In The Company of Wolves
Willow took Spike's arm and set out for the wide world. She was mildly surprised that he hadn't required her to change, but was grateful to escape the stilettos. In fact, if she had anything to say about the matter, those shoes would be required wear in all maximum-security prisons, and seen nowhere else.
They walked back down to the tunnels and merged into the late-evening crowds. This time, Spike didn't seem to have any destination in mind. They were drifting with the crowds.
They passed a small cafe. "Want something to eat, Pet?"
They sat down and accepted menus. They were the only customers, being too early for the club crowd, too late for the pre-movie crowd.
"I'll have an ale. You?"
"Mmm. A Diet Coke and the salade aux crevettes, please."
Spike repeated the order in French. When the waitress had gone, he cocked an eyebrow. "What, not milk? You could have had something stronger, you know."
"I'm under age."
"Not in Quebec."
Willow bit her lip. Then she decided to say what she was thinking for once. "Thank you, I only drink with friends." <<Oh, God, what if he gets mad?>>
Spike merely said "Very sensible. Does rather limit the opportunities, though. Especially for the next few months."
The food came quickly, and Willow happily tucked into her salad. She looked up to see Spike watching her and hastily returned her gaze to her plate. She could feel the blood rushing into her face. <<This is really weird.>>
Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice from behind her. "Good evening, William. What brings you to our city?"
Willow looked up. Spike's face had lost all expression. <<If he weren't a vampire, I'd say he'd gone white.>> "Good evening, Claude."
"I asked a question."
"Sorry, thought you were making small talk. Missed poutine, of course. How are you?"
"I am well. Some of my friends are ... less than amused. You haven't introduced me. American manners, no doubt."
She felt a cold hand grab her wrist hard under the table. <<He let that slide? What's up?>> "Didn't think you'd be interested."
The voice moved into Willow's line of sight, between her and Spike. As she'd suspected, it belonged to a vampire. This one had jet-black hair and was tall, slender, and wearing an exquisitely tailored gray suit. He leaned toward Willow, cutting off her view of Spike, and traced the line of her necklace with one cold finger. "This makes her of great interest. Her name is?"
Spike's fingers made a deeper dent in her wrist. <<Oh, God, now I have to be rude. I think polite would be smarter...>> "My name is Willow. And I'll thank you to keep your hands to yourself."
The next instant, she was yanked to the floor, and one hard hand was on the back of her neck, forcing her face downward.
"Apologize. Now." Spike emphasized each word with a push to her head.
She stammered out "I'm sorry", then was silenced by a second hand clamped across her mouth. "As you can see, Claude, she's not ready for public appearances. I would not have brought her to your attention, given the choice. I apologize humbly for her indiscretion. She will suffer for it."
<<Spike being humble? I'm going to faint. Wait a minute... suffer?>> "I shall not interrupt you, then." Willow watched his polished black loafers stride away. A hard yank on her hair collected her thoughts.
"We're leaving. Now." Spike pulled her to her feet with another yank on her hair, flung a handful of cash on the table, grabbed her wrist, and dragged her to the door. Willow followed, running to keep up with him.
When they were outside, she said "What was that all--"
"Shut up NOW." And he grabbed the chain and twisted it. She gasped for air, and he let go.
They walked to the Metro stop in silence, boarded the train, and sat down. Willow stole a sideways glance at Spike's face; he glared back at her. <<How dare he? I was doing what he taught me to do!>>
They left the train at their stop, then walked silently through the tunnels and back to the apartment. Spike preceded Willow up the stairs, keeping that iron grasp on her wrist.
After he opened the door, Spike threw Willow across the room, then stalked up to where she was lying against the wall. He had dropped his human mask, and his soft, emotionless voice was colder than her fear.
"I suggest that you give me a very good reason why I shouldn't kill you now, then send your head to Claude as a partial apology. And DON'T mention that bloody tape." His control cracked a moment, then returned.
Willow, white as death, lifted her chin and spat out one sentence. "I. did. what. you. told. me. to. do."
