbling!" Fred had cheered. "And you're really good at it for a beginner! How's Nina?"
"Fine. Fine." Fred had imagined Angel's face turning red as he worked up his speech. "I think I'm gonna spend Christmas here with her and her niece and sister."
"That's wonderful. 'Course we'll miss you, but I know you'll have a good time. Do you think it'd be okay for me to call my parents now?"
"Well, based on the information that Paloma and Michael have been digging up, and from what I've learned here, I think it's safe to assume that the rumor about the Senior Partners being displaced and possibly killed by a rival faction is probably true. If there is a new bunch, they don't see us as much of a threat now, apparently...so yeah, call your family."
"Thank you," she had whispered, pushing the words out past the lump in her throat.
Now she sat down by the phone in the cabin that she and Spike shared at the Happy Trails Tourist Court ("Bedding America Since 1955") and picked up the receiver. Around the window the string of Christmas lights - big ones; she liked the big fat bulbs better than the little twinkly ones, even if they did burn your fingers - glowed bright with color and the memory of home. She composed herself and dialed a much-loved number.
"Daddy, it's me. I'm all right."
The young man and his mother arrived at about the crack of dawn; the father had been in the waiting room all night, Nurse Forbes remembered. Quiet group; none of the histrionics that you'd expect to see in a case like this one: wife comatose from a head injury, husband nearly dead of blood loss and lacerations (Missed the major arteries, thank you Jesus), and their nine-year-old son probably dragged off and eaten by a mountain lion. That was Forbes' theory, anyway: damn idiots with their pet cougars and tigers and bear cubs, baby crocodiles in their bathrooms and giant snakes in their closets, and then they were surprised when the poor dumb animals grew up and escaped and behaved the way Nature intended. This one had even left pawprints in the blood, according to the ambulance driver.
"Daniel." The man's face was pale and slack; his lips barely moved. The beeping monitors almost drowned out his voice. "The drugs...wore off."
"The drugs...don't work now."
"I'll find him. Mom and Dad are here; they're gonna stay with you and Aunt Maureen. I'll find Jordy."
The man's eyes closed wearily. Oz gave his hand a squeeze, and left him in the care of the ICU nurse.
Twenty minutes later he pulled up in front of his relatives' house; it was cordoned off with crime scene tape, and a detective or two still milled about. Neighbors stood in groups of twos and threes, worried and curious, some still in their pajamas. "I was walking my dog," one of them said, repeating the story for perhaps the dozenth time. "Dog started barkin' and sniffin' around and peein' all over everything, like they do when they meet a new dog, y'know? An' I notice Osbourne's trunk open, and I go to the door to ask if he left it that way on purpose, and holy god, you never saw so much blood!" The neighbor shivered and drew his coat more tightly around him.
Oz walked as close to the house as the tape would allow. He stood still, examining the lawn, the front doorstep. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, waited, turned his head a little and inhaled again. A cool winter wind blew past him, and he flared his nostrils one last time to be certain.