In The Company of Wolves

By Jonquil

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Willow opened her eyes to find Spike's dark eyes regarding her. She sat up hastily, sending a twinge through her back. She could feel yet another blush rising to her forehead. She stole a second glance, under her lashes; he quirked an eyebrow in return. She stood up and stalked off to the bathroom for some aspirin.

A sardonic voice followed her. "What are you running away from?"

"I hear there are vampires in the area." She started running water in the sink, effectively cutting off the conversation.

Unfortunately, when she came out of the bathroom, Spike had not, as she'd hoped, vanished to 'hunt'. << Kill people. He kills people. Hunting is what you do to deer. Which is also bad. But not as bad. >> Spike was sitting on the bed, dressed, watching her with an unfathomable expression.

Spike patted the bed. "Come get your back seen to."

She stayed where she was. "Thanks, but I'll just let nature take its course."

He sighed dramatically, heaving his shoulders. "Afraid you'll succumb to the irresistible sexual tension?"

"No. I just think it's creepy."

Spike stood up abruptly and walked to the door.

<< I think I hurt his feelings. Good. >> She addressed his back. "You made those bruises, Spike. What's the point of healing them? "

"As you like." He didn't turn around. "I should be back shortly." He shrugged on his coat, left, and locked the door.

Willow looked at the door. << I did hurt his feelings. But he's a bad guy. You're supposed to be mean to bad guys. He's mean to me, after all. >> Then a tiny honest voice said << And trying to help you get better is mean how? >>

Willow told the tiny honest voice to shut up. Then she fed the fish. It blew a bubble at her.

Willow started looking for clothes, bending as little as possible. Like it or not, the braless look was going to be with her for awhile. She took off her T-shirt, put on the violet shirt, and buttoned it. << These jeans are about ready to walk by themselves. We're way overdue for laundry. >> She started to pick up a discarded sock, then groaned. << I am not going to be Miss Clean-Up today. It hurts too much to bend. >>

She crossed to the table, retrieved a piece of paper, and began to write.

True to his word, Spike returned within ten minutes, ebullient. He strolled up to her chair wearing his best cocky smile. "Miss me, pet?"

Willow looked up. "No, I was busy making up a list."

"Ah. Rubies, raspberries, black lace negligee?"

"Actually, 'Buy calendar. Do laundry. Find decent reading lamp. Argue about computer.'"

Spike's face froze into an alabaster mask. "Save the argument. No computer."

"Look. My laptop has a PCMCIA modem. If you pull the modem, it's a standalone machine. I can't possibly do anything with it that communicates with anything. It might as well be a pencil and a piece of paper."

"No."

Willow sighed. "Okay, then let's do laundry."

That earned half a smile. "Again, no. You're not fit to carry anything, and I'm not lugging dirty clothes through Montreal."

"What, your status would suffer?"

His face went opaque again.

<< Weird. >> "Well, you may not sweat, but I do, and I'm going to be pretty disgusting unless we wash these clothes somehow."

Spike shrugged. "That's easily solved. Toss them and buy new."

Willow winced. "Do you know what the environmental consequences--"

"Look at it this way. I'm doing my bit for Zero Population Growth. I'm sure that makes up for tossing the occasional pair of jeans."

"You would have to remind me of that."

Spike grabbed Willow's list, crumpled it, and tossed it on the floor. "Enough with the social responsibility. One of the great joys of being a vampire is having no sense of responsibility whatsoever. Try it, you might like it."

Willow looked up at him. "And your plans were?"

"Not to make plans. Let's get out of here."

Willow tried to stand up, then winced again. "I don't think I'm up to walking. You go on."

"That does it. Off with that damned shirt, on with the arnica. You are not sulking here for another day. Satan only knows what lists you'd come up with. 'Overthrow government. Convert wolves to vegetarianism. Recycle corpses.' "

Willow didn't move. Spike raised his eyebrows. "Are you going to take off that shirt, pet, or do I have to do it for you?"