Spike slapped her hard across the face. "I didn't tell you to mouth off to the Master's right hand!"
Willow rubbed her cheek. "What did you tell me, then?"
He grabbed both of her shoulders. "Why did you bloody think I grabbed your wrist?"
"Because I wasn't being rude enough."
Spike raised both hands to his head. "What have I done to deserve this?" He slammed a fist into the wall next to Willow's head; she flinched away.
Spike froze, eyes flaming golden. Then he whirled and left the room, locking the deadbolt behind him.
Willow stayed next to the wall, breathing deeply, until she heard his footsteps fade. Then she slowly pulled herself to her feet and went to the bathroom. Her cheek was a brilliant red, and her wrists were beginning to swell. She bathed her face and wrists in cold water.
<<I nearly died. Again.>>
##### Diary of Willow Rosenberg (decrypted)
perl -i.bak -p \ -e 's#<title>#<title>WR: #i' *.html
My last note was based on partial information. There are some vampires to whom one must be rude. Other vampires demand politeness. No, I have no idea how to tell them apart. And I found this out the hard way. And I was doing what I was supposed to do, damn it.
There is also somebody called "The Master" in Montreal. I don't think it can be the same Master as in Sunnydale -- Buffy pulverized him. I can't be sure about that, though.
I wish I were a real anthropologist. No. I wish I were at home, coping only with drunken fraternity boys and weekly Apocalypses.
Just as Willow finished the last line, the door swung open. It was Spike. He had resumed his human facade, but there was a splash of blood on his shirt. <<He killed somebody else because he was mad at me. One more stain on my soul.>>
"It seems I have a toy to correct."
Willow sat up straight in the armchair. "That was in public, remember?"
"Your behavior in public was not acceptable. There are consequences."
Willow froze, not intending defiance, but too frightened to move.
Spike grabbed her arm and dragged her over to the bed. "That wasn't a request."
Willow tried to yank her arm free, and found herself flat on her back, with a golden-eyed vampire straddling her hips with his knees and holding her shoulders down. <<Oh, my God.>> She lay perfectly still. <<Fear attracts predators. Calm. >>
Golden eyes stared into green. Willow held her breath; Spike stayed still as ice, as still as his own heart. Spike's eyes drifted down from Willow's face to her throat. The moment stretched on long past bearing.
Spike released Willow's shoulders and sat back. Willow slowly let the air out of her lungs. It seemed she'd get to take that next breath after all. Breathing was nice.
Spike leaned back into Willow's face, hands gripping the bedclothes beside her shoulders, the gold of his eyes slowly drowning in blue.
Willow swallowed. "I wasn't--"
He leaned even closer, nose an inch from hers. "I said, 'Come here'."
Willow nodded. "Sorry. I'm really sorry. I thought---"
She lay still. More time passed. Spike stayed in her face. <<Let him do the talking.>>
An expression she couldn't read flickered across his face. Suddenly the tension drained from his shoulders and body. He sat back, still resting his weight on her hips, and broke the silence.
"I did teach you to bloody mouth off. I also told you there was a fine line to walk, and you bloody crossed it by furlongs. And you could not possibly have picked a worse person to do it with."
Willow looked back into his eyes and let the silence linger, afraid to say the wrong thing.
Spike sighed. "And you had no way of knowing that. Which doesn't change the consequences one damned bit."
Willow bit her lip.
"Don't do that, it's distracting. Sometimes it pays to be pushy. Sometimes it pays to be polite. It always pays to know the difference between the two."
Willow swallowed. "How do I know?"
He sighed again. "Follow my lead. I'll kick you if you should get in somebody's face; otherwise, assume you're on what passes for your best behavior." He rose from the bed, releasing Willow.
"It's been one Hell of a night. Turn in, Red." He flicked off the light, undressed, and lay down beside her. Willow stayed awake, staring into the dark.
Spike awoke to a hand on his shoulder. He sat up and grabbed the attacker by the throat.
It was the witch, of course. He let go, and she gasped for air.
"Not smart, Red. Next time, try talking. What's the rush? Couldn't wait to see my face?"
