To Saving The World Saber Shadowkitten Disclaimer: Joss created BtVS; White Wolf created Vampire, the Masquerade; Merideth Brooks & The Muppets hold the lyrics; and nothing else is mine except for the original characters. If you want to borrow them, just ask. Prologue Journal of William Longstreet, 7 July 1999 Been called up by the big guns for some bloody reason. Probably to give me a new assignment, seeing as how the Sunnydale one is now complete. That Mayor bloke was a bloody nuisance, but the Slayer and her chums managed to defeat him, with a little hidden help from yours truly. Luckily, he wasn't an Antediluvian Cult member planning on laying waste to the world as they tend to try and do. Just some schmuck with too much time on his hands. I'd hate for Gehenna to come about because of that sod. So far this summer, I've come across each of the major clans of the Kindred, which is strange. I suppose spending June on a college campus as large as ISU, a vampire is bound to run into others. I met up first with a Brujah. He was easy to spot, leading a pack of mortals and other Brujah on some anarchical protest. The term "rabble rouser" had to come from some place. What was funny was that this Brujah was hanging around with a Gangrel. She was cute, if you go for the wild, animalistic look with the temperament to match. Ran into a Tremere while I was flirting with dinner. He was doing some sort of mumbo jumbo sorcery over the computer. Typical Warlock. I ended up having to eat elsewhere. Met up with a Malkavian while I was roaming the campus a week back. He gave me that weird look I use to get from Dru when she was talking with her dolls. Don't like those Lunatics. The Nosferatu, either, with their disfigured faces. They are just too bloody creepy. And, of course, I ran into many Ventrue on Greek Row. Those Blue Bloods sure do know how to throw a party, despite their thinking that they are better than the rest. But, without some clan to take charge, the Camarilla would fall apart, then where would we be? A lot of vampires running around without any structure, like the Independents. That could get annoying real fast. I'm glad that Toreadors aren't running the show. I can't imagine a bunch of artsy fartsy pansies sitting around talking about the latest fashion or what not rather than what needs to be done. I may be a Toreador by blood line, but I know where to draw the line. It helped that I was instructed to be in the Sabbat sect once Angelus disappeared. Footloose and fancy free, I was, with no limitations of the Masquerade, no reason I had to hide the fact that I was Kindred, a vampire. End Entry Transcribed by Maria Valasquez, 7/7/99 "Thank you, Maria." *Snap.* ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "You've done well, William." "It's my bloody job to do well," Spike snorted, rolling the compliment off of him like a bad vibe. He tapped his finger on the edge of his chair, his black polished nail making a click, click, click in the semi-dark conference room. "Tell me of your report from Sunnydale," Christoph instructed, templing his fingers together at the opposite end of the table. The elder vampire, with his long blond hair and perfect features, was reminiscent of a Norse god. A Ventrue and the leader of the one of the many Gehenna Cults was not one to be kept waiting, especially on the importance of preventing Gehenna, the apocalypse. "Three attempts," Spike said. "First through a big blue smurf, better known as The Judge." "I trust that he was dispatched?" Christoph inquired. "The Sabbat Slayer and her chums made mincemeat of him," he replied. "I really had to put on a bloody act while he was being assembled when I wanted to keep him separated for obvious reasons. Cor, that pissed me off. Being stuck in that bleedin' wheelchair didn't help matters, either." "The things one does for love," Christoph surmised. "I am glad it did not cost your position. I would have been displeased, especially since we had so few good Kindred Cult members in the Sabbat sect. However, do go on." Spike continued without a second thought. "Second, Acathala. That bloody Ravnos curse on Angelus broke. At first, I thought he was back to his good old, guilt-free, Toreador self; then he started to loose his fucking marbles and I knew those Rom bastard Kindred had to be Antediluvian. I made a deal with the Slayer, the world didn't go to hell and the big rock was destroyed by the Slayer's Watcher." "And what of Angelus?" "Re-cursed," Spike answered. "He's back to being a "Banker" again. That whole guilt thing has got to be a bloody nuisance. But on the whole, he's normal. Well, as normal as the wanker ever was to begin with. As long as he doesn't get a happy, the Ravnos curse won't be broken again. I'd hate to have to kill the git; he is my sire and was, for a long time, my friend." "But you will if it comes down to preventing Gehenna." It was a statement, not a question. "As I told the Slayer, I like this world. Why do you think I became involved in the Cult to begin with?" Spike said. "Third was the Mayor of Sunnyhell, of all people. Helped the Slayer and her merry men stop the ascension, though they don't know that. Now, I bloody well doubt you dragged me all the way up here just for a report, so let's get on with the show already." "You are correct, William," Christoph said. "First, I must confirm that you and your Toreador lover are no longer together. Is this true?" "Yes," Spike answered, somewhat sullenly. Torturing Drusilla hadn't worked, and he couldn't give up the secret that the reason he teamed up with the Slayer was because of his ties with the Gehenna Cult. Finally, he called it quits and left her in the hands of a capable, and equally insane, Malkavian. "Very good. Then your involvement with the Sabbat is at an end. I have need of you in the Camarilla - the closer to the conclave, the better," Christoph told him. Spike sighed and dug out a cigarette. "Any particular Domain?" "It has come to my attention that Angelus has been asked to be Primogen for the Toreador clan in Los Angeles. If you trust him, then try to get into that Domain. But do not tell him of your ties with us, for if the Ravnos curse goes into effect, it could result in dire consequences for the Kindred and mortals alike," Christoph said. "Yeah, yeah, I know the bloody drill," Spike said. "It's not going to be easy, not after all these years in the Sabbat." "I have complete faith in you, William," the elder Ventrue replied. "Which is why there is a second part of your new directive, aside from having a Cult member in a position of influence in the Camarilla." "Do tell," Spike said. "The Omega Virus," Christoph told him. The cigarette almost dropped from his mouth. "Fuck," he swore, his mind turning over this new bit of information. The Omega Virus was specifically created by the Antediluvian Cult to wipe out the Kindred and assist in bringing about Gehenna. It had to enter the bloodstream somehow, then was similar to mortal AIDS. It destroyed a vampire from within. "It has been spreading within the Domains, which is why your sire has been asked to be Primogen. We fear that there may be an Antediluvian in that conclave. The Prince fears for all those under his control," Christoph explained. "What's the blighter's name?" Spike asked, trying to formulate a plan. "Xavier DuPrey," he replied. Spike looked surprised. "Xavier's the Prince? No wonder Angel's been asked to be Primogen by the Toreador in the area. Cor, it should be a bloody snap to get into the conclave in his Domain." "I take it you know of the Prince?" "Oh yeah, Xavier, me and Angel go way back, to before Dru was with us," he said. "We had a lot of fun in London together." "Excellent," Christoph said. "I will expect you to report as soon as you retain a position and then on any information regarding the Antediluvian situation." Spike stood, knowing a dismissal when he heard one. "Right. Well, be seein' you," he said, giving the elder vampire a jaunty salute, then left. Twenty minutes later he threw himself into a chair at the motel he was staying at, his mind in awhirl. If there was a mole of sorts in Xavier's conclave, what's to stop there from being one in every conclave in each Domain? And if that was the case, the apocalypse could be closer than he liked. He needed to get to Los Angeles and do what he pledged to do when he joined the Gehenna Cult. Save the world. Part One "Spike, what are you doing here?" Angel snarled at the peroxide blond vampire leaning against the doorway to his temporary home. "Now, is that a way to greet your old mate?" Spike asked, taking a drag off of his cigarette. Angel glared at him. "Let's walk." Angel narrowed his eyes, then nodded, falling into step next to his childe. They walked in silence for several blocks before he asked, "What's going on, Spike?" "I hear Xavier's Prince here," Spike replied. "And that you've been chosen Primogen for the Toreador clan in the city." "What of it?" Angel asked. "Let me be your Whip," he said. Angel looked at him in surprise. "You want to what?" "You heard me, you sod," Spike scowled. "Why the hell would you want that? What would Drusilla think, your going back under the Camarilla? And what makes you think I would trust you as my assistant?" "I haven't been in the bloody Sabbat for over a year," he replied. "Drusilla is shacking up with a Malkavian, good riddance, and you an' me were mates once. I thought with Xavier, me an' you in the conclave, it'd be like the good old days." "I never figured you much for government, Spike," Angel commented snidely. "Running for office?" "Well, you know me. Always full of surprises," Spike said. He flicked his cigarette away, then shoved his hands in his pockets. "Listen, mate, I'm bloody serious about this. Chalk it