Summary: Spike has some words with Willow regarding spell use. Follow-up to "Scorn" and "Absolution."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: During "All The Way," with certain changes, including the timeline being changed to reflect the events of my prior stories "Scorn" and "Absolution." (spoiler warning).

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.



AS EVIL DOES


Willow walked towards the Bronze briskly, hearing the sounds from the Halloween party inside leaking out onto the street. She shook her head in concern: Dawn was going to get herself killed one of these days, doing dumb stuff like this. She frowned and was about to reach for her cash supply to pay the cover charge when she heard a familiar voice comment sardonically, "So. . .another Halloween in Sunnydale. Why am I not surprised that things are not going according to tradition?"

Willow chuckled involuntarily, then replied, "Because you've lived here and have a brain?" She turned and was not surprised to see the familiar leather coat and platinum blond hair. Willow's eyes narrowed, and she asked, "What are you doing here, Spike?"

Spike stepped over to her, and replied, "The same thing you are, I suspect. . .looking for the Niblet." He shook his head and elaborated, "Buffy came looking for me. . .there was a vampire attack just a little while ago, and when she called the house to tell the Watcher he told her that Dawn had pulled a fast one on all of you. If she's outside, she's in danger. . .I was hoping that she was smart enough to hang out in a crowd." He inclined his head toward the Bronze and suggested, "Shall we go in?"

Willow nodded absently, and paid the cover charges for both of them without bothering to argue with Spike about it; reformed or not, Spike was still notoriously cheap. They walked inside, and drifted through the crowd of costumed partygoers, looking for Dawn. Spike saw Willow glance distastefully at two teenagers wearing Luke and Leia costumes and heard her mutter something under her breath before continuing onward. The vampire grinned and followed behind her.

After a few minutes, Spike could see the tension in Willow's posture, and uneasily wondered what it indicated. They walked up the stairs to the balcony, where the foot traffic was lighter, and looked out over the festivities. Spike frowned, then commented, "Better view from up here, but it's still a mob scene. . .it would be nice to have another body here to look with. Where's Tara, anyway?"

Spike saw a flicker of discomfort go across Willow's face before she shrugged and replied, "She and Giles were going to do some checking from the house. . .after they do that, they'll be out looking for her too." She frowned and asked, "Spike. . .can't you, I don't know, smell to see if Dawn is here?"

Spike snickered and responded, "Not in a crowd like this. . .in a graveyard, with no one else around. . .that's another story. Of course, if your ex with the distemper problem was here-"

"Don't go there, Spike." Willow spoke quietly, but the tone of casual command was in her voice, and Spike subsided as Willow shook her head angrily and snapped, "This is taking too long. . .we need to know if she's here."

"Well, we could roust up some of these rent-a-cops on the premises and let them do something useful for a change." Spike's reply was casual in tone, though he was quite aware of the bewildering display of emotions visible on Willow's face. He frowned, then nodded and called out, "Come on. . .I saw a couple of the wankers lounging about near the punch bowl."

"No. . .that'll take too long." Spike raised an eyebrow at Willow's reiteration, and watched as she walked over to the railing and began muttering words under her breath.

Willow was concentrating on her task and was momentarily startled when the quiet voice came from behind her, "Ah, Red. . .what exactly are you doing?"

Willow tensed momentarily, then remembered that it wasn't Giles or Tara addressing her. She turned back to him and replied, "I'm just casting a spell that will momentarily shift everyone in here who isn't a fifteen-year old girl into another dimension for a fraction of a second. . .if Dawn is in here, it should be easy to spot her after that."

Willow watched Spike, waiting for a reaction, and was rewarded a moment later when the vampire nodded and responded, "I see. . .and you're casting the spell out in that direction, right?"

Willow nodded, and Spike commented, "Good. . .just wanted to be clear about that." Spike took three steps straight backward, never taking his eyes off of Willow and keeping his expression neutral.

Willow blew air through her lips and looked at Spike with an amused expression on her face before laughing and elaborating, "Spike. . .the spell won't affect vampires, or anything else non-living for that matter. . .you'll be perfectly safe."

Spike shrugged and replied, "That wasn't my worry. . .it's just that when the spell goes wacky and turns those folks out there into something out of a Star Trek geek's nightmare, I don't want to get any blood and guts on me. . .the Niblet doesn't like that sort of thing." He glanced at the floor, as if to gauge the distance, then nodded and added, "Go ahead, Red. . .let 'er rip."

