Beg to Differ
Copyright December 2005
Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.
Allie was cranky this evening, which was hardly unusual, but just because Will was accustomed to it didn't mean that he had much patience for it. She was standing naked at the French doors, letting the deepening dusk wash in on her, and he suspected that she was waiting for him to admonish her for carelessness and order her to step back, lest she be spotted by someone on the street. At least, that was how this scene had played out in the past, though it had been some time since the last such incident. He didn't say anything, just lay watching her. They were going to have a knock-down drag-out tonight, he could see that already, and he wasn't eager to get on with it; too soon, and she might have time to build up another head of steam before the night was over, and he didn't have the energy to deal with that.
Besides, the mood she was in, he was just glad she wasn't standing out on the balcony cursing the traffic.
At last she looked back to him, clearly annoyed at him for not giving her the excuse she wanted, and said, "You gonna lie there forever, Little Willy? We're wasting moonlight; you don't get your British backside in gear, our boy's liable to skip on us."
Will sighed, rolled to the edge of the bed, and reached for his trousers. Ah, good, at least she hadn't ripped them this time. "The one we're after is a late riser," he pointed out. "We don't know where he'll hunt, or that's where we'd be, but we do know where he's to meet his chums. As for his doing a runner, that's more likely if we call too much attention to ourselves. Which, I may point out, you very much tend to do."
"You didn't rope me into this blood-feud of yours 'cause I play nice at parties." Allie moved to the end of the bed, but showed no inclination to begin gathering her own clothes. "You wanted somebody to kill things for you, and that's me. I never said I'd be polite about it. In fact, I don't remember saying anything at all about it, because … oh, yeah, that's right, I wasn't asked."
Her anger was almost a living presence between them, not least because it was impotent. Physically she could have broken him in an instant, but he had prudently erected safeguards well in advance. He was the dominant here, and she hated being dominated, and that was a frustration that would continue until his mission had been accomplished.
Assuming, of course, that Allie didn't bollix the whole business with impatience, temper, or sheer love of mayhem. She wasn't stupid, was Allie, but she did a lot of stupid things, and Will had found it necessary to devote considerable attention to cleaning up behind her.
As he was doing now. He stopped with one shoe on and regarded the torn laces on the other, where she had been in too great a hurry to get him undressed. "I think I'll wear boots tonight," he said. Then he looked to the bitter female still glowering at him and added, "So I'm to take it, then, that you'd rather we bungle our operations, so you can stay in servitude to me for even longer? I don't think either of us wants that."
"Is that supposed to be more of your famous British understatement?" she challenged him. "Darn tootin' I don't want to be stuck with you any longer than I have to. I'm just saying, even if this partnership wasn't my idea, there's a division of labor going here. Yours is books. Mine is entrails. So let's get to where I can do what I'm good at."
Will stood and pulled on a light coat, and favored her with an ironic eyebrow. "For all your grousing, we can see that I'm now fully clothed and ready to go, and you're not."
Allie crossed to the wardrobe in three quick steps, jerked something from the first hanger her hand touched — a denim minidress — and pulled it on over her head. "I'm dressed," she announced.
It didn't appear she was going to bother with underwear, but then that was something of a hit-or-miss proposition with her at the best of times. "Right," Will said. "So you'll be going on the hunt barefoot, then?"
She looked around, kicked together the sandals she had flung away earlier, and stepped into them. "Dressed," she repeated. "Want to kill. Kill now?"
Will shook his head. "You're bloody incorrigible."
"I love it when you talk dirty," Allie said, falling in behind him as he started for the door. "Oh, wait, no I don't. And have I mentioned that you're totally lame in bed?"
"Do okay when I'm not having to grapple with a female gorilla," he shot back.
"Bitch, bitch, bitch," Allie said.
"Watcher, scholar, widower," Will replied. "Now that we've introduced ourselves —"
The bickering continued into the hallway, and out into the street, and well beyond.
~ – ~ – ~
He would have preferred not to attract attention, but the simple truth was that they were such a striking pair (he could recognize the cold fact without being in danger of succumbing to vanity) that making themselves unobtrusive was more effort than it was worth. He was slim elegance, refined features framed by arched eyebrows and tousled sandy hair; she was electric animal vitality, dark where he was fair, inches taller than he was even when she didn't wear heels, and looking always as if she had just stepped away from a strenuous tennis match or a rousing session between the sheets. Eyes followed them wherever they went … and even if he could have contrived to make them blend in visually, the obstreperousness of Allie's behavior would have overridden that in seconds.
Case in point: "Since we won't be ripping anybody apart for the next coupla hours," Allie said, "how's about we stop at a beer garden and knock back a few?"
"You don't really enjoy drinking," Will observed curtly. "Not beer, anyhow. You get sullen and start insulting people."