up to being lonely or whatever you want, but let me do this." Angel studied him as they paused on a busy street corner, waiting for the light to change. "Have you kept in contact with any of the clan here?" he asked. "Most of them," Spike answered, glancing up at his sire. "If no one protests...too much, I think we can give it a shot," he said. "I'm meeting with Xavier in about an hour. Bet he'd be interested to see you." Spike nodded and they continued their way back towards Angel's place. Inwardly, the vampire was relieved. He was in, as soon as he got the go ahead from the Prince. Luckily, he wasn't lying when he said he'd kept in touch with the clan in the city. And he knew most of them wouldn't care, most Toreadors didn't want to involve themselves in clan politics anyway. Too much business and not enough culture. "How's the Slayer?" Spike asked, starting up a new conversation. "I hear that there was a big party on graduation, of all days. Must have been a ball." More like a rave, since he was there to see it first hand, but he wasn't going to say that. "Since when do you care about Buffy?" Angel said. "I don't -- just making polite chit-chat," he replied. "Buffy's fine," Angel answered. "She's at her father's for the summer here in LA." "I take it you two lovebirds are still doing the 'friends' thing," Spike said. "No, we gave up on that soon after you left," he replied. "We have a relationship, of sorts." Angel frowned. "With lots of frustration." "I'd imagine so," Spike commented. "Bloody Ravnos." "Couldn't agree with you more," Angel replied. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "Will!" Xavier greeted jovially as he met them in the foyer to his large mansion. The tall Frenchman gave Spike a big hug and kissed both cheeks. He was Angel's height, though slender, with shoulder length dark hair, dark eyes and chiseled pale complexion. If both Spike and Angel had been combined into one vampire, he would look like Xavier DuPrey. "It's been too long, my friend." "That is has, Xavier," Spike replied. He looked pointedly around the entryway. "Looks like you've done well for yourself." Xavier laughed, his hair falling behind his shoulders as he threw his head back. "You could say that, Will. So, come in, come in. Tell me about you. Staying in trouble, I presume." "Always," Spike said. "Did you hear I've turned over a new leaf? Time to get back in the thick of things and all that rot." "Will, the day you turn over a new leaf is they day you help the Sabbat Slayer save the world," Xavier joked. Angel barked out a laugh as Spike's ears actually turned red from embarrassment. "Yeah, well, it happens," the blonde vampire replied. Xavier arched a dark brow at his two guests. "Angelus, what are you laughing at?" "Spike did help Buffy prevent the world from going to hell," Angel told his old friend. "Bashed me over the head with a crowbar. Remind me to get back at you for that, Spike." "Bite me, poof ball," Spike shot at Angel. His sire only chuckled. "Listen, Xav, the great hairdini here says I can be his Whip if you give the go ahead." "I can't do that, Will," Xavier shook his head. Spike frowned, a hurt feeling forming in the middle of his stomach. "Why the bloody hell not?" "Because I want Angelus to be my Seneschal," he replied. Angel blinked in surprise as Xavier looked over at him. "I need someone I know and can trust in my corner, Angel." "Of course, Xavier," Angel told him. "I'd be honored to by your Seneschal." "That means you, dear William, can choose to be Primogen for the Toreador clan if you so desire," Xavier said to Spike. "You are the next oldest in the area, you are my friend and Angelus' and I'd wager that the rest of the clan in this area could care less. After all, they wanted Angie to be Primogen." "Up yours, Xav," Angel said. Spike's mind was reeling. **This is bloody perfect. I couldn't have wished myself into a better position within the conclave. I'll have to put up with a bit more politicking than I'd wanted, but my job is more important to piss this opportunity away,** he thought. "I'll do it, s'long as there's no objection from the peanut gallery." "Wonderful," Xavier said, throwing his arm around Spike's leather- clad shoulder. "We'll get right on it. I'll have Maurice show you to your suite in the north wing. Angie, baby, I have one for you, too, in that wing." He led the two vampires further into the mansion. "Just think, the Three Musketeers together again." "Not with the Musketeer talk again," Angel complained. "I thought I'd finally beat that out of you." "I get to be Porthos this time," Spike said, their voices fading as they left the great hall. "He always got the good wine and women." Part Two The suite that made up Spike's quarters was the size of a small apartment. It had a living room, kitchenette with table and chairs, two bedrooms and a bathroom that interconnected them. Seeing as he didn't have a lot of things, it was easy to move right into the mansion. He'd been there for two weeks now, having been accepted by the clan in the area as Primogen. It helped that those he had kept in contact with were the more respected members of the Toreador clan, such as club owners and art dealers. Plus, none of them wanted the job and were grateful to pass it onto him. If it wasn't his new assignment for the Gehenna Cult, he wouldn't want the job, either. He was lucky as to not have had his first conclave meeting yet with the other Primogen and Xavier, but not so lucky as to all the general wants and complaints he'd received. Angel had laughed at him when the first batch of faxes came in, glad to have passed the job onto someone else, as well. Of course, no one realized how difficult it was going to be for him to read all the messages and he wasn't about to let on that fact, either. "Doesn't anyone use the friggin' phone anymore?" Spike cursed as he stabbed at the keys on the laptop. Email was the new 'fashionable' communique and his sire had cheerfully provided him with a computer and cell phone for easy access. Ever since then he'd been trying, mostly in vain, to operate the thing, not including the time it took for him to read the contents of the email and peck out a reply. With a growl, he slammed the top shut and pushed away from the table, his chair making a loud squeak on the marble tile. He looked down at the multiple scratch marks on the floor because of this oft repeated action and swore again. "Xavier is going to have my bloody head." Grabbing his pack of smokes off the table, he stuck them in the front pocket of his green t-shirt, then put the laptop and cell phone, both still on, in the travel case and slung it over his shoulder. Perhaps he could bash Angel over the head with it several times, then take a quick trip north to beat on Christoph for giving him the assignment. Mostly, though, he knew if he didn't bring it with him, he'd never get anything done and his whole assignment would go to hell. Although that prospect wasn't looking too bad right now. Exiting his suite, he almost ran into one of the vampires whom he wished to do bodily harm. "Angel, you old fart," Spike greeted. "Just the wanker I wanted to kill." "Spike, grow up," Angel retorted, pushing past his childe and heading out of the wing. Spike trailed behind him, his curiosity peaked as to what was the older vampire's hurry. "Where you off to, mate?" "If you must know, I'm going to meet Buffy," Angel replied over his shoulder. "Sounds like a load of fun," he said. "Wouldn't mind a bit of violence right about now. Mind if I tag along?" Angel paused and looked at Spike, wondering what was going on in his head. "Since when are you so hard up for entertainment you'd choose to go with me?" "Can't a bloke do something without there being a grand scheme behind it?" Spike replied. "I'm bored and frustrated and you're always good for a few laughs." "Fine, come on," Angel sighed. "But we're not stopping on the way for snacks." ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Twenty minutes later found the two vampires weaving their way through a crowd of patrons at a club reminiscent of the Bronze. "Behave," Angel warned Spike, who was on his third cigarette since the walk over, as they approached the table where Buffy was seated. He grabbed the smoke from the blond's mouth and tossed it to the ground, stamping it out beneath his foot. Spike scowled at Angel, but before he could reply they'd arrived. "Hi Angel and...Spike," Buffy said the second name with a mixture of confusion and distaste. She gave Angel an 'explain now or find yourself being vacuumed' look. "He has a desire to be beaten. Severely," Angel told her with a smirk to his companion. "Oh really," Buffy said, arching her brow at Spike. Spike's scowl deepened and dug in his pocket for the pack of cigarettes. He jerked the pack and one popped up, and he pulled it into his mouth. Buffy, however, had other ideas about his lighting up and she snatched it from him and broke it in half. "Hey!" "No smoking around me," she told him. "And behave." "Why does everyone think I'm not going to be good?" Spike asked. Buffy and Angel just looked at him. "Fine. I promise I'll behave. Happy?" "Thrilled," Buffy scoffed. "I know I'm going to regret this, but you can sit. But don't forget, I have a stake and know how to use it." Spike took a seat and growled when the laptop chirped 'You got mail' at him from inside the carry case. His sire gave him another smirk, getting comfortable next to his somewhat girlfriend. "Wanker," he said under his non-existent breath, setting the case on the table. Buffy gave him a curious glance and Angel leaned over to whisper in her ear, then the two got up to dance. He opened up the case and laptop, brushing his thumb across the touchpad to take it out of standby. He