"Bully." Spike's expression wasn't encouraging. Sighing, Willow turned her back, unbuttoned the shirt, and let it slip down to her elbows.

"Hold still." His hands were surprisingly gentle, if cold. << He hit me with those hands. More than once. >> His fingertips brushed the side of a breast, and she tensed; the intrusion was not repeated. She felt the color rising to the back of her neck.

"All done."

She pulled up her shirt and buttoned it.

"Up and out." She stood and followed him out the door.

###

"Spike, I am NOT a leather kind of girl."

"How do you know until you've tried?"

"Do you have any idea what the dry cleaning costs are like? No. Probably not. And it attracts entirely the wrong kind of guy. Don't give me that eyebrow again! Couldn't you get a new facial expression? Maybe by mail order?"

He smirked. "Bored already?"

Willow sighed. "No, never that. Onward. Preferably to a store that carries something besides biker-chick clothes. Like a calendar. And did I mention a reading lamp? And some real books?"

Arguing, they strode down the disused corridor. At the end of the corridor their way was blocked by a couple of sawhorses and a plywood wall. Spike frowned. "I thought this connected to the Place Ville-Marie. Oh, well, let's backtrack." They turned.

The way back was blocked by three very pale men, one of whom Willow remembered vividly from two evenings ago. She'd last seen him lying on the floor staring at the vampire who'd stolen his chair.

Spike dropped the shopping bag he was carrying, thrust Willow behind him, and hissed "Stay."

The lead vamp smiled. "Don't worry about her. We'll take good care of her afterward. Find out if she's a natural --"

His speech was broken off by Spike's kicking him in the face.

The fight that followed was nasty, and obviously not following any rules other than "Kill them. Kill them a LOT." Spike held his own, but while he was keeping two of the vamps at bay, the third was slowly circling to his back. Willow watched as long as she dared, then took action.

The vampire behind Spike's back exploded into dust just as Spike broke the neck of the lead vampire. Spike did a spin-kick to the groin of the remaining vampire, and continued the motion to discover empty space behind him. He looked startled, but completed the spin and disposed of the remaining vampire in short order. When both remaining vampires were disabled, he ripped their heads off and they exploded into dust.

Still in vamp face, Spike closed on Willow. "What the HELL did you do?"

She jerked her chin at the hallway behind him. "Is this really the place to discuss it?"

"Damn you." He resumed the human mask. "We are going home now, and then you are going to explain yourself."

<< Boy, he's sure good at gratitude. >>

###

Spike locked the door, then turned, jaw tight and eyes dark. "Spill."

The girl straightened her back. "You always said I needed a credible threat. Well, I have one now. I just decided to skip the actual threatening part."

"And?" He could feel his cheek beginning to twitch.

She lifted her chin. "I'm a witch, remember? You took away my spellbooks, but you didn't take away me. I staked him."

Spike snorted. "How? With what? You were nine feet away."

"With a piece of wood. And I levitated it."

Spike looked at her in disbelief. "How long have you been able to do this?"

"About a year now."

Spike absorbed this in silence. Then he asked the crucial question, keeping his voice level. "And why am I still here?"

She met his eyes and matched his even tone. "The first few nights after you kidnapped me, I didn't have the stake. Then you kept waking up before I did. And now ... I'm not as coldblooded as I wish I were. I'm a rotten person. I should have staked you in your sleep to prevent your killing other people, but when it came to the point, I couldn't do it unless..." Her voice trailed off.

"Unless..." he prompted.

"Unless I was furious. Or unless I had to."

Spike thought back. "Yesterday morning?"

Willow nodded, face grave. "I came really, really close. If I'd been sure you'd taken me there on purpose..."

Spike felt himself slipping into his true face as he grabbed Willow's shoulders. "You're telling me my life is in your hands?"

