In the Company of Wolves
When Willow regained consciousness, she was slumped against something hard. She opened her eyes. <<A car door. Cigarette smoke. Black windows. Oh, gods, Spike's car!>> She sat bolt upright, then regretted it as her head began to pound and her stomach twisted.
"Sorry, pet. Don't make sudden moves for a bit. No permanent damage, though."
"How would *you* know?" spat Willow, keeping her face straight ahead.
"Practice. Lots of it. We both know I don't want you dead -- not this year. "
"And if I vanish from Sunnydale, they'll think I'm dead."
"Doubt it, luv. Not with the long chatty letters you'll be writing, telling your friends -- and your lawyer -- about how you decided to make a clean break from the memories of that ex-boyfriend of yours."
<<Ouch. That was *my* lie, not his.>> "And why will I write these letters?"
Spike glanced at her. "Use that clever brain, pet. You're alone. No rescuer coming. The chip's gone. Need I go on?"
Willow swallowed. <<Change the subject.>> "My head hurts."
"That's what punches do, ducks. You'll get better."
"Can we stop so I can get some aspirin?"
"At a friendly, human-infested store where you can get help? Don't think so. Points for trying."
"Where are we going?" Willow looked sidelong at the vampire.
Spike's right hand flashed out, grabbed her wrist, and twisted.
"Ouch!" His hand automatically flew up to his head, then he pulled it back and smiled. It wasn't a pleasant smile.
"Let's get this clear, witch. I'll ask the questions. We're going where the Slayer won't look for you, and that's all the information you'll get."
Willow made one last try. "But why?"
"Call it a whim. No more questions."
Willow closed her eyes and slumped, only to have her cheek slapped once. "No more sleep. Not smart after a head injury."
Willow sat up and flashed a glare that should have incinerated Spike. He met it with a chipper grin.
<<If looks could kill, pet, this world would be a desert.>>
Willow peered through the gaps in the window, seeing nothing she recognized. <<Maybe I can find some aspirin in my pack.>> She looked on the floor. No pack. She twisted her head to the back. <<Ouch!>> No pack.
"Spike? I think I have some aspirin in my pack. Where is it?"
"In the trunk. You can have it when we stop."
"But my head hurts now."
"Having spent five months with the Instant Migraine Machine, somehow I can't get terribly concerned. You'll get your pack when it's safe to stop."
Willow fell silent and watched the road whip past. It was a deserted two-lane road, too small even for signs. The moon rode high in the sky.
After a long silent while, the road widened and intersected a state road. At the crossroads, there was a dilapidated '30s cottage-style motel and a combination convenience store and gas station. Spike pulled up to the motel, cut the engine, and turned to her.
"Let's be clear, pet. Try to get help from the staff, and I'll kill them all. Your life is safe for now, but I'm really looking forward to a spot of bloodshed. Stay silent, and I kill only what I eat. One word, one move, and their blood is on your head. Understood?"
Willow bit her lip.
"Yes. I understand."
"Wait here." Spike got out, rang the night bell, and negotiated with the sleepy desk clerk. Then he reentered the car, jingling a key, and drove to the most secluded cabin. "End of the line, pet. All out."
He got out, walked around the back, and opened the door for her in a parody of courtesy. When she stood up, he grabbed her wrist hard in his right hand and pulled her back to the trunk. He released her, opened the trunk, grabbed her pack, and slung it over a shoulder.
"Ladies first." Willow silently walked to the cottage door. Spike followed her, dropped the pack, unlocked the door, and waved her inside. After she had gone in, Spike shut the door, locked it, stalked over to the only chair, sat down, and unzipped her pack.
"Hey, that's mine! And it's private!"
Spike looked up at her. "Red, as of several hundred miles ago, you lost the ability to command." He began to rummage through the pack. He threw her Book of Shadows on the floor <<Arrgh!>>, snickered at and discarded her copy of *Jane Eyre*, and tossed her Java book atop them. Moving on, he confiscated her Swiss Army knife, spare stake, and laptop, and stacked them on the floor beside him. Then he rezipped the pack and tossed it to her.
Willow found her aspirin, put the pack down, and headed to the bathroom. When she returned, Spike had draped the windows with the coverlet, and was lying on the bed with his hands behind his head and his feet crossed at the ankles.
"Come here, pet."
Her heart sank. This had always been a possibility. "No."
"We both know I can make you."
"We both know I'm not making it easy for you."
He heaved an airless sigh. "Have it your way, then."