looked at the number of new messages in the bottom left corner of the screen. There were two digits worth. "Cor, I am going to rip Christoph's eyeballs out and use them in my martini," he grumbled as he scrolled down the list of message subjects, seeing if anything shouted out to him. He was so engrossed in trying to decipher the words and muttering at the screen that he hadn't noticed anyone's approach until a startled gasp broke his concentration. "Spike!" Spike turned his head to see Willow standing behind him, hand to her chest in fright. "Hello, Willow," he greeted, then turned back to talking to the laptop. "Bloody hell, what do you mean 'mail not de-' whatever? Why can't you pillocks just pick up the bleedin' phone and ring me?" Visiting for the week with Buffy while her parents were in Europe, Willow had been at the bar getting a drink when Angel and Spike had arrived. Her eyes darted around the club and she saw the couple dancing. They waved at her and when she pointed at Spike, Buffy shrugged. "Spike, what are you doing here?" "I'm using the friggin' computer, what does it look like," he growled, not moving his eyes from the keyboard as he poked with a single finger at the letters. "I hate this bloody useless machine." Willow couldn't help but laugh as the memory of Giles saying something similar to that came forth. Spike looked over his shoulder at her and she immediately stopped, a combination blush and pallor spreading over her skin. "I wasn't laughing at you, I was laughing at what you said. Not that what you said was funny, it just reminded me of what Giles said about the computer. Not that you remind me of Giles. You're a lot younger...wait, you're older, as in very old, as in a vampire, as in you could kill me right now and I think I'll stop before you do." Spike stared at her with his ice blue eyes for a moment, then started to laugh, making Willow more nervous. "Don't worry, luv, I'm not going to kill you," he told her. "I promised to behave." "Um, good," she replied. "I think I'll, uh, drink my drink now." "You do that, pet," he said, turning back to the keyboard. Willow stayed as far from him as she could get as she sat down. When he started cursing at the laptop again, her curiosity was peaked. Unable to help herself, she moved closer to look over his shoulder at the screen. "You only need to forward the message again," she said without thinking. "Do what?" Spike asked, looking over at her. She blushed. "Oh, um, just click on the forward message button and type in the address," she told him. "You know how to use this bloody thing?" he said. "Uh, y-yes?" Willow replied. "You could say that." For the first time in his long life, his begged. It was pitiful, but he was at the end of his rope. "Will you please help me?" Spike asked. "Before I bloody well go insane. Please?" Willow's eyes were huge. "You're asking me for help? Me?" "You don't see anyone else standing here, do you?" he scoffed, then groaned. **Alienate the girl, why don't you,** he thought. "Yes, I am asking you for help." "O-Ok," she agreed, pulling the laptop over in front of her. "Where do you want this to go?" "I have no clue," Spike admitted. He gestured uselessly at the machine as he stood, then dug out a cigarette and put it in his mouth. "It was suppose to be a general message to the list or whatever you call it, telling them that their problems and what not will be dealt with as soon as I bloody well get to them." "Do you want it to go to any of these people who sent you new messages?" Willow asked, her finger moving over the touchpad with practiced ease. "Can you do that?" he replied, lighting the cigarette, then leaning over her shoulder. "Of course," she said. "Now, where's your original message?" "In that thing," he said, tapping the word 'drafts' on the screen with his finger. "At least, I think it was in there. Bloody hell, why can't the gits just use the friggin' phone?" She tried not to chuckle, but it came out anyway. "Sorry. Er, hmm. I need to ask - do you mind if I see the email or not?" "Why?" "Well, when I click on it, the message will appear and if you don't want me to see it, I need to...not look," Willow explained. Spike thought about that for a minute. The thing about working under the rules of the Camarilla stated that a vampire kept up the Masquerade no matter what and breaking that rule was punishable by death. Then again, the red head in front of him already knew all about the Kindred through her association with Buffy...and him...so he wouldn't be technically breaking any rules. Plus, he really wanted the help before he poked out his eyes. "You can look, pet. In fact, if you see any mistakes, feel free to fix them," he finally said. **Might as well get all the help I can.** Willow nodded and pulled up the message. All maters will be takin kar of in the order resevd. Spike, Primogin Toreador She frowned, glanced up at the vampire over her shoulder, then back at the screen. "Um, Spike. If I suggest something, will you eat me?" "No," he chuckled. "Although I've never heard anyone asking me that before." "Uh, well, how about this for a message instead: Ladies and Gentlemen," she said as she typed. "I have received your email and will be reviewing each one in the order they were received. I shall respond to each as time permits. Thank you. And then we put your name and then your title. You have a title?" "Yeah," Spike replied offhand because his mind was focusing on what she'd just put together in a matter of seconds which took him a half-hour to do. And the speed she typed was phenomenal. Plus, her message sounded much better than his did. "What's a Prim-o-gin?" Willow asked. "What?" he asked, snapping back to reality. "Prim-o-gin? And what about Toreador? Unless I shouldn't be asking you this. I shouldn't, should I. Oh boy, now I'm toast," she rambled nervously. Spike chuckled again and took a seat, tapping the cherry on his cigarette onto the floor. This little red head was certainly amusing and inquisitive. He wondered if she was like this when he'd kidnaped her way back in November, but everything during that time was clouded because of his drunken haze. "Well, luv, a Primogen is sort of like a member of Parliament. I'm the representative of the Toreador clan for LA." "Clan? As in a clan of vampires?" "It isn't a clan of knitters," he replied. "Does Buffy know about this clan?" Willow asked, her eyes wide as she looked at him. "No, pet, she doesn't," Spike said. "And you aren't going to tell her, either. She doesn't need to go after those under the Camarilla, although she'd be hard pressed to find them." "Why? And what's the Camarilla?" "The Camarilla is a sect of vampires who follow the rules of the Masquerade," he explained. "Don't let mortals know vampires exist, don't kill unless necessary when you feed, keep your human mask on at all times in public, that sort of thing. Angel is a perfect example of a Kindred who lives by the rules, although with the Ravnos curse on him, he's a farmer rather than getting blood fresh." "Angel's a farmer?" Willow said. "Farmer. Banker. A vampire who drinks animal blood or from blood bags," Spike told her. She nodded in understanding. "Ok, so Angel follows all these rules. Do you?" "Now I do," he answered. "I didn't when I was in the Sabbat sect. That's the group of vampires that the Slayer goes after. The sect doesn't care if mortals know about them or not." "What's your job as Primogen?" Willow inquired. "Mostly getting email and faxes because no one will pick up the bloody phone," he grumbled. She giggled, then covered her mouth in fear and he smiled at her. "You can laugh, pet. I told you I'm not going to eat you." "Sorry," she said. "Um, one more question. You said you're Primogen for the Toreador clan. How many clans are there?" "Seven under the Camarilla, thirteen if you count the Independents and those exclusively in the Sabbat," Spike replied. His eyes darted around the club, looking for examples. "You see that scruffy looking bloke by the door?" "The one with the shaggy hair?" "That's the one, ducks. He's a Gangrel. They're very...wild. They're mostly bikers or gang bangers," he said. "That one over by the bar, the one with the suit and pinkie ring with the pentagram? That's a Tremere. They're sorcerers, wizards and the like. Annoying sods mostly." "What about Angel?" "He's a Toreador," Spike answered. "Which is why you're one, too," Willow surmised. "Right. And that wanker that's heading right for us is a Ventrue. Think rich snobbery and you'll have that clan pegged," he said. "Will, are you telling tales?" Xavier asked as he walked up to the table. "Has my old friend been flirting with you? If so, don't take it personally. He flirts with all the pretty skirts and a few of the fellows, too." "Willow, this is Aramis. Ignore him," Spike said. Xavier clucked his tongue as he picked up Willow's hand. "Now, now, Porthos, no need to get in a tizzy. Actually, my name is Xavier DuPrey, fair lady." "Willow Rosenberg," Willow returned as he kissed her hand. Spike snorted in derision. "Did you guys just call each other the Musketeer names?" "Call twinkle toes over there Athos and see what he does," Spike suggested with a grin. "Will, you shouldn't mock Angel like that," Xavier said, sitting down in a vacant chair. "That's my job." "Will?" Willow said, confused as she looked at Spike. "Oh! Will. William the Bloody. I get it." Xavier arched a dark brow at the peroxide blond. "William the Bloody, eh? I thought it was Longstreet." "You have a last name?" Willow said in surprise. "I need to tell Giles so he can put it in the Diaries. What about Angel? Does he have a last name, too? Well, of course he does. I meant, do you know his last name? Buffy doesn't know his last name, and they're together. Although