He's seen Buffy, Drusilla, Angelus, Darla... The Master, The Mayor, Glory, Warren... his human family, heads shaking sorrowfully, victims numbering in the thousands...

But the dog? The dog is new.

It pads towards him, head cocked in a queer mirror of his own, the pads of its feet scratching against the concrete floor of the school basement. When it is about three feet away, it sits down on its haunches, regarding him.

"Hello," says the dog.

Fuck. Buffy's right, he has gone nutters.

"I'm Barnabas," the dog continues, like that makes it all okay.

"Spike," Spike replies, cause really, what the hell else is he gonna do?

"She's late," Barnabas sighs - had he known before this that dogs could sigh- and looks over his shoulder. "But then, she's late a lot. Time and her are, uh... what would your friend call it? Unmixy things."

"Right," Spike says, curling into a smaller ball against the damp wall.

"I've seen you before; I guess you could say we were in the same line of work." Barnabas lays his head down across his crossed paws. "We hang out with your ex-girlfriend all the time. Of course, you couldn't see us back then. Sane. Y'know. Saw you before then, too, when I was with her brother. You're quite the man of interest."

"You're not makin' any bloody sense," Spike croaks.

He swears the dog raises an eyebrow, which is ridiculous as he doesn't have any. "Oh, you're one to talk."

"I'm... of interest?"

"Kind of a standout in all categories." The dog tosses another glance over his shoulder. "Destiny, Death, Dreaming, Destruction, Desire, Despair... my girl was really the only one who didn't get to visit. Hurt her feelings, too. Of course, you're making up for it now in spades. Say that thing about the chalkboard again."

"You're a dog," Spike protests.

"Very observant."

"You're not real."

Barnabas suddenly trots over, nudging his muzzle against Spike's hand; he is warm and fuzzy and real, hot dog-breath stirring the fine hairs on Spike's wrist, and Spike feels moisture sting his eyes.

"Kinda lonely down here with the incorporeal tormentor, huh?" Barnabas says sympathetically.

A tear rolls down Spike's cheek; he threads his fingers into the fur between the dog's ears, scratching.

"Aww, yeah," Barnabas growls happily, butting his head up against Spike's hand. "Gotta say, new respect for the two-toned wild man look now that I know those fingernails go with it."

"Please don't leave me," Spike begs.

He didn't know dogs could wince, either. "Sorry, man. Kinda promised to look after the girl."

"Help the girl," Spike repeats, nodding. "No one should hurt the girl."

"Knew you'd understand. But hey, she's on her way, I can stay for awhile. You know what you oughta do... go to sleep. Have a little visit to her brother. He likes you."

"He does?"

"Well, he oughta. You guys had the same color hair. Of course, you and the one before him could have happily shared a closet." Barnabas considers. "Sorta similar female issues, too. Huh."

"I should go to sleep?"

"Yeah, go ahead. It might take her awhile to get here. She gets really distracted by the burning baby fish. I'm sure you can relate."

Spike curls into the fetal position, head pillowed on his bicep; when he reaches out to draw Barnabas closer, the dog laughs.

"Hey, don't go sucking out all my good body heat, now. Innocent Kibbles n' Bits lost their lives making that."

"M'not as cold as normal vamps," Spike mumbles sleepily.

Barnabas, with a small sigh at the indignity, allows himself to be snuggled, giving Spike's encircling hand an affectionate lick.

"Yeah, I know," Barnabas whispers. "I've been telling them that."