She took a deep breath, exhaled, calmed herself, and met his eyes. For a moment, Spike caught a glimpse of the woman she would become, if she survived long enough. She rushed on, pausing only to gulp breaths of air.
"Listen, and don't interrupt. Because if you do... I probably won't get to start again, and this is important. For you, not just me.
She gulped a breath and continued, staring through Spike rather than at him. "This isn't working. Twice so far, you've told me what to do, I've done it, and then you've exploded. First in the bar, when I didn't speak until spoken to, and then last night, when I was rude against my own better judgment.
Her voice rose as her anger gathered force. "Each time, you gave me a simple baby rule. "Mind your manners." "Be rude." And each time the baby rule made me do the wrong thing. And now you have a new baby rule: "Don't be rude, unless I kick you."
"That won't work. Because the next time I'm in public, I'll probably be polite, then you'll kick me, then I'll be too rude, then the next thing I know I have fangs in my face. Again.
"I'm not a baby, and this isn't a baby world. Tell me the real rules, or just leave me here to rot."
After finishing her speech, the girl took another deep breath, then met his eyes again, looking anxious.
He let a small smile escape him. << Not bad. There is a backbone there, after all. If I pushed just a bit, she'd collapse. But that would be boring. >> He stood up and stretched, to give himself time to think. Willow blushed and turned away.
"The problem, luv, is that I've been a vampire for 126 years, and that doesn't exactly lend itself to explanation. I can't give you those years. I could give you the fangs "-- she shuddered -- "but the rest comes from experience.
"Go take your shower, and I'll think."
Willow grabbed her green minidress, shoes, and underwear and scurried off to the bathroom.
<< I didn't think I could confront Spike, but I did. And he listened. After he stopped strangling me, anyway. >> She caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her cheek was yellow; she raised a hand to touch it, and gasped. The flesh of the wrist was ringed by a deep black bruise where Spike had grabbed her. Another injury for her collection. She rotated her hand cautiously, and decided nothing was actually broken. She sighed and began undressing. Hot water wouldn't cure all ills, but it was the best medicine she had available.
After showering, Willow pulled her underwear and dress on. She frowned at the stilettos. << If I hadn't picked a dress, I might have been able to slip the sneakers by him. If he hadn't insisted on a mini, my shoes wouldn't show. Oh, and if my grandmother had a PCMCIA slot, she'd be a laptop. >> She left the bathroom, barefoot.
Spike had dressed in jeans and a clean T-shirt and was sitting on the bed, lighting a cigarette.
"Have a seat, pet." He patted the bed beside him.
She sat in the armchair, facing him. He quirked an eyebrow, but didn't argue.
"The simplest way to put this is that there's a generation gap. Not based on age, but on attitude." He paused and took a long pull from the cigarette, then exhaled.
"The only vampires you've really met -- socially, anyway -- are Peaches and me, right?"
Willow nodded. << I am NOT mentioning vamp-me. >> "And Harmony, I guess."
Spike snorted. "Leave her out of it. Anyway, the vampires you know made our peace with change a long time ago. You ask me, the 1890s were dark and smelly, and the music sucked. The Poof would say much the same about the 1700s."
He leaned a little toward her; she forced herself not to retreat. "Vampires like us -- or the ones you'd meet at the bar -- don't much care about age. Oh, we don't pay a lot of heed to fledglings, but anybody who's lasted more than a couple of decades probably has some sense. Good company matters, not when you joined the party. Weaklings and cowards are boring. Fools die young."
"Then there's the other set, the traditionalists. They think the world's gone steadily downhill since their time, whenever that was. All that matters to the trads is age -- the older the vampire, the more worthy of respect. Some cobwebby old fossil can have never had an idea since 1659, and be a very big cheese in their world. They wear modern dress to blend in, but they don't like it."
Spike took another drag on the cigarette, then ground it out on the floor. "Sunnydale is pretty much my kind of town. Charleston is for trads. Montreal is split. The two sets of us ignore each other as much as possible. I hadn't planned on introducing you to the trads. It was bloody appalling luck that threw one in your way."