not in the together sense of together. Um..." "Is she always this curious?" Xavier asked Spike. "So far as I know," Spike replied, giving the hacker a wink. Willow blushed. "Peaches last name is Brennan, pet." "Angelus Brennan," Willow said, sounding out the words. "Spike Longstreet. That sounds funny." "It does at that," Xavier agreed. "Why he picked that ridiculous monkier is beyond me." "Sod off, Xav,"Spike said. "If you must know, Dru gave me that name." "That explains it then," Xavier said, motioning with his finger by his temple in the universal 'looney' sign. Willow giggled. "Xavier, was there something you wanted or did you just drop by to annoy me?" Spike asked. "Meeting, tonight, midnight," Xavier said, all business. "Bring any complaints you have to the table." "Bloody hell," the blond vampire cursed quietly. He brought his hands up and began to massage his temples. "I'm not ready to meet with the conclave yet, Xavier." He raised his eyes and saw the look he was receiving from the other vampire. "Oh, don't worry about Willow. She knows all about us." "Did you tell her?" Xavier asked in a deadly voice. "No, I did not," Spike said, glaring at him. "She knew about the Kindred before I even met her, so you can put away your pearly whites." "Is this true, my dear?" the French vampire asked Willow. "That I know about vampires? Yes," Willow said. "I didn't know there were so many different kinds though. I just thought you all were a bunch of demons who eat people like me for breakfast. Is it called breakfast if you eat it at night? But Spike said he wouldn't eat me and for some dumb reason I believe him. Plus, Buffy's right over there with Angel and she'd stake him for trying." Xavier laughed loudly, uncaring of the stares he received. "Will, old boy, I underestimated you. You sure know how to pick 'em." With that, the Prince of Los Angelus got up and left. "I think I'm getting a bleedin' headache," Spike muttered. "If he wasn't the Prince, I'd box his ears in. May still do it, the night is young." "Spike, you're muttering," Willow said without thought, turning her attention back to the computer. "Now, about this message..." Spike's head suddenly shot up and he really looked at her, an idea forming in his head. "Willow, how about a proposition?" "Er, I-I don't think I'm your type," Willow stammered, turning bright red. "I'm short and have red hair a-a-and I'm human." He let out a big laugh. "Cor, Willow, no. I didn't mean that sort of proposition. I was wondering if you'd be willing to help out a poor vampire with his new job." "Doing what?" she asked, curious. "You can be my Whip," he replied. "It's like a personal assistant. Read email, reply to messages, save me from bashing my head repeatedly against a hard wall, crap like that." "Um, I don't know..." "I'll pay you," Spike said, really liking the idea of help. "And you can have free room and board for however long you work with me." "But I'm only visiting here for a week," Willow said. "And in August...well, I don't know what I'm doing in August." "How 'bout this, luv. Try it out for the rest of your visit and then we'll see," he suggested. He did something he hadn't done in a long time at that moment - he crossed his fingers for luck. **Say yes, please say yes.** "Well, if I can still stay with Buff-" "No problem, anything you want, pet," Spike cut her off, a huge smile on his face. "We need to get started right away for this soddin' meeting tonight. Don't want to go in the new vamp looking like a wanker. Want to work here or at my suite at the mansion? Come to think of it, we'd better work there so you can see all the bloody faxes and memos I got. Remind me to pound Angel's head in next time he smirks at me for taking this friggin' post..." Willow's eyes had widened and her mouth dropped open slightly as he went on...and on. **What have I gotten myself into now? Part Three "Watch this," Spike said conspiratorially as he and Willow approached Buffy and Angel. The couple stopped dancing and turned to them. "Athos! Got a bit of news from on high." Angel's reaction was immediate. His hand snaked out and grabbed the back of the blond vampire's head, yanking him until they were practically nose to nose. "How many times are we going to go through this? Don't call me that!" In response, Spike kissed him on the lips. "Whatever you say, sweets." The older vampire shoved him away and wiped his mouth with the back of his arm. Willow had her hand up over her mouth, trying to stifle her laughter as Buffy gave the pair a curious look. Spike turned and winked at the red head, then returned his attention to Angel, a serious expression on his face. "Xavier popped by. Midnight Madness," he told his sire. Angel nodded. "Don't be late." "Me?" Spike said, trying to give him an innocent look. "I'm never late." "Right, and I'm the Pope," Angel scoffed. "Actually, I think his eminence gets laid more than you do, mate," Spike replied with an evil smirk. At Angel's look, he figured it was time to cut his losses and run. "I'll bring Willow back after the meeting, Slayer. Adios, amigos." He turned and took Willow's arm, quickly walking away from the couple before they could stop them. Once out of the club, Willow let her laughter come forth. "Spike, that was so mean - the Pope gets more than Angel." "It's the truth," Spike shrugged, dropping her arm and digging out yet another cigarette. He frowned down at the empty pack. "Bugger." "How are we getting to..." Willow started to ask as he flagged down a taxi, then opened the door for her. "Your pumpkin, milady," he said, giving a mock bow. He climbed in afterwards and gave the address to the driver. Ten minutes later the hacker was gawking up at the mansion as he paid the driver. "Hasn't anyone told you that you can catch flies that way?" "What?" Willow said, barely turning her head to him. Then she caught what he said and her mouth clamped shut. Spike chuckled. "Come on, and stick close. There's lots of people in here who'd love to sink their teeth into you." "That's reassuring," she mumbled as she followed him into the mansion. The sprawling home had three wings, plus a central part that connected them. The north wing was a series of suites for guests, the east wing was where Xavier made his home and the west wing held everything else, including the kitchen, dining room, grand ballroom, game room and conclave meeting room. Spike led Willow through the great hall up a sweeping staircase to the second floor, then down the long, ornate hallways to his rooms. "Angel is four down," Spike told her, gesturing further down the hall. He opened the door and let her proceed him. "And this is me." Willow looked curiously around the room, noting the piles of papers stacked haphazardly over any available surface. CDs were scattered on the floor in front of the stereo, a teetering pile of videos sat on top of the television and empty cigarette packs could be seen all over. She shook her head and moved further into the suite, stepping over a pair of boots and heading for the kitchen table where Spike was unpacking the laptop again. She started to giggle when she saw a lone sock looking like it was trying to make a break for it from an open bedroom doorway. She stuck her head inside and saw clothing scattered all over the place, as well as more papers and miscellaneous junk. It was official -- Spike was a slob. "Alright, how do you want to do this?" Spike asked, picking up a cigarette pack on the table. He frowned when he found it empty. "I have..." He looked at the clock on the wall. "Roughly two hours until this meeting." "First, tell me more about this meeting, so I know what you need to have," Willow said, skirting around a tower of cans to the kitchen table. She took a seat and moved the laptop in front of her after clearing a spot. Spike opened a cabinet and pulled out an open carton, scowling when he found it empty of cigarettes, too. "This meeting is where all the head yo-yo's of the seven clans under Xavier's rule get together and...uh, meet." "Hence the definition of meeting," she sighed, tucking her hair behind her ears. "What do you do at these meetings?" "How the bloody hell should I know?" Spike replied, opening the small oven door and looking inside. "Ha, found you." He reached inside and pulled out half a pack of cigarettes. He popped one into his mouth and quickly lit it. "Those things will kill you," Willow said before she thought. He gave her a look. "Uh, never mind. Back to this meeting..." "Wait, I think I have a book or something around here," he said, eyes darting around the suite. He moved into the living room part and started moving piles. "Nicolas gave it to me when I became Primogen. He's the Nosferatu grand poobah, lives on the first floor somewhere." He lifted up the couch cushions and looked under them. "Those blokes are a fright for sore eyes. They have a face only a mother could love, and that's iffy. But they sure do keep good records and stuff like that." Willow was watching him as he searched, wondering how she got herself into helping him. **Face it, Willow. You're too nice for your own good,** she thought. **Either that, or you're just plain nuts.