Walker gave me a long look. Behind him, there was a lot of crying and weeping going on. A daring few were even so far gone they were saying unflattering things about me. Out loud. Possibly, they assumed I'd left already. Most seemed to have forgotten what they'd come here to complain about, which was probably just as well for them. Nobody likes to tell a group of angry, armed and dangerous extremists they're being idiots for thinking loving a person of the same gender damns you to Hell, but once that same group of people is half-blind and stumbling around asking for water, it becomes a different matter.
The restaurant's manager was looking in our direction, but appeared to think better of approaching.
Finally, when it turned out looking at me wasn't going to accomplish anything at all, Walker sighed. That didn't accomplish anything either, unless it was to make him feel better. A man can always hope. "What did you do to them, Taylor?"
Presumably, he was using my last name to remind me we were in public. Or maybe it was just a sign that he was Not Pleased with me, which made the fact he still insisted on my calling him 'Walker' no matter where we were rather interesting.
"Just a little something I keep in my pockets." Walker raised one eyebrow. I was not impressed. Then again, I did have plans for the evening. "Pepper and salt. Mostly harmless."
"I see." Walker's expression was unreadable as he turned around. Some people stopped sobbing, but most probably didn't even see him. Getting a faceful of pepper will do that to you. "Go home, and don't ever come back here again."
I tried not to look relieved as he turned back to me. And I wasn't. Those people had deserved what they got, and if Walker and I had disagreed on that, well, then it wouldn't have been the first time. Our relationship thrived on disagreements, to an extent where I worried when we made it through a conversation without a single argument.
The manager finally dared to come closer, as the would-be protesters started to stumble towards the exit. Some members of the staff were assisting, mostly to keep them from causing even more damage. Walker informed him we had a reservation for two, and he led us to a nice, quiet corner where a table and a bottle of wine, compliments of the house, already stood waiting.
"So," Walker said, after the waiter had taken our orders, "do you always carry around condiments in your pockets, or is this a special occasion? Generally speaking, I find restaurants do provide these things. Free of charge, even."
In the Nightside, when you're under arrest, nobody will generally bother to read you their rights. Mostly, this is because when you're arrested, you don't have any rights anymore. It's debatable which rights, if any, you have as long as you manage not to upset anyone in a position to do something about it, but once you've annoyed Walker, all bets are off.
Usually, I'm not a betting man, although I may have taken a few desperate gambles. But then, who hasn't?
"You know, John, it's really not a good idea to upset me," Walker said, as pleasantly as if we were sitting down for a nice cup of tea. Which he was, actually.
Me, I was in a slightly less comfortable position. Handcuffs do tend to limit one's ability to relax.
"I didn't really think you'd be upset, as such," I said, considering my options. Getting out of the handcuffs would be easy enough, of course; it was what to do afterwards that posed a problem. "Something simply came up. You know how it goes."
Walker sipped his tea. His umbrella stood leaning to the wall. "Do tell."
"Did you really have me arrested because I was late for a date?" I asked, because sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.
"The word 'late' would imply you bothered to show up at all."
"I would have," I said, defensively. "I just got dragged off by your goons before I could get around to it."
"They found you four hours after our appointment," Walker said. "In a less than reputable place, I might add."
"It's called a 'strip club'. I needed to talk to someone who works there. Who used to work there." Dead Boy would not thank me for dragging his name into this, most likely, although he might find it entertaining. He had been complaining about being a bit bored again, the last time we'd spoken.
"Yes, I understand talking is what people generally do in locales like that." Walker put down his teacup and rose. "Well, this has been enlightening - especially for you, I hope. I shall ask your secretary to put down a new appointment. I trust you shall be more punctual this time."
Getting out of the handcuffs would be easy. Opening the door, whether or not Walker would lock it behind him, shouldn't pose any sort of problem. After that, though, things might get tricky. Walker wouldn't thank me for killing or even injuring any of his men (and women and other beings in his employ; the Authorities were, after all, an equal opportunities employer, if only in name) and I rather doubted he'd have told them the exact reason for my 'arrest'. "Wait."