He sprang up, crossed the room, grabbed Willow by the waist, threw her down on the bed, pulled handcuffs from his hip jeans pocket, and handcuffed her to the bed frame.
<<Oh, God, it's October all over again. And I destroyed the one thing that kept me safe.>>
Spike smiled down at her and said "Pressing business, Red. Back soon." He dropped a kiss on the pulse in her throat, then rose, picked up the laptop and other contraband, and strode out whistling. The door locked behind him, and Willow was alone with her thoughts.
<<What a mess I've made.>> As she began to cry, a small, calm, practical part of her noted, <<Bloodlust is stronger than any other need. I must remember that.>>
All too soon, Spike came whistling in the door. He locked it, shrugged the duster on to the easy chair, and turned to her. "Miss me, Red?"
Willow took a deep breath and began the conversation she had planned. "I set you free. Why did you pay me back like this?"
"Because I can. Because, for the first time in months, I can do anything I bloody well want to." His eyes sparkled. "And, oh, yes, because you're a trusting fool and I am not."
<<Keep him distracted.>>"Where are we going?"
"Sorry, it's not Question Time." Spike sauntered over and sat down next to her on the bed. "And now, luv..." he placed pale hands on either side of her head and leaned in.
<<Now or never.>>"Wait."
Spike paused an inch from her lips, his own lips curling in amusement. "Red, I don't think the cavalry are coming this time."
"I don't need cavalry." Willow rushed onward, tripping over words, desperate to finish while she still had space <<and air!>> to talk. "One year from today I'm meeting my lawyer at noon in the park in Sunnydale. Alone. If I tell Joanie I'm okay, she throws the tape in the incinerator. If I don't show up, or I'm not alone, or I say I'm not okay..."
Spike pursed his lips, bringing them even closer, and looked thoughtfully into her eyes. <<Bloody Hell. Left her time to think again.>> "I see."
<<It's working!>>"So if you'll just let me go, I'll call Buffy to come get me, and we're back where we started."
Willow smiled, hoping she looked firm, in control, and not to be trifled with. Unfortunately, she looked like what she was: a woman dancing on the edge of a cliff and hoping it wouldn't crumble.
Spike met her hopeful smile with his usual shark grin. "Not quite, Red. I am not letting you loose while that tape exists."
He held up a finger and traced the curve of her cheek to her ear. "You could trip over a shoelace and die."
Two fingers, down the line of the cheekbone to the jaw. "You could blame me for one of your little friends' getting a hangnail."
Three fingers, lifting her chin. "You could get bored." He caught her chin in a bruising grip. "While that tape exists, you remain under my eye."
<<Salvage what I can.>> Willow looked Spike in the eye and put on her best Resolve Face. "All right. But if you lay a hand on me again, you won't like what happens in a year."
"Truce, then." Spike released Willow's face and sat up. "I admit, that does take some of the thrill out of the evening. If you'll excuse me..." He stood up, turned away, and strode toward the door.
"Let me go!" Willow began to thrash.
Without turning or slackening stride, Spike responded, "Not likely, pet. Not before time."
"If you don't unchain me, you'll be sorry!"
Then Spike did turn, presenting a completely expressionless face. "Willow." His voice was soft and deadly. "Don't tell me I have nothing to lose by killing you now."
Willow met Spike's eyes. There was no court there to which she could appeal. Willow saw no gratitude, no mercy, not even humor.
<<Last try.>>"My arms hurt. If I promise I won't try to escape, will you please let me loose?"
"No, pet. But we can probably find a more comfortable position for you to be restrained in. Unless you'd prefer Plan A." The glint in his eyes explained Plan A all too clearly.
"No, thank you."
Spike returned to the bed and unlocked the handcuffs. When Willow sat up and rubbed her wrists, he waited, then tied her wrists and ankles, this time with cord. <<He travels with a complete set of restraints? Ick.>> After tying her, Spike stood and strode again to the door.
"Lights on, pet?"
"As you like. You'll be keeping vampire hours from here on, though. Best get accustomed quickly." And he left her alone with her regrets.
The next Willow knew, Spike was dragging her out of bed. "Up, into the car, NOW."
"Wha..." Willow tried to rub her aching head, then realized she was still bound.
Before Willow knew what was happening, Spike picked her up, threw her over his shoulder, sending pangs and nausea through her body, carried her out to the car, and forced her in. Willow gasped out, "My books! My pack!"
Spike hopped in and started the engine. "No time."
As the car began to roll forward, Willow had an inspiration. "It has my name and address in it!" The car stopped, and Willow was thrown against the dashboard. Spike glared, reached over, and threw her back against the seat.