Willow didn't flinch. "Yes. Just as mine is in yours. Mutually Assured Destruction, it used to be called. If you push me too far, you die. If I push you too far, I die. Fun, isn't it?"

"I could keep you locked in the apartment all day, every day."

She half-smiled. "It's full of wood, Spike."

"Tied to the bed."

"I don't need my hands or feet to levitate."

Spike stared at her for a very long minute.

Then he dropped her shoulders and began to laugh. Morphing back to human, Spike reached down, took Willow's hand, and kissed it. "Mutually Assured Destruction it is, then."

****************

 

Willow had expected Spike to make a point of waking up first the next evening. She hadn't expected him to bring her coffee in bed.

"What's the occasion?"

Spike arched an eyebrow. "The coffee's poisoned, luv. You get to guess which cup."

Willow played along. "Wouldn't that make my blood all poisonous?"

He smirked. "Vampires can't be poisoned."

She smirked back. "Well, I only drink decaf, so you get to drink both of them."

He pursed his lips. "Hardly worth poisoning decaf, is it? Arsenic'd be the only flavor in the cup."

"Arsenic? How old-fashioned. You couldn't use botulin toxin, or thallium?"

"The old ways still work, pet. As it happens, the cup closest to you is decaf."

Willow smiled at him and took a sip. It tasted ... not like much, being decaf, but at least it was hot. "Thank you."

He sipped from his cup, then grinned. "You really shouldn't take drinks from strange men, luv."

Willow stopped smiling. "There isn't really something in it, is there? Because that's cheating."

"Yet another lovely feature of being a vampire. We cheat." As Willow surged to her feet, he grabbed the wrist holding the cup, narrowly preventing a spill. "I lied. It's coffee, nothing more."

Willow sat and glared at him. "Does everything have to be such a big I-Am-Evil production number? You were being nice, then you ruined it."

Spike sneered. "'Nice' isn't on the menu."

<< Oh. Then I suppose that fish is a figment of my imagination. >> She had the sense not to say it out loud. << I think he's ashamed when he does something kind. I am never going to understand vampires. >>

She finished the cup, rose, and began looking for clean clothes.

"You're not dressing before I've seen your back."

Without turning, she retorted, "I'll leave it to your imagination."

"That wasn't a request."

She sighed and returned to the bed. "When are you going to let me alone?"

"When I see you move without wincing." He scooped the arnica from his duster pocket, then stripped the shirt from her back. He was silent for a long moment; when he spoke, his voice was deeper than usual. "Quite the sunset you've got there."

"Luckily, I can't see it, and nobody else will."

Spike ran a fingernail up her back. She jumped.

"Ouch! What was that for?"

"I'm not 'nobody', pet."

Willow sighed. "No. I said 'nobody else'. That leaves out me and you." << Touchy, isn't he? >> "Where are we going, anyway?"

"There's always Rafe's."

Willow whirled, hastily grabbing the sheet to her chest. "That is NOT funny. And if you're serious, then I'm invoking the Mutually Assured Destruction clause. I don't ever want to go there again, and I mean it."

Spike held her gaze in silence for a long, uncomfortable minute. "Don't threaten, luv. It only warns your opponent. Strike, or be silent."

She lifted her chin defiantly. "You threaten me all the time."

He shrugged. "Didn't consider you dangerous."

Willow beamed. "That's changed?"

Spike didn't. "Yes."

"Wow. I've never been dangerous before." She bounced happily on the bed, then paused, struck by a thought. "Hey, wait a minute. You threatened Buffy."

"Do as I say, not as I do." He dropped his gaze to her sheet-draped body. "Dress, and we'll go."

Willow gave him her resolve face. "Not to Rafe's."

He met it. "No."

Willow turned away, then grabbed the green silk shirt, clean underwear, and jeans, and headed for the bathroom to change. After she was dressed, she started to brush her hair, then winced. It still hurt to raise her arms. She came out.