** "Here we go," Spike said, pulling a thin book out from under the couch. He wiped off the cover on the side of his leg as he stood. "Supposedly this tells about the purpose of the conclave, a little about the Camarilla in general and the clans under it." "Haven't you read it?" she asked as she took it from him. "Yeah, right," he replied, blowing out a puff of smoke. "When do I have the bloody time to do it? I haven't even gotten through the first batch of faxes Angel foisted off on me as soon as he could, the pillock." "What's Angel's job, then?" Willow said, skimming the table of contents. She noted that it was handwritten and the script was beautiful. "He's Seneschal," Spike answered. "Sort of like a trusted advisor and back watcher. Don't tell poofboy this, but I'm glad Xavier has him in that position, what with the..." "With the what?" Willow asked after he left the sentence dangling. Spike studied her silently, the smoke from his cigarette curling up towards the ceiling. He debated on how much to tell her, especially since she was on a trial basis as his Whip. Plus, there was that whole secrecy thing to the Gehenna Cult to follow. Making up his mind on telling her a half truth, he pulled out the chair next to her and sat backwards on it. "There's always attempts made on the Prince's life, or unlife as it were. Some Kindred wanting to get into his position, to rule the Domain their way." "So Angel's secret service," she said. "Does he get to wear one of those ear things and never smile? Well, he doesn't smile much anyway, so it wouldn't be too hard for him and he could have that whole Kevin Costner thing going, except that Xavier isn't Whitney Houston and he's, well, a he." "Basically," Spike chuckled. "Why don't you go ahead and read that while I gather up all the faxes and crap for you. I know I wrote some notes as to their importance on the top of some..." He trailed off as he stood and went into the bedroom. Willow had already turned her attention to the book, her mind itching to absorb the knowledge it contained. **What is the Camarilla?** she read. **The Camarilla is a sect of vampires who strive to maintain the Masquerade in order to ensure the safest and most profitable existence possible for its members. Those that pledge their allegiance to the Camarilla agree to follow the rules of Traditions, first and foremost being that of the Masquerade -- do not allow mortals to know of Kindred existence.** Spike returned to the kitchen area and put a large stack of papers on the table before heading into the living room to gather more as she continued to read. **The second Tradition is that of the Domain. Most Domains are run by a Prince and include areas of a city or certain industries. The Prince is the ultimate authority and is in control of the other four Traditions -- Progeny, Accounting, Hospitality and Destruction. A Kindred must get the Prince's approval to create childer (Progeny) and that sire is responsible for the fledglings actions (Accounting). It is the responsibility of those Kindred not from the Domain to introduce themselves upon entering (Hospitality), whether it be for a visit or to set up residence. Finally, the Prince has the right to call a blood hunt upon any Kindred (Destruction) in violation of the aforementioned Traditions, especially that of the Masquerade.** "Ow, bloody hell," Spike cursed, sucking on his finger as he set another pile on the table. "Damn papercuts." Willow giggled, then went back to the book. **The Primogen are chosen members of each of the seven clans in allegiance with the Camarilla as representatives for that clan within the Domain. They meet periodically at a conclave meeting where problems or concerns are discussed with the Prince, blood hunts are decided upon and information is passed along in regards to politics or decrees. Each Primogen are allowed a Whip for assistance in the affairs of the post. They may sit in on conclave meetings and have the use of all the resources available to the Primogen.** Spike suddenly growled, making her head shoot up in fright. He sent her a sheepish grin. "Sorry, luv. I forgot about something," he said, walking over to the phone on the wall. He picked it up and dialed three numbers. "Maurice, you know about the...I need...Right, thanks." "I think I know enough to get started," Willow told him, closing the book. "Why don't you go through the faxes and sort them into piles. Make one for complaints, one for permissions and one for things you don't know how to classify." "What are you going to do?" Spike asked, looking at the table which was now filled with papers. "I'm going to go through the email and do the same thing," she replied. "Then, I'll filter through them and draft you a report- type thing in..." She glanced at the clock. ..."an hour and a half. Oh boy, it's going to be a really rough draft. Like sandpaper. Or bark." Spike gave her a funny look, but she was already immersed in what was on the computer screen. Picking up the first fax, he set about doing as she asked. Ignoring the area about who it was from, he focused on the main body of the message. **This is going to take bloody forever,** he thought as he struggled to decipher the words. After half and hour, the blond vampire scraped the chair across the marble tile making Willow glance up at him with a questioning look. He ignored her and went over into the living room, sitting down on the floor in front of the stereo. She looked around the laptop and saw one semi-large pile and two piles with at most four pages each. There was a knock at the door and Spike stood to answer it. "Hello, Maurice," Spike greeted, allowing the vampire butler to enter the room. "Sir," Maurice returned, holding a garment bag in one hand. "I'll take that," Spike said, but Maurice avoided his hands. "That's quite alright, sir," he said. "I shall hang it in the closet. Knowing you, it would end up under the bed and ruin all my hard work." Willow snickered, bringing the attention of the two vampires on her. "Sorry," she said, ducking her eyes. "Maurice, this is Willow," Spike introduced as they headed further into the suite. "Willow, Maurice, the all around pain in the arse." "Actually, my title is butler," Maurice corrected. "You hold the honor of being called the 'pain in the arse.'" Spike glared at him as Willow giggled again. "Hello, Miss. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." "Um, hi," Willow replied, smiling at him. She couldn't help but think of Ben Kingsley as she took in his proper suit and tie, his calm demeanor and his subtle jibes at Spike. "And how did you manage to become roped in by Master William? He did not use that dreadful line of showing you his etchings, did he?" Maurice asked. "Watch it, Maurice," Spike growled. "No," she laughed. "He asked for help with the meeting tonight and I said yes, which was pretty dumb. Not the meeting. Spike. Oh, I don't mean that Spike is dumb. That is..." "I understand, Miss," Maurice interrupted. "Although I would have gone with your first assessment of Master William." He winked at her, then turned to Spike. "Now then, sir, if I could have a word." Spike trailed after Maurice into the bedroom, where the butler hung the bag in the closet after kicking several piles of clothing out of the way. "Before you say anything, I know she is mortal and knows about the Masquerade. She's already met Xavier and has his seal of approval," the blond vampire said. "Very well, sir," Maurice said. "I take it, then, you are hoping she will become your Whip?" "How did you...never mind," Spike finished. "You seem to know every friggin' thing that goes on here." "That is my job, sir," he replied. "I shall leave you two now to finish preparing for the conclave meeting. Do not be late." "Why does everyone think I'm going to be bloody late?" Spike said, following him out of the bedroom. "Because we all know you, sir," Maurice replied as he walked over to Willow. "Good evening, Miss. Shall you require anything, dial 542 and I shall see if I can be of assistance." He leaned down to whisper, "I suggest you set that clock on the wall fifteen minutes ahead. Master William has yet to be on time since I have known him. It use to annoy Master Xavier and Master Angelus to no end." "O-ok," Willow stammered. Maurice straightened and headed for the door. "Good evening, Master William. I shall see you at midnight." After the door closed, Spike sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "I hate this stupid assignment," he muttered. "He seems nice," Willow commented as the vampire went back over to the stereo. "He's an annoying know-it-all who has nothing better to do with his unlife than make fun of me," Spike replied. "At least the sod didn't ask if I needed help tying my shoes this time." "How long have you known him?" she asked, curious. "Too long," he said with a smirk. "He was with Xavier when Angel and I met him. I think he was Xav's manservant when he was still human." "Is Xavier older than Angel?" "Yeah, but not by much," Spike replied. He selected a CD and put it in the changer. "It always dug at hairboy that Aramis was older." "Um, why do you call each other names from the Three Musketeers?" Willow asked. She silently got up and pushed the minute hand on the clock ahead fifteen minutes. "Xavier would be able to give you the long winded story," Spike said, digging under the couch cushions again for the remote. "In a nut, he read the book and got all talley-ho about the 'all for one and one for all' crap. He started to call Angel 'Aramis' and the whole name calling thing got started. This time, though, I get to be Porthos instead of him and Angel gets stuck with Athos, the serious, brooding Musketeer." "So it's basically a big inside joke," she summed up. "And it drives Angel looney, so we try to call each other the names often," he replied with a grin. He found the remote and hit play, then joined her again at the kitchen table. "Now, where was I?" "Making piles," Willow replied. "Right, well, as long as I wasn't making puddles..." Part Four Spike glanced up at the clock and started swearing -- in Spanish. "What? What is it? What's wrong?" Willow asked as the blond vampire shoved back the chair and hurried out of the room. They had been working comfortably to the loud music blaring from the stereo and she had finally thrown together an extremely rough copy of