Willow paled, then flushed and glared at Spike as he casually reached for and lit a cigarette. She waved a hand and muttered a single word, and the sound from the party was suddenly gone. She stalked up to Spike and snapped, "Spike! You know that I wouldn't endanger innocent people with a spell. . .it's perfectly safe."

Spike smirked, then replied sardonically, "Right. . .rigorously field tested it, have you? Been shifting folks on Main Street for fun and profit when the rest of us weren't looking?" Willow's eyes flashed, but she remained silent as Spike continued, "Oh. . .and you meant to summon Olaf when you were mucking about with that pocket full of sunshine spell. . .your pal Xander was laid up for a few weeks with a broken wrist from that one, wasn't he?"

"It was supposed to be a BALL of sunshine, and it would have worked fine if Anya hadn't kept bugging me while I was casting it, damn it!" Willow shouted at Spike, then took a step back from him as she realized that she had been shouting. She took a deep breath, then continued in a more sedate tone, "Look, Spike. . .I think it's good that you're taking the interests of other people into account more than you used to, but it's safe. I haven't screwed up a spell in months now, and everyone will be fine after I cast this one."

Spike shrugged and replied, "I don't give a damn about any of these people. . .I just think it's sort of funny, that's all." He took another drag from the cigarette, then added, "You know, Red, I always thought you had potential. I don't make the kind of offer I made to you when Dog Boy took off to just anyone, you know."

Willow snorted contemptuously and retorted, "Yeah, murdering and turning me: that would have been just swell, Spike." She started to turn away in disgust, then paused and turned back, asking wistfully, "Potential. . .really?"

"Absolutely." Spike's tone was serious as he walked over and sat on an empty bench. Willow followed and sat next to him, waiting for him to continue. Spike looked over at her and shook his head as he added, "You showed a lot of nerve the time I grabbed you and Xander to do the love spell for Dru. . .if you had a little more experience, you probably would have dusted me with a pencil or broken timber or something while I was staggering around drunk. I figured that once I'd gotten rid of that pesky soul, you'd be a good companion. . .and after months with Harmony, you looked even more attractive." Spike sighed, then concluded, "Of course, I assumed that that soul would be a dealbreaker for you in any scenario like that. . .guess I was wrong."

Willow felt a chill, then snapped, "What in the hell do you mean by that, Spike?"

Spike locked eyes with her, and Willow shivered as Spike whispered harshly, "What I mean, little girl, is that dimensional magic is about the most dangerous thing you could be playing around with, and you're smart enough to know it. Bringing back Buffy was perilous enough, but at least there were good reasons to do it along with the reasons not to. But now? You're screwing around with the barriers just so you don't have to spend two minutes looking for a rent-a-cop. . .at least the Hellbitch was doing it to try to get back home. You're doing it for simple convenience, or maybe just to see if you can do it. There's a word for endangering other lives for those purposes, Red: Evil. And listen to someone who knows the ins and outs of evil pretty damned well: you're there."

Spike was unsurprised when Willow slapped him across the cheek and began to storm off. He snickered and called out, "Oh, good. . .run away. That'll help things a lot. Maybe you can practice shifting some of the homeless into alternate realities. . .the eating might be better over there. Maybe-"

"SHUT UP, SPIKE!!!"

Spike raised an eyebrow, noting the distorted tone of Willow's voice. The witch turned back to Spike, and the vampire noted that Willow's eyes were pools of dark malice. Spike observed that the passers-by were still ignoring the confrontation, and commented, "This is a good privacy spell you have up, Willow. . .no one's catching your Vader act. I know half a dozen vamps and other demons who would pay through the nose to have it for sneaking up on their victims. Want me to make some calls?"

Willow blinked, and her eyes were back to normal as she ran over to Spike and began beating on him with her fists, screeching, "Shut up, shut up, shut up!"

Spike absorbed the abuse for a moment, then effortlessly restrained her and held her as she struggled, commenting quietly, "Give it a rest, Red: brawling was never your thing."

Willow slumped, and Spike released her to sit back on the bench. They sat silently for a moment, then Willow whispered, "You're not being fair. . .I'm not evil."

"You're not plotting the destruction of the world or even the deaths of a bunch of peasants, Red, but you're on the road to something very bad if you don't start taking a good long look at things." Spike spoke matter-of-factly as he looked over at the visibly shaken young woman, then added, "There's an old joke for which the punchline is 'We've already established what you are, now we're just negotiating the price.'" Willow blinked, then looked over at Spike as he added, "Cast that spell, whether it kills everyone in the room or it doesn't harm a single hair on their heads, and you'll have crossed a line that you may never be able to get back over. . .it's up to you."