He waited until she looked at him, then held her gaze. "So. With my lot, act intelligent, a bit cheeky, but bear in mind that you're mortal, which makes you both bottom dog and disposable." His face became grim. "With the trads, and I hope to Hell you won't need this information, grovel. They expect it."
Willow absorbed this. "How do I tell the difference?"
Spike shrugged. "You can't. Follow me. If I start talking like a bloody toff, you do the same. Got it?"
Spike chucked her under the chin. "If you want to go out, best go cover up that bruise. Makes you conspicuous."
<< I suppose an apology would have been too much to hope for. >> She walked back to the bathroom and made herself up. After that, feeling daring, she put on socks and her sneakers. Spike said nothing, but simply offered his arm, which she took, and they left the apartment.
After locking the outside door, Spike turned to her.
"What do you want to do this evening?"
Willow raised her head in shock. "I get to pick?"
His face seemed serious. "Yes. Within reason."
Willow thought. "Are there any touristy parts of Montreal? Non-vampiry touristy parts that are open at night, I mean? Because I spend enough time with vampires -- oh, dear, I shouldn't have said that, but you know what I mean..."
Spike was amused. "You don't want to go shopping? Or to a movie?"
"If I get to pick, I want to see something about Montreal that I haven't seen yet; make it more like a visit, and less like... well, less like what it is."
Spike pursed his lips and thought. "We could go to the Boulevard St-Laurent -- that stays open later than almost any other part of town. Or there's the Parc du Mont-Royal, which has a pretty good view of the city. Can't promise there'll be no vampires, though; late hours, you know..."
<< Why is he being so nice? >> "Let's go to the park; I've been indoors forever."
They headed for the Metro. After riding a few stops, they got off and began walking toward the park. The neighborhood around it was funky and fun, full of well-kept old houses and interesting stores. When they reached the park proper, they entered the gates and sauntered up the dirt walking path leading to the top. The path was not well-lit; there were dark patches between the lit areas. For once, Willow was glad to be accompanied by a vampire. << At least the scariest thing in the park is on my side... sort of. >> In one clearing, signs stapled to the trees advertised a drum jam; Willow thought wistfully of Oz, then suppressed the thought and walked on.
About halfway up the plateau there was a viewing area, complete with coin-operated telescopes. They stopped and looked out over the city. It was a clear, moonless night; the city lights below echoed the stars above, with the moving lights on the highways weaving a counterpoint.
Willow turned to Spike. "Wow! Gorgeous, isn't it!"
He looked down at her upturned face, smiling slightly. "Yes."
Willow crimsoned. << He's putting me on! >> "You don't have to butter me up. I know I'm not gorgeous."
He frowned. "What utter rot. I know what a beautiful woman looks like -- and tastes like, for that matter -- and I know what I see."
Willow turned away. << I am not falling for this. >> "Don't bother."
He gripped her shoulders. "Willow."
<< Oh, my God, he used my name. >> She kept her face averted. "Yes?"
"If you won't believe the bare truth, believe this." He stressed each word. "I have a reputation to keep up. I took you to meet my friends. If I didn't think you'd be a credit to me, you'd have rotted in the apartment. You did me proud."
Her shoulders relaxed, and she stole a glance backward. "Really?"
"Really. Martin wanted to take you off my hands."
She whirled. "You wouldn't!"
He smiled. "Nope. Don't owe Martin any favors, for one thing."
<< I am SO not going there. >> She pointed. "What's that building over there, the one with the searchlight?"
Spike followed her arm, then shrugged. "I have no idea. Don't really spend a lot of time here; you wanted a non-vampiry part of Montreal, remember?"
They looked out over the city in a surprisingly companionable silence. Willow shivered; the night was cold, and she didn't have a jacket.
Spike broke the spell. "Well, that's Montreal by night. What next?"
"Can we go to the Boulevard St-Laurent? That sounded like fun."
"As you wish."
She flashed him a startled look. << Has he seen The Princess Bride? >> His face, as so often, was unreadable.