"Stay!" He leapt from the car, disappeared into the motel room, returned carrying Willow's pack, and threw it atop her. "Be a bloody Girl Scout and be prepared next time!" Then he slammed the car into gear and spun out of the motel parking lot.
As the car gained speed, Willow suddenly realized why Spike was in such a hurry. <<Oh, God, he's killed somebody else. And it's my fault.>> Without moving her aching head, she looked sidelong for bloodstains, but found none. <<I guess he's a tidy eater.>>
Spike grinned. "What a smart little girl. Quite right, too. That town would have been a trifle hot by dawn."
Willow spun to face him, ignoring the pain. "You killed someone! And you're laughing about it!"
Spike, unmoved, continued accelerating. "I'm a vampire, Red. Remember, 'wolves should be wolves'?"
"Not a factor here."
Willow sank back into the seat and looked out at the sky, which was still dark. She looked reflexively for her watch, but it wasn't there. <<Probably got lost during the Bondage-O-Rama.>> "How far are we going?"
Spike reached across and caressed her throat. "When I want a conversation ... which I don't at the moment ... I'll start it myself." Willow swallowed involuntarily, and he laughed and removed the hand. "Actions have consequences, pet." He lit a cigarette and drove on.
Willow began to cough, intercepted a glare, and stifled it. <<Not only have I been kidnapped, I'm going to die of secondhand smoke. If Spike doesn't just eat me first. He doesn't HAVE to go back to Sunnydale, after all. Better not remind him of that. But what happens when he figures it out himself? Oh, God, what have I done?>> She sank into a morass of guilt and regret.
After a couple of cigarettes, Spike interrupted her musings. "So, pet, time for some ground rules. As from now, you keep my hours. Move when I do. Don't bother unpacking, I don't plan to stay anywhere long. Understood?"
Willow tried to answer, but her throat was tight with tears.
"Do you understand? I expect answers when I do talk."
Willow swallowed hard and quavered "Yes."
"Don't snivel. It's boring. I hear enough of it from the soon-to-be-deceased, and you don't want me confusing you with them. Right?"
"Yes, I'm not supposed to c-cry." Willow bit off the last word, feeling her voice betraying her.
After a few moments of silence, Willow found a reservoir of courage. "And my rules--"
"Sorry, pet, doesn't work that way. Don't bore me, and don't annoy me, and you may yet survive to retrieve that tape."
Before her nerve vanished entirely, Willow said, "I thought you'd sworn off kidnapping?"
Spike gave her a self-satisfied smirk. "Hardly. I did swear off telling the truth to enemies. Some years ago, in fact."
The sky was beginning to lighten; the stars closest to the horizon were hard to see. <<Maybe he'll drive into the sunrise!>>
As it happened, Spike recognized dawn as well as did Willow -- somewhat better, being both more motivated and more experienced -- and pulled into a small motel well before the sky began to turn pink. He checked in, drove up to an end unit, carried Willow in (this time against his chest, cradled like a new bride), dumped her on the bed, returned to the car for her pack and a duffel, and set them on the floor. Then he began checking the curtains and preparing the room for the day.
Willow looked up at Spike from the double bed. "Spike? My hands and feet hurt. I still have a circulation, you know."
He turned from the window and quirked an eyebrow. "That could be remedied..."
"Not if --"
Spike strode over to the bed and grabbed her shoulders, hard enough to bruise. "Last warning, Red. Don't wear that threat out. You may need it." He took one of her hands, which was indeed somewhat cold. He sighed dramatically, then untied her wrists. Willow rubbed her hands, while Spike freed her ankles. He looked up. "Off with your clothes."
"WHAT?" She scooted back against the headboard, eyes wide.
He smirked. "Pet, if you don't want to be tied all day, I need some other form of restraint. Hand me your outer clothes, and you can be free. Otherwise, it's back to the ropes. I understand they make quite good prosthetics nowadays..."
Under Spike's sardonic eye, Willow kicked off her shoes, dived under the covers, removed her sweater and skirt, handed them over, then pretended to be asleep. <Oh, God, what if he joins me?>
"Very convincing." There was more than a hint of laughter in his voice.
Willow burrowed deeper, not wanting to meet his eyes. <<I don't know which would be worse: having him laugh at my underwear, or having him laugh at my body. Let's not find out.>> She heard Spike striding around the room for a few more moments, then felt his body land -- on top of the cover, thank Whoever -- next to her. She waited until she thought he must be asleep, then scurried to the bathroom. When she returned, he was sitting up in bed laughing at her.