"Places we go to, insulting is pretty much called for," Allie said. "Besides, it was you started that last brawl."
"Didn't like his manners," Will said. "Or his face."
"Bet he likes it even less now." Allie indicated their surroundings with a sweep of her arm. "C'mon, Germany. Chocolate, cuckoo clocks, beer. How can I show my face back home if I pass through here without sampling the beer?"
"And where exactly would you be showing your face, anyhow?" Will pointed out. "Everybody who knows you thinks you're dead. Which, not to put too fine a point on it …"
"Don't start that again," Allie said. "You wanted me for what I am, so don't go ragging on me for being it."
"If we're going to harp at each other all the time," Will said, "I have to use the ammunition available. You never hesitate to bring up the deficiencies in my nature."
"And why so?"
"You're what you are," Allie said. "I'm what you made me."
He couldn't actually dispute that. Hardly more than literate, even by the deplorable standards of American education, Allie could nonetheless go straight for the jugular in an argument as unerringly as she did in battle. Not acknowledging his defeat, Will acted on it all the same. "We'll stop at one of the pubs with a sidewalk section," he conceded. "I'm not about to trust you indoors."
They found an open table, and in less than a minute a young woman was there to wait on them. Will began to place an order for the two of them, but Allie immediately interrupted, speaking in a fast, bizarre gabble that had the waitress smiling and nodding. When she withdrew, Will asked, "Are you bent on perpetuating the Ugly American stereotype?"
"Beats the stereotype you've got going," Allie retorted. "You're not giving a speech at the Reichstag, lover-boy. If I waited for you to get it all sorted out in perfect German grammar, they'd be locking the place down by the time you finished. The night is young, and I'm not getting any older, and, hey, beer."
It would be less annoying if it weren't true; Will felt (with, he thought, some justification) that precision was a necessary component of communication, but Allie, jumping straight in and spouting whatever sounded close enough to her, almost always made herself understood more quickly than he could. "Do you even know what you said to that girl?"
Allie gave him a careless grin. "As I recall, it was something like, 'Couple of beers for me and the professor, sweetie. And, hey, that top looks really good on you.' "
Will closed his eyes. " 'Top,' " he repeated. "I assume you meant her blouse? The 'top' you used refers to an Alpine summit." He regarded Allie with grim resignation. "You just complimented her on her mountain peaks."
"Oh." Allie thought about it. "Well, they were nice, too."
"Bloody hell." Will shook his head. "I never can decide whether you actually have lesbian tendencies, or if you think it would make me uncomfortable to believe you do."
Allie chuff!ed at the idea. "For that, you'd have to think I think you care what I think."
He shook his head again, hard. "Was there an actual sentence in any of that?"
The waitress returned just then with two beers, and Allie cheerfully repeated her prior compliment. The girl smiled, amused, and left them to their drinks. Will found his mood not a whit improved by the smirk Allie aimed at him.
Wait a moment, now he was brassed off and she was on top of the world. They'd switched places, and just when had that happened? As soon as he posed himself the question, Will knew the answer: it was when she first addressed the waitress in that appalling patois. The moment she got under his skin — and knew she had done so — her demeanor had improved as his declined. No, because his declined. They were quite the pair, they were.
"Penny for 'em," Allie said. "Except, no, wait, definitely not worth a penny. Does anybody ever say, 'A pfennig for your thoughts'?"
"Everyone's using euros now," Will told her. "And those have got more heft to 'em than those anemic dollars of yours. Not that you actually have any dollars to your name."
"And whose idea was that, exactly?" Allie returned, smiling in the way that usually heralded bloodshed. "Why, it'd have to be the oh-so-self-righteous Watcher guy, keeping the rambunctious female in her place by controlling the purse-strings. You're right, all I have is the clothes on my back." She leaned toward him over the table. "Only on my back, and there's this really stimulating breeze whistling up my dress. Just in case you're interested."
"I'm not, actually." Will eased his chair back a bit. "But I think those gentlemen across the street might be."
"Really?" She knew better than to look around, but the grin she gave him was lit with real pleasure. "White hats, or black? Please tell me black."
"I doubt they'll wait to show us credentials," Will said. He laid enough euros on the table to cover their drinks, then added more for a tip. "If they try to kill us both, I'd say probably black. If they only want to kill you … well, that'd put them right in with the rest of the world, wouldn't it?"
"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful," Allie said as they rose from the table and started down the brick-paved street. "Hate me because I just tied your lungs around your neck in a sassy little bow."
The men who had been watching trailed them at a polite distance. That was convenient, but said nothing as to their nature. America was a young country, and demons loved it, operating with a surprising brazenness there. In Europe, however, they were usually far more discreet; there were too many racial memories, too many old stories that, while no longer believed, hadn't been forgotten. An open incident might get people thinking, and it was easier all around if the prey remained largely oblivious to the predators. These four, human or not, were awaiting an opportunity to catch him and Allie away from the public eye.