things that needed to be brought up at the meeting. She picked up the remote as she stood, hitting stop and walking towards the bedroom. "Spike, what is i-oop," she barely had time to duck as clothing came flying at her. He was systematically picking things off the floor and tossing them over his shoulder. "What are you doing?" "I'm looking for my bloody towel," Spike growled. "Um, wouldn't it be in the bathroom?" she suggested. Spike stopped and looked over at her. "Good point," he said, going into the bathroom and closing the door behind him. Willow shook her head and returned to the small kitchenette. She was moving the piles around on the table and happened to look up at the clock. Then, she giggled. "Good thing Maurice told me to set the clock ahead." She was amazed that she'd been with Spike for a little over two hours now and, not only had he not even attempted to kill her, he was altogether friendly if not downright fun to be around. Although they had mostly worked -- well, she mostly worked, he smoked and cursed and mumbled incoherently to himself - they had chatted about general things like television and music. She heard a knock on the door and went to answer it, surprised to see the vampire on the other side. Even more so surprised by the clothes he was wearing. "Angel, hi! You look great." "Thanks," Angel replied, giving her a small smile. "How are you surviving?" "Um, fine," she said, unsure of how to answer his question. "He's kept his teeth to himself? No reason for me to beat him senseless?" "Er, no." "Rats." Willow stared in amazement at her friend. "Angel, you joked. You made a joke. You never make jokes. Or talked so much. To me. And you don't seem too worried that I'm here with Spike. Should I be worried about that? You're not Angelus again, are you? Oh, that would be bad." Angel laughed, surprising her again with the richness of its sound. "No, Willow, I'm still Angel. I'd actually be more worried about Spike's being with you, after what he pulled last November. But I know he won't do anything to hurt you. Annoy you, yes. Hurt you, no." "Wait, how do you know he won't hurt me?" Willow asked. "He could be setting up a devious plan." "Several reasons," Angel said. "First, he wouldn't have told us he was going to bring you back to Buffy's after the meeting. Second, he actually told us you two were leaving. Third, Maurice called when you got here. And finally, he called again when he verified that Spike wanted you for his Whip, which means he needs your help. That's a pretty powerful position. You basically have Spike in the palm of your hand." "But I haven't decided that I want to be his Whip," she protested. "Although it has been interesting. Say, do you get to wear an ear thing like Kevin Costner?" "Do I what?" he asked, confused. "Uh, never mind," she replied. "Do you want to come in and wait?" "No, if I did that, then I'd be late to the meeting," Angel told her. "And I'm never late." "Well, ok. I, um, guess I'll see you later," Willow said. "Actually, I'll see you at the meeting," he replied. "What? No, no, no. I'm not going to any meeting. I'm only rough draft girl," she said quickly. "Besides, you're all dressed up. Look at me. I'm not. I'm dressed down. I'm dressed for not going to meetings." "Spike's going to want you to go," Angel told her. "In fact, he'll probably beg you to go. Hmm, maybe I should stick around just to see that." "But-" "I'd better go before the temptation is too great," he said, giving her another small smile. Then he turned and walked down the hallway. Willow closed the suite door and leaned heavily against it. She wondered for the tenth time how she managed to get herself into this situation. And to have Angel not worried at all about her being with Spike! Not that she was too afraid of him anymore, herself. Straightening, she brushed her hands over her long, flowered skirt and off-white blouse. **Well, I'm not that badly dressed. Maybe if I run a comb through my hair...wait, I'm not going to the meeting! It's a vampire meeting. With vampires. Although I already know Spike. And Angel. And I sort of know Xavier. And Maurice. Stop it! I am not going!** "Willow, can you help me tie this bloody thing. Cor, I am going to shove it up one side of Christoph's nose and pull it out the other," Spike grumbled as he came out of the bedroom. Willow froze, her mouth dropping slightly open at the sight of him. "Spike, you-you-you're wearing a suit!" "I am?" Spike mocked, wide eyed. "Why didn't someone tell me?" Broken out of her amazement by his words, she scowled as she walked over to him. She picked up the two ends to the patterned tie and began working on a Windsor knot. "Chin up," she said, then pulled the tie into place. "Tight enough there, pet?" he choked out, pulling at his collar after she'd stepped away. "Don't pull," Willow scolded. "And button your jacket." "Yes, mum," Spike said, earning another glare. He buttoned the jacket and struck a pose. "What do you think? Cover of GQ, right?" "More like MAD magazine," she replied saucily, then turned bright red and quickly walked to the kitchenette in the wake of his laughter. "Really, luv, do I look ok?" Spike asked seriously. "I hate these stupid monkey suits. Give me a pair of trousers and a t-shirt and I'm game." Willow took her time in looking him over. The suit was tailored to perfection, the jacket tapering slightly at the waist in a dark navy. His starched white shirt was a perfect contrast with the dark material, the maroon and navy tie making him look nothing like the killer she knew in Sunnydale. Then again, he hadn't been acting like the Spike she knew, either. "You look good, Spike. Very...respectable." "Damn. And I was going for childish and immature," he replied, running his fingers through his damp hair. He glanced at the clock again. "Damn, I'm late." "No, you're not. You still have five minutes, clock's fast," Willow told him as she picked up the handwritten notes she'd made. **Gonna have to get a printer,** she thought absently as she leafed through them. "This is really pretty sketchy, but it should be enough for this meeting at least. I put what I thought was the most important issues on top-" "Come with me," Spike interrupted her. "No. That's ok. I'll wait here," she said. "Please?" Willow looked up at his soft, hopeful tone. His blue eyes where pleading her to go with him and he looked somewhat vulnerable. "Spike, why do you need me to go? I have everything written out nicely for you and-" "I can't read," Spike said, admitting his problem for the first time to anyone. He dropped his head and scratched at the black polish on his thumb. "I don't want to make a bloody fool out of myself. I'm the new chap on the block as it is, and I got the post because I'm friends with the Prince and the Seneschal is my sire. Talk about friggin' nepotism." "Um, that would be favoritism," she said. He raised his eyes to her. "You're not related to either of them by blood. I mean, by genes and DNA and...uh, stuff." "Hell," he growled, grabbing his last pack of cigarettes off the table. It was empty. "Damn it! Who does a mate have to kill around here to get a bloody fag!" He grabbed at his tie and tugged on it, spinning so his back was to her, fists clenched at his sides. Willow walked around in front of him after a moment and started to straighten his tie. "If you keep pulling on this, we're going to be late," she said. "And we don't want Maurice to be right, right?" Spike stared down at her incredulously. "You mean you'll come with me?" "After all the hard work I did, you bet I want to go," she replied, giving him a smile. "Well, then we'd best be off," he said, grinning at her like a schoolboy. Then, he got a very deadly look on his face. "What I told you goes no further than this room, or, make no joke of it, I will kill you." "I won't," Willow promised, swallowing nervously. "We should um, go now." "Right," he agreed, gesturing back to the kitchen table. "You grab...whatever and I'll...stand here while you do that." She laughed, breaking the tension as he hoped. He glanced at the clock once more, subtracting in his head. For once, he was going to be on time. Part Five Maurice was standing outside the door to the conclave meeting room when Willow and Spike arrived. The vampire butler looked like he was in shock. "Master William, Miss Willow," he said. He pulled out an antique pocket watch, looked at it, then held it up to his ear before looking at it again. "Alright, Maurice, that's about enough of that," Spike grumbled, pulling on his collar. "I pushed the clock ahead," Willow confided in Maurice. "Ah, that explains it," Maurice said. "I have a chair set up for you, Miss. And don't let the other doggerel get to you. If Master William wishes you to be his Whip, then you more than meet the expectations for the position." He leaned closer to the red head to whisper, "Master William never asks or wants assistance." "Are you through, Maurice?" Spike said. "I would like to get to this bloody meeting sometime." Maurice winked at Willow. "They will not start without you, Master William. Fear not." Spike looked like he was about ready to strangle the older vampire, so Willow took his arm and prompted him inside the meeting room. The room itself was large and decorative, with a long table sitting in the middle of it. Chairs lined each side, with other chairs set up slightly behind the ones at the table. Xavier and Angel were at the head of the table and there several other vampires standing around chatting with each other. "Spike, you're here," Angel said in surprise, bringing up his wrist to look at his watch. "Will wonders never cease," Xavier commented. "I'm not always late," Spike scowled at them. "I've been known to be early for several things." Xavier looked