"Have you considered a career as a secret agent?"
Willow felt a tide of color rising to her ears. She slipped under the covers and turned her back on the vampire. He flicked the back of her head with a fingertip. "Get some sleep. You'll need it." Trying hard not to think of unpleasant interpretations of that last, Willow drifted to sleep.
Willow woke with a start. For a moment, she was not sure where she was; then she turned her head, and the whole situation burst back in on her. Spike was stretched out on the bed beside her, naked <<eep!>> and still as the corpse he was. One sleeve of her sweater peeked out from under his head. Willow sighed. She had time to kill, a lifetime supply of things she didn't want to think about, and no distractions in sight. <<Well, except for naked vampires. Distracting, but not a good distraction.>>
Willow slipped out of bed and looked nervously over her shoulder. This time, the vampire didn't stir. She turned to the nightstand, and slowly and gently lifted the phone headset. It was dead. She searched for a cause, and found it: the wall cord had been removed, and was nowhere in sight. She lowered the headset agonizingly slowly, and resettled it without making a sound. <<So much for easy answers.>> She scanned the room for other options, and saw her pack next to the door.
Willow paced silently to her pack, knelt, opened it, and sighed again. Spike had been quite thorough in removing all possible weapons, and to add insult to injury, had apparently left all her books behind in the first motel. Willow rocked back on her heels to think. There was no clock in the room; judging by the light filtering through the window, it was late afternoon.
<<Hey! I could open the blinds, he'd flame out, and I could go home!>> She judged the distance between the window and the bed. It was about three feet, and Willow didn't know exactly where the sun was in the sky. <<It takes time for vampires to catch fire. If he didn't burn up immediately, I'd be alone with a very angry Spike. I think I've done that enough for one lifetime.>>
<<I could prove he's wrong about me. I could walk right out there in my underwear and ask the motel clerk for help.>> Willow shriveled at the thought. <<And what would I say? Help, I've been kidnapped by a vampire, don't go in there unless you've got a stake? Nobody would believe me. Even if they believed the crazy half-naked woman, somebody would go into the room to check the story out ... and get killed. Only Buffy could cope with this mess. Oh, God, someday I'm going to have to explain this to Buffy, and she is not going to be one little tiny bit happy. And Giles. Oh, Giles is worse. Much much worse. Time to stop thinking.>>
While the vampire was -- asleep? dead? -- Willow could preserve the illusion of free will. <<Good time for a shower. Life always looks better in the shower. Although I'll have to put two-day-old clothes back on afterwards. Yuck. Vampires have it easy. They can wear the same clothes forever.>> She grabbed her hairbrush, padded to the bathroom, closed and locked the door, and looked in the mirror. Her own pale face peered back at her, dark circles under the eyes and a deep black bruise on the point of the chin. <<Still visible; I suppose that's something.>>
Willow turned away from the mirror, undressed, and piled her underwear on the sink. She stepped into the shower, pulled the curtain closed, and ran the water full force, hot as it would come. Then she closed her eyes and let the water stream down her face. <<I'm back in the dorm. Any moment now, Buffy's going to barge in and ask if she can borrow my eyeliner... >>
The door burst open, but it wasn't Buffy. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?"
Willow stuck her head around the curtain, too angry to be afraid. "What do you think? Go. Away." <<Oh God, he's still naked.>> She pulled her head back in.
"You are not to lock the door again. Do you understand?"
Willow yelled back, "What do you think I'm going to do, climb through the ceiling? People lock bathroom doors for a reason."
"I'm not people, pet."
"Will you please GO AWAY? The door isn't locked any more, and I'd like to shower in peace!"
Much to Willow's surprise, Spike left. She closed her eyes and leaned back into the shower, but couldn't recapture the mood. She washed up, dried herself, dressed, combed her hair, brushed her teeth with a finger, and sighed. <<Can't put it off any longer. Time to face a new day --make that night-- and the same old vampire.>>
Willow opened the door a crack and peered through it. The room was now dark, lit only by the flickering of the television set. Spike had dressed, piled her pack and the duffel next to the door, and was sprawled on the bed, one foot tapping. Her clothes were piled next to him.
<<I am not putting on another floor show.>> "Could you please hand me my clothes?"
Spike grinned. "I've already seen your undies, pet."
<<Resolve Face.>>"Come on, Spike. Hand me my clothes, and we can go. I'm sure you have places to be, people to betray, evil things to do?"