Will obliged them, picking a suitable alley and stepping into it. Best tactics would have been to wait at the alley mouth and attack as soon as they rounded the corner … but he needed to know, and so as soon as he turned out of their sight he began to run, lightly and silently. He wasn't trying to get away, but he wanted distance, and about halfway down he stopped and waited.
When they appeared at the alley mouth there were now six of them, and his heart sank for a moment (greater numbers, working together, argued for their being human); but then the one leading, seeing Will standing alone, called out, "Where is she? Where's the turncoat?"
Well, that tore it.
Even in May, the night weather was cool enough to justify the thigh-length coat Will had donned (Allie looked ridiculous in a minidress and sandals, but no one expected much from a dizzy American girl), and he'd had no trouble concealing the ice-axe beneath it. He already had hold of it when they spoke, but even so Allie was on them before he could pull it out, dropping from above, she'd gone skittering up the wall while he ran down the narrow passage to draw them in. He charged now with a cry of warning: too soon, their words had shown them to be villains but they might still be human, except Allie wasn't particular about the distinction between demons and those who aided them —
Not a problem this time, some of them morphed and a few actually burst out of their skins with the speed of transformation, Allie had broken two necks by the time he reached them and she tore out the windpipe of a third as he buried the ice-axe in a misshapen skull. These were Camber-Pyclet demons, most of the clans had assimilated into human culture but there were always those who hungered for the Good Old Days. Not that strong in demon terms, they were nonetheless resilient and tenacious, the one he had struck was still trying to fight him with five inches of steel in its brain.
Waste of time. Even with all he had seen, experienced, even knowing, it was still easy to accept surface appearance and forget just what Allie was; but she was in her element now, howling and slaughtering with joyous abandon, a lethal whirl of savagery and carnage. Ichor spattered his face, screams echoed around him, and she had finished with the last while he was still trying to wrench his weapon free. She shot him a sneer, pushed him out of the way, and smashed the sixth one's head against the wall with a force that shattered it like an egg. "You should be able to get it out now," she observed.
He wasn't about to express gratitude. "Do the words 'target discrimination' have no bloody meaning to you at all?" he demanded of her.
"In grade school they taught me discrimination was a bad thing," Allie said dismissively. "Me, I'm equal opportunity. And hey, look around, they're all equally dead."
"They might have been human," he insisted. "You attacked before you knew. Bad enough my people think you're a monster, you don't need to be proving it to them —"
"Your people can bite my ass, Watcher-man." Her voice was flat and deadly. "They're gonna try and kill me no matter what I do, so I plan to party hearty while I can. And don't act like you're any better, you hate me as much as they do. More, probably, 'cause for you it's personal."
That brought him short. "No," he said, shaking his head. "I don't hate you. I know that you —"
"You know you shouldn't hate me," she broke in. "But you still do. Being all conflicted about it doesn't change it." There was no mirth behind the familiar grin. "Me, I'm not a bit conflicted. Where you and me are concerned, I'm all about the hate."
The fury she carried was nothing new to him. He needed it, had fed it for his own purposes … but now, so close to the completion of his plans, he found himself drawing back from the force that made it possible. "We need to get away from here," he said, shaking himself into focus. "Someone may have heard the fight, we need —"
"You know what I need," she said, interrupting him for the third time in less than a minute.
Spoken in a different tone, it would have had a different import, but Will was in no doubt as to what she meant. "Here?" he protested. "Now? Are you stark raving? We're at the scene of a massacre!"
"Tough noodles, Willy." Allie took hold of the lapels of his coat, pulled him to her. "You're the one who set the ground rules. You needed muscle, I provided it. Now it's your turn to provide what I need."
"We couldn't go back to our rooms?" he said plaintively, knowing it was no use.
"That'd take too long." Her arms were steel. "You're on deck, buster. Stand and deliver."
So he did. He didn't even have to lift the dress, it was so short it rode up automatically when she wrapped her legs around him, and the absence of underclothing, which before had seemed taunting or reckless, now proved to be a matter of admirable forethought. She had his trousers open even as he bore her back against the brick wall, and he thrust into her with a brutal roughness he would never have used with any other lover but that she insisted upon.
Keyed up by the violence just past, she reached her release almost immediately. This was usually the case, but to his surprise (she'd already used him ruinously earlier in the day), Will found himself responding as well. Just close your eyes and think of England, an inner voice mocked, and she felt him quickening, pulled his head onto her shoulder and turned it to the side. She never pretended to be other than what she was — in truth, she never let him forget it — but neither would she allow him to see when her face came out.
"I hate you," she was sobbing as he rocked against her, trembling at the edge of culmination. "Oh, God, I hate you so much." Then her teeth pierced his throat, and he gave her the rest of what she needed.