over at Willow and she could see a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "Yes, you were early for the Duchess' party and got us kicked out." "You couldn't wait two days for St. Vigeous and ended up losing to Buffy," Angel added. "You got toasted at that pub in the square nice and early, then almost got yourself killed," Xavier continued. "Drusilla always complained of pre-ejaculation," Angel finished with an evil grin. Xavier burst out laughing, causing all eyes in the room to turn to him. "I am going to hurt you, Angelus," Spike said quietly, his hands clenched at his sides. He looked down at Willow and saw that she was blushing, but her eyes held laughter. "Anything you want to add, Witch?" "Um...n-no," Willow said, growing nervous. Her eyes darted around the room and she saw the other occupants staring at them, making her even more uncomfortable. One of them was heading their way and she swallowed, unconsciously taking a step closer to Spike. The vampire was extremely tall, well dressed, and had a face that was a combination of a drawing she'd seen of the Master and Sloth from The Goonies. "Hello, Will," Nicolas greeted, extending his hand. "Nicolas," Spike returned, shaking the Nosferatu's hand. "I'd like you to meet Willow. My Whip." "Yes, so I have heard from Maurice," Nicolas said, looking down at Willow. "How do you do, Miss." "Hello," Willow said, gripping the things in her hands tighter. When something refused to bend, she looked at her pile and saw a thin, black, hardcover book. "Oh! You're Nicolas!" "That is correct," Nicolas replied, giving her a questioning look. "This book is beautiful," the red head gushed, showing him what she was talking about. "I haven't gotten to read all of it yet, but so far it's great. You really know how to say a lot in a few words, and your explanations were really easy to understand. And your penmanship, wow. It's perfect. Did it take a long time to write?" Nicolas smiled genuinely, showing off perfect teeth in complete mockery of the rest of his face. "It did not take long, Willow. I have many others. If you would like, I would be happy to show them to you." "Nicolas, keep your etchings to yourself," Spike suddenly growled, moving even closer to Willow. He was not about to let the beanpole alone with her. She was his assistant and she wouldn't have time for that sort of thing. Or so he told himself. Xavier interrupted. "Gentlemen, Ladies, if you would please," he said, gesturing to the chairs. "I shall speak with you more later, Willow," Nicolas said, then moved to his own seat. Spike pulled on his collar again. **I hate this,** he grumbled mentally, pointing Willow to her place, then taking his chair. **Christoph is going to get an exploding cake in the mail.** "I call this meeting to order," Xavier began, the room falling into silence. "First order of business is introductions. Angelus, whom you have all met before, has recently become my Seneschal. Therefore, the position of Toreador Primogen became available and has been filled by Angelus' childe, William Longstreet, the next oldest member of the clan in the area. Will." Spike flashed everyone a cocky grin. "Call me Will, call me Spike, but don't call me Shirley," he said. Angel shook his head in sorrow that Spike was his progeny and Xavier covered his smile with practiced ease. "First off, I hate ritual. The less of it, the better. In fact, if we can cut this meeting off by one, I'll be a happy camper. There's a football match on the telly that I'd like to see. Second, I would like to introduce my Whip, Willow." "Now hold on a minute," one of the vampires at the end of the table said. "Jason, what is it?" Xavier asked. "She's human. I can smell her from here," Jason sneered. Dressed as all the others in suits, the vampire was short and stocky, his hair was in a buzz cut and he had earrings running up both ears. "She is cute," Laura stated. The female vampire pushed her long, black hair over her shoulder and looked at Willow. "Like a little china doll." "I don't care if she's cute, Malkavian," Jason snarled. "I want to know why she's here and why his royal highness hasn't done anything about it!" "I second that," Antonio said. He smoothed down his tie and readjusted the pentagram necklace so it lay perfectly in the center of it. The Italian Tremere gave Spike a disdainful look. "Listen, you sods, because I'm only going to say this once. I've known Willow for two years now, Angel's known her for three. She's known about the Masquerade and the Kindred for over three years and has fought against the Sabbat sect for all of them, while keeping the fact that we exist a secret from the other mortals," Spike said, his gaze icy as he met each of the others eyes. "Now, I have chosen her to be my Whip and she is under my protection. If any of you get any ideas, I will skin you with a vegetable peeler, then lock you in a room and make you listen to Barney until your bloody head explodes. Got it?" "Anyone else?" Xavier asked. "Nicolas? Trey?" "I don't care," Trey stated, turning his extremely wolf like gaze upon the hacker. He looked very uncomfortable in the suit he was wearing, his unkempt hair hanging around his face. The Gangrel continued, "As long as she don't spill, I won't gotta kill her." "I think Willow will be a fine Whip for Will," Nicolas said. "I find there is nothing wrong with her being a human, and she has exquisite taste." Willow got the quick impression that the Nosferatu was flirting with her and she ducked her head, nervously tucking her hair behind her ears. Under her lashes, she looked at the two others in the room sitting behind the female vampire and the Italian one. **They must be Whips, too, like me. Wait, when did I decide? I don't remember deciding. I don't even like Spike. Although, he is kinda funny and he does need the help, considering he can't read. How could he have lived this long and not learn how to read? It must be horrible,** she thought, then turned her attention back to the conversation. "Angelus, your opinion," Xavier asked. "If Spike chose Willow, I see no reason why we should prevent him from using her as his Whip," Angel said. "Plus, as he so eloquently put, Willow has known about vampires since the Sunnydale Harvest in 1996, before I even met her. She has kept the secret of our existence thus far, especially mine, since I have had the most contact with her while working against the Sabbat in that area." "And I, as representative of the Ventrue clan, also feel that William's choice is alright," Xavier said. "Shall we vote? Those who oppose Willow for the position of Toreador Primogen Whip?" Jason and Antonio raised their hands. "Those in favor?" Angel, Spike, Nicolas and Xavier put up their hands. "Abstainers?" Trey raised his hand. "Laura, your vote, please." "I like her, she's cute," Laura replied. "Then it is decided, five for William's choice, two against and one abstainer. Congratulations, Willow and welcome to the Camarilla, Domain Los Angeles, where all clans are treated equally and with respect," Xavier said to her. "Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, let's get down to business. Antonio, clan Tremere has the floor." ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Willow had never been so fascinated in her life. The meeting went on for close to two hours, moving from clan Primogen to clan Primogen to discuss any problems they were having within the Domain. Antonio's Whip, she learned, acted like a personal secretary. She took notes and handed the Italian vampire his papers without even being asked. She never spoke and her eyes rarely lifted from her stenopad. Steven, on the other hand, was the one who spoke for Laura. The Malkavian Whip presented the complaints of the clan, most of them on the strange side, in a precise, orderly manner as the female vampire sat like the Queen. She suspected this was because, as Spike had informed her, that particular clan was made up of the insane. Spike had also told her that because all clans were allowed representation, Xavier had provided the Whip to the Malkavians. Steven was a Ventrue and obviously relished having the power, even though it was for a group who didn't have all their marbles. Spike was the last clan Primogen to speak, being the newest member of the conclave, and she learned what working with him would entail rather quickly. She was to be a combination of the other two Whips, prompting Spike with her notes and answering questions that he deferred to her. Back in the suite, they had briefly gone over what each of the problems or complaints were as she drew up the rough report and she was amazed at his memory, especially since the music had been blaring at near ear popping levels. She realized that was how he managed to get along all the years without being able to read very well. When the meeting finally drew to a close, she had learned that Angel basically lurked. That seemed to be his primary job, unless he was asked a specific question. She gathered by the conversation between him and Xavier afterwards, that he worked more one on one with the Prince of the city. She had also learned that, despite having an organized government type operation, the vampires under the Camarilla were still vampires -- they were demons who fed off of humans to survive and many of them played sick games with mortals. The only difference was that they wished not to take over the world or the human race. They wanted to blend in and live as comfortably as possible, which was why they kept up the Masquerade. "So, Miss Willow, did you enjoy your first meeting?" Maurice asked her as she waited for Spike. "It was really interesting," Willow replied. "I think I got an understanding of the different clans and the rest was just like a student