He’d known it was going to cost him, of course, but sometimes Spike had a spot of malfunction between his brain and his mouth. And then, of course, other times he was just being a brat on purpose, because he couldn’t help himself.
So yes, he was quite aware that there would be punishment coming his way the minute the words slipped past his lips.
His relationship with Wesley was no secret, not even the particular dynamics of it, due to Wesley’s refusal to allow Spike to speak out of turn or really do anything without at the very least looking toward Wes for permission. Angel seemed a bit uncomfortable having it right there in the open, Gunn was instinctively concerned for Spike’s well-being (until he had been reassured repeatedly that this was entirely consensual), Fred just tried to not think about it, mainly because the idea of Spike being submissive to Wesley conjured up all kinds of dirty images in her mind, which was no good at all. Lorne listened in as Wes softly hummed along to R.E.M.’s “Inside Out” playing on his iPod in his office one day, and knew everything immediately, but had no judgment regarding the situation. Human or demon, everyone had their own thing. He briefly thought of an old saying from his childhood in Pylea; loosely translated, “There’s a lid for every pot.” It certainly wasn’t his place to interfere.
Back to where they were, sitting at the conference table in Angel’s Wolfram and Hart office with Gunn and Angel, Wesley had made a suggestion about the latest situation they were dealing with, a negotiation between two warring factions of demons. They were trying to get both sides to compromise. A list of demands from both factions was being read aloud by Angel. Gunn was making notes on his legal pad and Wesley had just started explaining a point he had about mutual concessions when Spike zoned out and leaned back in his chair, propping his boots on the table.
“Spike”, Wesley said, with that commanding tone, glaring without elaborating further. The boots were off the table and back on the floor within a second.
Wes continued with his theory while Spike tuned it all out again until he got another reprimand from Wesley. “It doesn’t look to me like you’re paying attention.”
So, remember that filter malfunction thing? Yeah. “It’s all just so bloody boring, Wes”, he replied, adding a subtle eye-roll before realizing what he’d just done.
Wesley composed himself as the others present in the office desperately attempted to wish away Spike’s words. They knew Spike had just done something wrong, and that never ended well. Spike himself was trying to wish them away, as he saw the look in Wesley’s eyes, then watched as he stood from his chair.
“I apologize for Spike’s poor attitude, and for you having to be present for this most unfortunate incident. Please look away if you’re uncomfortable, or feel free to watch, whichever you choose. Spike, get up and bend over the back of your chair. Now.”
Spike was incredulous at this point. Yeah, he knew it, he’d fucked up and there would be a consequence. But not here! Here, in front of everyone? It wasn’t right, but he had no desire to make this any worse than it already was, and talking back would certainly do that. After a moment of stunned silence during which he hadn’t moved, he heard Wesley’s voice again. “I believe you’ve just made me tell you twice to do the same thing.”
“I…no, I’m sorry, just…not here, in front of everyone, please? When we get home, can’t it just wait? Please?”, Spike beseeched him, but Wesley was having none of it.
“If you can misbehave that way in front of our friends, then you can damn well take your punishment in front of them as well. Do as I said, Spike.”
If he could have blushed bright red, he would have, but he just avoided the looks on their coworkers’ faces as he stood and moved behind his chair, holding on to the arms with his head cast down toward the seat.
As their mortified coworkers watched him remove his belt, Wesley asked Spike in an incredibly casual tone, "And why am I having to take my belt off for you this time, Spike?"
“For not paying attention when you were talking, and because I was disrespectful.”
Wesley smacked Spike once with his belt. “And?”
It only took a second before he got it. “And because I didn’t get up when you told me to.” God, he hoped that was the right answer.
“Correct. I will do as you asked and punish you when we get home. However, you will have a preview of your punishment now. Here.”
Angel and Gunn put all of their effort into looking at anything except what was happening at the end of the table as Wesley quickly brought the belt down again across Spike’s ass several more times. Spike was silent until the sixth stroke, when he finally cried out from the pain and the embarrassment.
Gunn winced in sympathy. It wasn’t like he’d never had a belt taken to his backside before, but it sure as hell hadn’t ever happened when he was an adult, and certainly not with a damn audience. Wesley stopped after ten, at which point Spike was close to tears.
As he slid his belt back through the loops, he told Spike to stand up and asked if he had anything to say. “Angel, Charlie, sorry I disrupted the meeting”, Spike mumbled, looking at the floor. The other two men, of course, responded with their own mumbles that sounded like something along the lines of “It’s all right, don’t worry about it.”
Wesley spoke again. “Let’s get back to work, please, and I’ll ensure there will be no more interruptions.” With just a small gesture and a nod of his head in Spike’s direction, his way of ensuring the same thing would not happen again was made clear. Spike was still shaking and completely mortified, but when he realized what Wesley expected, his stomach sank. Not wanting to make things worse, though, and remembering that his punishment was not over, he followed Wesley’s silent instruction and walked away from the table to stand facing the wall on the other side of the room, hands clasped behind his back and completely still.
Gunn and Angel were still shifting their eyes around uncomfortably, but when Wes joined them again, they were both exceptionally attentive for the remainder of the discussion.
Once the meeting had been concluded, Gunn got out of there as quickly as he could. “Sorry for the inconvenience, Angel”, Wesley said, “but you know as well as I do that you can’t give Spike an inch or he’ll take a yard.”
“Yeah, Wes, I know. Just…take him out of here. Whatever it is that’s going on once the two of you are gone, I don’t want any details, all right?”
“Of course. I apologize again for having our meeting disrupted, and for placing you and Charles in an awkward situation. I’ll take care of Spike at home, and this won’t happen again, I give you my word”, Wesley responded, his gaze wandering over to where Spike was still standing with his nose in the corner like a child.
The look in Wesley’s eyes at that moment convinced Angel that Spike wouldn’t be interrupting any more staff meetings. He still had his memories, and though Angelus was buried deep inside his soul, the things he’d done to ensure Spike’s obedience more than a century ago were crystal clear. Angel shuddered at the thought, but then he knew that even if Wes was going to punish Spike, he wasn’t going to torture or starve him like Angelus had.
“Go on then, take him home. You'll be back for the conference, though, right?" Angel needed Wes for that, knew he'd be lost without Wesley's peacekeeping skills.
"Of course I will. I won't be more than an about an hour. Will that work with the schedule?"
"Yeah, that's fine, Wesley. Do what you need to do, and then just get back here, okay?"
"Don't worry, we'll have all this sorted by that time."