Spike stood up, all expression gone. "I am not your servant. I am leaving in one minute. So are you, in whatever you're wearing -- or not -- at that time."
Willow scurried out, grabbed her skirt and sweater, and pulled them on. She had just tied her second sneaker when the time was up, and Spike grabbed her elbow. "I can walk perfectly well!"
"Then do. Next to me. With that pretty mouth closed, thank you."
Willow bit her lower lip, walked out to the car, and got in. The road unrolled ahead, a ribbon dividing her from her friends and her life.
After that first night of celebration and freedom for Spike, regret and captivity for Willow, they settled into a pattern of driving all night and sleeping all day. For the rest of her life, Willow remembered the drive with Spike as a jumble box filled with inconsistent and incongruous incidents. A few sharp vignettes stood out from the blurred background of endless roads and motels. The second evening, for instance, when Willow found out how vampires solved the clothing problems she thought they didn't have.
Spike raised an eyebrow at her. "Bloodstains, luv. Wear and tear. Unsightly holes caused by bullets, knives, and poorly-aimed stakes. Can't depend on dinner to be wearing the right size and color. And your higher-class boutiques close before sundown."
Willow fought back a grin. If Cordelia only knew... Although she doubted Drusilla's wardrobe said "Merona" on the hang tag. Black jeans and T-shirts, on the other hand, could be found pretty much anywhere. After making his own selections, Spike steered her to the women's department, one hand in an apparently affectionate grasp around her arm. She walked toward a rack of ponchos, and was yanked away.
"I am not going to spend the next twelve months squiring Annie Hall around the underworld. Ah, this is more like it."
"This" proved to be a rack of baby-blue crop tops.
"I am not a fourteen-year-old hooker!"
"No, they generally have some flair. Taste, too. Quite tasty, in fact."
Willow gave Spike a dirty look, which was answered with a reminiscent grin. She turned away hastily and grabbed the closest piece of clothing, which turned out to be a navy-blue sweatshirt.
"You just lost your vote, Red." Ignoring all Willow's protests and arguments, Spike picked out a green velour minidress, a violet silk blouse --"With MY hair?"--, a couple of low-necked T-shirts, and a pair of black jeans. He headed toward the lingerie section, and Willow flamed up to her hairline.
"Please, please, let me do this alone. I promise I won't run away. I vow. I'll take an oath!"
Spike's face lost all humor. "If you learn anything from this little trek, witch, learn this. Trust is NOT a virtue. If you've a brass farthing in one hand and a promise in the other, take the farthing every time. I don't accept apologies, IOUs, or promises."
"I'm going to die of embarrassment--"
"Not possible, luv. Ask your President."
Spike did allow Willow to make her own selections, although he cheerfully offered advice and editorial comments along the way.
"Sure you wouldn't prefer leopard?"
After a brief stop to pick up toiletries and envelopes and paper <<Oh, I so hoped he'd forgotten that part>>, they checked out. Spike paid in cash; with a gasp, Willow suddenly realized where it must have come from. A renewed grip on her arm kept her from saying anything in the store.
In the parking lot, Willow spat "You stole that! From a corpse!"
Spike grabbed Willow's free arm and spun her to face him.
"Enough. If I want moral lectures, I'll go to the Salvation Bloody Army. I'm a vampire. I like being a vampire. I'm not interested in your opinions on my morals, my manners, or any other subject. You won't convince me, and you just might bore me to death -- yours."
Willow glared at Spike, but kept her mouth shut. She climbed into the car and stared straight ahead as he turned back on to the road. They were heading north, but Willow knew she wouldn't get answers if she asked where. She wondered what Buffy was doing, and wished she were doing it, too. As usual, Spike interrupted her thoughts.
"Time to make contact, luv. Write a lovely chatty letter to the Slayer, explaining that you just can't stand being reminded of Dog-Boy, and you're taking some time away to clear your head. In your own words, of course. Don't bother sealing the envelope. When you've finished that, you can make copies for the Watcher and your lawyer."
"I mostly send E-mail nowadays."
"And I prefer naked virgins delivered to my doorstep in chains. Nice try. God only knows what you could do with that computer, and I have no intention of finding out. Try the old-fashioned way, on paper."
Willow sighed, and wrote brief notes to Buffy, Giles, and her lawyer. Spike checked the wording, made her rewrite the note to Giles, and dropped them off at an all-night copy shop to be mailed. <<One more hope of rescue closed off. Spike's right, the cavalry aren't coming. It's going to be up to me to rescue myself.>>