They set off down the path, Willow deep in thought. << Why is he being so nice this evening? There's got to be a mean reason for it. >> A group of happy college students came up, arguing enthusiastically in French. Willow's eyes swam with unshed tears. The park seemed determined to confront her with reminders of the life she ought to be living.
A little later, a pale-powdered girl with dyed black hair, dripping black chiffon and silver jewelry, walked up alone, disdaining their glances. Willow looked anxiously back.
"I wish I could warn her. It isn't *safe* to go out alone!"
Spike's lips twitched. "Shouldn't worry, luv."
"Well, I know *you* won't worry, but I do. Not that it does any good..." She looked angrily at Spike. "What are you laughing at?"
"What?!?" Then it hit her. "Ohhhh..."
"Bit tacky, really, but surprisingly effective. Wouldn't recommend she go to Rafe's tarted up like that, though."
<< Goth vampires. Now I've seen everything. >>
They reached the Metro stop, caught the train, and sat down. They had the car to themselves. Spike leaned back against the seat and drifted off into a brown (red?) study. He was interrupted by an elbow nudging his ribs.
Without opening his eyes, he said, "Don't. What is it?"
"What's your sneaky plan?"
"Why are you being so nice?"
He smiled, eyes still closed. "If I told you, it wouldn't be sneaky, would it?"
She sighed. "I mean, since Sunnydale, you've been treating me like a dog. Do this, go there, sit, go to sleep. Today you're letting me make choices. Why?"
He opened his eyes and watched her face. << Let her think again, damn it. >> "Hadn't anything better to do? Don't need to hunt, thought you could use an airing, why not? Unless you dislike freedom, even in small doses?"
Red hair flew as she shook her head vigorously. "No, no, please don't stop."
<< Not quite the context I'd hoped for, but definite progress. >> He kept his face grave. "So, what are your plans?"
"Let's just wander."
The car reached their stop, and they climbed up to the surface street. The girl gasped at the spectacle. << Not much like Sunnydale, is it, pet? >>
The Boulevard St-Laurent was a kaleidoscope of storefronts, all eagerly patronized by exquisitely-dressed insomniacs. The street was full of revelers, shoppers, and sightseers. The redhead began walking, and Spike kept step. Suddenly, the witch spotted a magic and occult goods store.
"Oh, look!" She dropped Spike's arm and sprinted toward the window.
"Wow, a real orichalcum chalice! I've only read about those! And mandrake! That's hard to grow!" She started for the door, only to be brought up short by a hand around her bruised wrist.
"Ouch!" She tried to free herself, but the grip intensified.
The witch whirled. "Oh, please?" The green eyes were wide and pleading.
"Within reason, I said. This is bloody far beyond it. I'd sooner hand you a pint of nitroglycerine."
The animation vanished from her face. The happy, unselfconscious girl had been replaced by the prisoner.
"Oh, bloody hell." << I'm going to regret this. >> "We can look. But we are NOT shopping, and you are not to open a single book, do you hear me?"
She nodded, face still stricken. She walked into the store, paced once around the shelves, and paced out again.
<< Broke the spell. Sod. >> She walked politely beside Spike, nodded when he pointed out a mime being mugged, and said "Ooh" when he indicated a fire juggler.
<< This won't do. Ah, there's a diversion. >> "Want to look for shoes, pet?" He indicated a store half a block ahead.
"More stilettos? No, thank you." She didn't look at him, just kept walking.
"I was thinking of a compromise, actually. Something between Kitten With A Whip and Apprentice Nun."
They went in. Spike pointed out a pair of T-strap pumps. The girl nodded politely. << If she insists, I suppose I can live with flats. >> He indicated a pair, and she said "Ah." Growing suspicious, Spike pointed out some marabou mules, and she said "Very nice."
<< Fine. If she won't choose, I will. >> "Do you have these " -- indicating some kitten-heeled patent-leather pumps -- "in a size 6?" The salesman returned. Willow tried the shoes on, agreed that they fit, and waited while he paid.