He stood by the door, giving me an expectant look. I considered telling him about the tesseract, and Loki, and Julien, but in the end, I just don't take well to being pressured. If he'd wanted to know, he could have asked politely. I'd still have turned him down, but at least we'd have been mostly civilized about it.
"Why not pretend we did have that dinner and take things from there?" As he'd pointed out, it was only a little over four hours since we'd been supposed to have dinner.
"My dates don't generally show up wearing handcuffs," Walker said, but he didn't actually leave.
"Too kinky for you?"
"I simply prefer not to mix pleasure with business," he said, and there was a flash of something in his eyes that made me wonder if he'd been completely honest before. At the very least, I strongly suspected that even if none of Walker's previous dates had shown up cuffed, some of them might have ended up in handcuffs all the same, and not for 'business'.
On the other hand, I wasn't exactly having fun here. "You got me arrested for tardiness. That's not mixing pleasure and business?"
"Fine. Argument well made, if a bit sloppy in asserting waiting for someone to show up would fall under 'pleasure'." Since he was in the process of freeing my hands, I chose to let that one go. "Shall we go, then?" He actually held the door for me.
I wondered if it was booby trapped, or if there was someone waiting on the other side.
"Do you have handcuffs at your place, or should we take these?"
He sighed, as if the answer should have been obvious. "Pleasure and business, John. Please do try to pay attention when people are telling you things."
There were, indeed, people waiting on the other side of the door. Rather a lot of them, in fact. I almost felt intimidated for a moment, but then Walker said: "Return to what you were doing and do not speak to anyone of what you have seen or heard just now." and like that, they were all gone again.
"No," I said. "Absolutely not. You can't make me."
Walker and his suits were nearly inseparable; in theory, you might suppose he dressed casually on occasion, but in practice, you found it hard to imagine him in jeans and a t-shirt. And I'm saying this as possibly the only man currently alive in the Nightside who can answer that classic question: boxers or briefs? when it comes to Walker. (The fact that I can doesn't mean I will, of course. Although I like to think I have the option.)
I, on the other hand, am not a dress up sort of guy. I like my clothes classy, sure, but also practical, to say nothing of affordable. I'm John Taylor, and if that's not enough to impress someone, I don't feel like wearing a five-hundred-pound suit is worth the effort. I do have some pride, after all.
Even if in this case, pride might be another word for stupidity. At least Walker seemed to think so.
"You'll be mingling with the high and the mighty, John."
"Nothing I haven't done before." This was true. I was no stranger to the high and the mighty, although depending on what I'd done for (or in some cases: to) them, they weren't always as keen to acknowledge that.
"It's different now."
True: I wouldn't be there to work on a case this time. Hopefully, that would reduce the chances of the evening ending in blood and tears, although I wouldn't take any bets on it. This was the Nightside, after all. You never knew who might decide to show up at a party in spite of not having been on the guest list. "Why?"
"I'll be introducing you to people as my partner. I need you to look, if not respectable, then at least like you can be made to behave civilly."
"Like you can make me behave civilly." It wasn't as if Walker's reputation really needed the boost. People were still talking about that time he'd used his Voice to make a corpse sit up and answer his questions, even if, by now, nobody can remember when it happened, or who the corpse was, or even what questions Walker asked.
Walker shrugged. "It's simply a matter of appearances. I can't afford to have people think I'm getting weak, or soft."
"Fine," I said, and just when he relaxed, I added: "Make me."
For a long few seconds, he looked disappointed. In the end, though, he did what he felt to be the right thing. Walker always does.
"You will wear the suit I had made for you tonight, and you will behave politely to those who treat you politely also," Walker said. "If anyone's stupid enough to be rude to you, I have no need for them anyway."
"Why didn't you say so from the beginning?"