"Spike?"

"Yes?" He'd dressed, and was having a cigarette on the edge of the bed. << It's a wonder he hasn't burnt the place down by now. >>

"Would you do my hair again?"

He smiled. For once, it wasn't a smirk. "If you insist."

###

That evening, Spike was restless. They moved from place to place, never staying more than a few minutes. After he'd visited and rejected most of the underground city, Spike growled in disgust and began retracing their steps. To Willow's surprise, instead of returning to the apartment, Spike led her to the car.

"I'd forgotten all about that."

"Can't find parking in the city. Thought we might get away for a bit."

Willow gasped, "What about my fish? And a toothbrush?"

"You really do have a responsibility problem, pet. Fine, fetch the bloody fish, it won't take up much room."

They made a hasty visit to the apartment, threw together a suitcase for Willow, tucked the fishbowl into a Baggie, and settled into the car. Spike concentrated on navigating out of the city; after a long quiet while, Willow broke the silence.

"Spike?"

"Hmm?" He flicked a glance sideways.

"If you hadn't kidnapped me, what would you be doing?"

"Sorry, pet, pretty much what I am doing. Haven't been letting you cramp my style."

"You wouldn't be looking for Drusilla?"

His face shut. << Oops. >> "Let's call that subject closed, shall we?"

Willow sighed. Talking to Spike was a bit like waltzing through a minefield, except that half the mines were hers. What with topics she didn't want to talk about (death, dismemberment, torture) and topics he didn't want to talk about (Drusilla, his plans for the future, why evil was a bad thing), silence seemed by far the easiest solution.

###

"Pet?"

The redhead gave him a wary glance. "Yes?"

"What are your plans after the year?"

The girl winced. "That's too far away to think about."

He laughed. "Had you picked for the plan-everything-out-five-years-in-advance type."

Her voice was flat. "There doesn't seem to be much point in that any more."

"What, no dreams? The wolf rides in on a white horse -- "

"Stop it." Her voice was tight. "If I don't poke your wounds, you don't get to poke mine."

"My car, my rules, pet."

"Fine. I'm planning on becoming Miss America, after which I launch a nationwide campaign to stamp out illiteracy. Then I restart the Moon landing program, and take the first flight myself."

"Aren't you a bit small for an astronaut?"

"Yes, and I'm a bit plain for Miss America. So why don't we talk about the weather?"

Spike pulled to the side of the road and cut the engine. "What is your problem tonight?"

She turned to look at him. "I'm a thousand miles from my friends, you're probably going to kill me, and I can't even check my Perl scripts. Is that enough, or do you want the whole list?"

"Bloody hell, girl, if I wanted to kill you you'd be dead. What do I have to do, tattoo that on the back of your hand?"

"Why should I believe you? You're so proud of lying all the time, why should you tell the truth about this?"

"Because I can think of better things to do with your body." He leaned over, grabbed her chin, and gave her a hard kiss. She opened her mouth, probably to protest, and he took advantage.

Her mouth was warm, sweet, and uncooperative. Which was fine -- he had more than enough time to convince her of the error of her ways. He finished a leisurely exploration of her mouth, then released her and looked into her green eyes. Instead of the rapture that he was hoping for, or even acquiescence, he saw fury. << Well, so much for the easy way... >>

"This is an improvement? You're not going to murder me, you're going to rape me instead?" She spat the words.

"I'm not trying to rape you, I'm bloody well trying to seduce you!"

She glared. "And the difference is?"

"In one case, you're enjoying yourself."

"We can rule that case right out."

"Can we?" He recaptured her mouth. This time, she tried to bite him. He bit back. She flinched. << Oh, sod, human rules. >> He let go.

"Spike. I don't love you. Right now, I don't even like you. I am not willing, and this is not going anywhere unless you force me." Her eyes made the rest of the threat plain.

"Fine." He threw the car back into gear and sped off down the road.

 

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