They left the store and walked on in silence. Finally, Spike lost his temper.
"What the Hell is your problem?"
Without looking at him, she said, in a flat voice, "Nothing. I'm fine."
"Don't give me that. You're acting like I killed your bloody puppy."
Still staring ahead, the girl said wistfully, "I never had a puppy. Even Angel only killed my fish. But it wasn't really him, it was the bad him, and I try not to remind him about it, because he's depressed enough already."
<< The logic train just left the station again. >> He seized desperately on the only part of the comment that made any sense. "Do you *want* a puppy?" << What the Hell am I saying? >>
"No, thank you." Again, she did not meet his eyes, just kept walking.
"Then what *do* you want?" He grabbed her shoulders and turned her toward him.
She raised her eyes. "I want to go home."
<< The bitch set me up. >> He dropped her shoulders as if he'd embraced a crucifix. "Not an option, luv."
"I know." She began walking again.
<< I will not be played. >>
They walked together in silence, ignoring the swirl of club-hoppers around them.
"Yes?" His voice was cold.
Her voice was quavering, as if near tears. "Are you planning on ever letting me go home?"
That was the last straw. "No. I am sodding keeping you alive because it amuses me to nursemaid a skinny child when I could be a very happy lone wolf. How damned many times do I have to remind you that if I wanted you dead, you would be?"
She nodded. "Okay. I just wondered."
After another silent block, they reached a drugstore. Spike turned in, and Willow followed. He cocked an eyebrow. "I expect you've purchases of your own." He handed her a ten and wandered off to the First Aid section. Willow blushed, then hurried off to make the purchases he'd hinted at. He made his own selections, then waited for her at the door.
"No. But thank you."
"Your most obedient, madam." And he swept her a mock bow.
When he straightened, Willow looked anxious again. "Spike? I'm starving."
"Nothing easier. Indian, Chinese, French, Serbo-Croatian?"
"Whatever" turned out to be a small pizza place. The waitress seated them, handed them menus, and wandered off.
Spike scanned the beer list, then looked at the girl. "Well, witch?"
"I'd like a small cheese pizza and a diet Coke."
"Oh, for Hell's sake, have what you'd like."
She raised her chin. "I like diet Coke."
The waitress returned. "Une St-Ambrose, un cidre, un Diet-Coke, et une pizza margarita, s'il vous plait."
"Right away, sir." << Smart-ass. >>
She was as good as her word, returning swiftly bearing Coke, beer, pizza, and another glass full of something foamy.
Willow looked suspiciously at the extra glass. "What's that?"
"Hard cider. I expect you'd like it. Unless you're too busy defending your virtue."
When she thought he wasn't looking, she took a small sip. The verdict must have been positive, since she alternated sips of cider and Coke, and had finished half the glass before she announced that she was ready to go.
Spike made no comment, but merely settled the bill and stood. "And now?"
"I'm really pooped. Could we go back now?"
They retraced their steps to the Metro, boarded an empty car, and sat. The witch's head drooped, then rose again, then fell onto her shoulder. Before long, her entire body began to slide sideways on the seats. << She'll slip onto the floor any moment. >> Spike reached out his right arm and pulled her to him, nestling her head into his shoulder. She murmured sleepily, then subsided.
The stops ticked by until they reached theirs. He shook Willow gently. "End of the line, pet."
She did not move. He shook harder, then sighed. << No head for alcohol, these modern women. >> He picked up the carrier bags from the shoe shop and drugstore, then gathered Willow into his arms and carried her off the train, grateful there were no witnesses he need kill. She lay boneless and trusting against his shoulder as he carried her through the tunnels to the street and back to the apartment. She never awoke, even when he shifted her to free his hands and unlock the door.
He carried the girl in, then deposited her on the bed. She sighed, then curled into a ball. He gently tugged her sneakers off and dropped them on the floor. Spike locked the door, then looked down at the exhausted girl. << What the Hell was I thinking? Sod that; what am I thinking now? >>
Finding no acceptable answer, he undressed and got into bed beside her.