Spike stood up and prepared to leave. Willow's voice drifted up to him: "Spike. . .if you really think I'm going evil, shouldn't you be worried that I might decide to keep you from telling Buffy or the others what happened here tonight?"

Spike looked back and saw that Willow was looking at him with an appraising expression. The vampire sighed, then responded, "I can't stop you from blasting me into eternity with some spell you have lying around, Red. . .I'm not sure I could even if I didn't have this bloody chip in my head. Besides, what is there to tell them? Everyone's seen you go all spell-happy lately. . .and I've got news for you. If you think that Buffy is in the dark about your little slide into dangerous magic, think again. It probably wasn't a good idea to threaten the Watcher without making sure there weren't any eavesdroppers."

Willow paled, and stared at Spike as she whispered, "You and Buffy heard that? Then why hasn't she--?"

"Why hasn't she confronted you about it? Why in the hell do you think she hasn't, Red?" Spike's tone was angry, and Willow's eyes widened as he continued, "Buffy's a mess right now, even with everyone trying to do their best to help her cope. Do you really think she wants to deal with the idea that her best friend might be the next Big Bad she has to deal with? Do you think any of the others do? They're all hoping that you come to your senses on your own. . .after what went down with that Faith girl, you'd think they'd know how bad of an idea that is."

"Don't you dare compare me to her." Willow's tone was low and dangerous as she reacted to the comment.

"Maybe you're right, Red." Spike seemed to be pondering Willow's comment, then began counting on his fingers, "Let's see: great power, reckless endangerment of others, self-righteousness about it. . .hmmm, sounds pretty close to me. Maybe you should bust her out of jail and see if she wants to do the Thelma and Louise thing; of course, she's actually admitted to herself that she did wrong, so it might not be such a good match, unless you've got a spell for that, too."

"What gives you the right to say this stuff to me, Spike? You're the last person on Earth who has the right to give me a lecture about ethical problems. . .if you had gotten your way, we'd all be dead years ago." Willow's words were harsh, but the tone she delivered them in was subdued.

Spike shook his head slowly and replied, "No, I'm the best person to tell you this, Willow. I've been evil for over a hundred years, and I've got a pretty good feel for it. For most of us, evil isn't about wanting to destroy the world, or even to just run the place to make life miserable for the rest of you lot. It's about wanting something and just being able to take it without caring that doing so is going to kill the grocery clerk or cause some little tyke to miss his supper that night. It's about just not giving a damn about anything that gets in your way, because whatever it is you're doing is far more important. It's seductive, Red. . .it's fun. If it weren't for the bloody chip, I'd be living that life right now, and I'd be having the time of my life, at least until Buffy hunted me down and tried to kill me."

Willow blinked, then whispered, "Spike. . .are you saying you want that life back?"

Spike looked at Willow, then shook his head as he replied, "No, I've found something that I want more, and I'm willing to do what it takes for that. . .or for even a chance of it." He sighed, then added, "Can't blame a fellow for being nostalgic now and again though, can you?"

Willow was silent as Spike looked down for a moment, then looked back at Willow and continued, "If you go bad, Willow, Buffy is going to have to come after you, and I'm not sure that she's going to be able to bear it. If it comes to that, I swear to you that I will find a way to kill you myself, to spare her that. . .don't doubt that for a minute."

Willow shivered at the menace in the vampire's voice, then replied quietly, "Spike, if you killed me, Buffy would kill you for it in a heartbeat."

Spike nodded slowly and responded, "I know." He frowned and asked, "So are you going to drop the privacy spell and help me find Dawn, or are you going to continue with your solo tour of the Dark Side?"

Willow looked at Spike for a moment, then waved a hand and uttered another word. Sound returned, and Willow walked over to Spike, hesitating for a moment before beginning: "Spike, I-"

"Don't bother, Red. . .and don't think that because you've had a scare today that this is done." Spike's voice was a harsh whisper, and Willow went silent and listened as he continued: "You might stop screwing around with magic for a few days, patch things up with your honey and the Watcher, but you've got an itch that you're aching to scratch, and until you start to really care what the consequences of your actions are, you'll be heading right back here in no time." He turned, then looked back at her and added, "And Red. . .if you're getting the bright idea to zap me with some mind-altering mojo like what you nailed the Hellbitch with, I'd keep in mind that the little chip in my head might not react well to tampering. . .and if you try and fail I WILL kill you." He turned his back on her, striding away purposefully and calling out, "Get moving. . .we've wasted enough time here."

Willow watched Spike stalk off, then glanced back over her shoulder at the crowd. After a moment, she shivered, sighed, and went to follow Spike.




As before, comments are welcome and desired.