government meeting, with Xavier as the president." "He has a bit more authority than that," Maurice said. "But you are basically correct in your assessment. By the way, you did an excellent job in helping Master William. No one was able to perceive that he is illiterate." Willow blinked at him in shock. "You know? I didn't tell you, did I? Because if I did, Spike is going to kill me and I don't want to be dead. I like my blood right where it is." "No, Miss, you did not tell me," he replied. "It is simply my job to know these things. Plus, you don't honestly think that after picking up after Master William for decades I would not notice?" "True," she said, looking over at the blond vampire in question. "Has Spike always been that messy?" "Yes," Maurice said. "Whereas both Master Angelus and Master Xavier are both neat to the extreme. After awhile, I tended to just pick up Master William's things and throw them into his chamber and turn a blind eye to the slovenliness of his room. Although, it was more because I was afraid something would reach up and grab me, like the garbage masher creature in Star Wars, that I avoided going in there." Willow laughed. "What happened once Drusilla got there?" "Sadly, Miss, Master Xavier and I both departed Master Angelus' company at that time," he told her. "Master Xavier wished to travel here to America and Master Angelus wished to stay in London, so we parted at that juncture. It has only been a few years since we met up again with him." "Maurice, are you filling Willow's head with stories?" Angel asked, coming up to them. "Only glowing ones, Master Angelus," Maurice replied solemnly. "I'll believe that when pigs fly," Angel said. "Willow, are you ready to go?" "I thought Spike was taking me home," Willow said. Angel looked at her in surprise. "Do you want him to?" "Well, I thought that was the plan," she replied, confused by his question. "Unless I got the plan wrong? Or he doesn't want to take me home. He doesn't, does he. Does this mean he doesn't want me anymore?" Maurice chuckled. "No, Miss, Master William is undoubtably delighted with your assistance. Isn't that right, sir?" "Isn't what right?" Spike asked, joining the three. He gave Willow a half-grin. "Ready to go back to the Slayer's, Willow the Whip?" In response, she yawned. "I take it that's a yes." "Sorry," Willow said. "I guess I am pretty tired. We haven't pulled any all night research parties since before the Mayor..." "Did the rumba on graduation. I know, I saw your little group working," Spike finished. Then he mentally cursed himself for revealing that little bit of information as Angel and she looked at him with surprise. **Great going, pillock. Next you'll be telling her you've saved the world more than the Slayer has. That would really ruin my reputation.** "Yeah," she replied. "Um...I guess I'll see you, Maurice." "Goodnight, Miss Willow," Maurice said, giving her a slight bow. "I shall try to stock the refrigerator in Master William's suite for you. That is, if I can find it." "Shove it, Maurice," Spike said, leading her out the door. "Come on, Willow. Let's go before he can insult me even more." "It wouldn't be too hard," they heard Maurice call after them. "One of these days, I'm going to rip his tongue out," the blond vampire muttered. "No, you won't," Willow said knowingly. "Probably not," he sighed, rooting around in the inner pocket of his jacket for a cigarette. He grumbled to himself when didn't find one. A Mercedes was waiting outside the front door for them and he held the door open for her. "In you go." "Wow, nice car," she commented after they'd gotten under way. "Is it yours?" "No," Spike replied. "It's one of Xav's many, many autos." They drove in silence for awhile, the blond vampire easily maneuvering through the heavy Los Angeles traffic even this late, or early in the morning. Finally, he asked, "Willow, are you still willing to help me?" "I think I can do that," Willow said. "Until Friday for sure, because that's when I'm suppose to be going home." "Friday is only two days away," he pointed out, a small pout forming. "I know," she replied. "But you said this was a trial, right? To see how I liked it." "Yeah, it's a trial," Spike sighed, pulling up outside Hank Summers' residence. He shut off the engine and climbed out of the car, rounding it to open her door. "Here we are, safe and sound as promised." "Thanks," Willow said. He escorted her to the front door as she studied him from the corner of her eye, noting his somewhat troubled expression. "Um, what time tomorrow? And where do you want to meet?" She almost giggled at the happy smile he gave her. "I'll have Maurice send someone around to collect you about four, is that ok?" Spike said. "There are a few human servants running around the mansion, used in the daytime." "Ok," she replied. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then." "Dead cert," he said. The door opened then and they both turned to see Buffy standing there in silk shorts and a sleep shirt. "Why Slayer, do you always greet people at the door in your pjs?" Buffy ignored the question in favor of looking him over from head to toe. "Spike, you're wearing a suit." Spike looked at Willow. "What is it with you people and your amazement with my attire?" "Because we all thought you only had one set of clothes," Willow replied with a slight grin. "Just for the record, you clean up nicely, as Maurice said." He scowled playfully at her. "Until tomorrow, pet," he said. "Nighty-night, Slayer. I'll be sure to tell Angel about how revealing that little ensemble is, in great detail. That should give him a hard on for a week." With that, he turned and sauntered down the walk to the car. "Boy, would I love to be a fly on the wall to hear that conversation," Willow commented to Buffy as the peroxide blond vampire drove off. "I'll have to ask Maurice for the details tomorrow night." "You sound like you had fun," Buffy said worriedly. "With Spike. How wrong is that?" "It's not wrong. Spike's a lot of fun. When he's not trying to kill us, that is," Willow replied. "And you'll never believe what happened! Angel told a joke. A couple of them. They were so mean, especially the one about early emissions..." Part Six **I cannot believe I've actually agreed to do this,** Willow thought to herself as she hung up her clothing that she had picked up in the closet. **I'd say it was the Hellmouth's fault, but I'm not in Sunnydale, I'm in Los Angeles. Unless LA has a Hellmouth, too. But what would it be called? La Boca del Infierno Dos? Or Tambien? And how come Spike can speak Spanish so well?** She shook her head and continued to unpack. **You should have let Buffy talk you out of this. Why didn't you let her talk you out of this? Helping Spike was one thing -- ok, it was a big one thing that I should have my head CAT scanned for. But taking up his offer of free room and board for the rest of the summer? Face it, Rosenberg, you have finally succumbed to the looney farm.** "Settling in alright, Miss Willow," Maurice questioned from the doorway of her room. "Yes, Maurice, thank you," Willow replied with a smile for the vampire. She really liked him, especially since she spent a lot of time swapping stories with him over the past two weeks she'd worked with Spike. Having extended her stay with Buffy, although some extreme late nights ended with her staying over, she was able to put off deciding what to do about becoming the blond vampire's Whip. But, she had finally broken down and said yes. It had absolutely nothing to do with his pleading blue eyes or the chocolate covered cherries -- without the creme, a hard to find commodity - he'd given her one night as a thank you. None what so ever. "I have sequestered away rations for you in the kitchenette. A word of warning, do not let Master William fiddle with the stove," Maurice said. "If the pilot light goes off, call me. Please. In fact, don't even let him near it when you are cooking something." "I take it Spike doesn't have much luck with stoves," she commented. "More along the lines of him lighting himself on fire," he replied. "He's done it before. Three times to date. But, then again, there was that period of time where we were not living with him." Willow laughed, picturing the shock on Spike's face when he found himself on fire. "I'll remember." "Very well, if you do not need anything...?" "No, I'm good," she told him. "I'll see you later for our nightly 'make fun of Spike and Angel' session." "Yes, and I do have quite a doozy to tell you about Master Angelus, Master William and a bag of marbles," Maurice said. "Until later, Miss." "Bye," she said. The vampire butler smiled and left her to finish her unpacking. The room was surprisingly clean, considering the rest of the suite, but she had an inkling that Maurice had sneaked in and tidied up for her after her first night staying over. Wondering where her new roommate was, she pushed her suitcase under the bed and moved into the main part. "Spike? You here?" "Ow! Bloody hell," Spike's voice came from his bedroom. Willow walked over to the open doorway and peeked in. He was nowhere to be seen, but maybe the clothes monster grabbed him and he was now buried. Giggling at her thoughts, she ventured further into the room. "Spike, where are you?" "I'm trying to get this stupid, bleedin'...ouch! Dammit!" She found him, or rather, found his legs. With a laugh, she walked to the other side of the bed, bent and peered at him. "Problems?" Spike growled at her, halfway under the bed as he tried to pry something off the bed springs. "You could help." "I could," she replied. "But then I wouldn't get to make fun of you." "Ha bloody ha, ducks," he said. "Now get your scrawny chicken arms down here and help." Willow shoved a bunch of clothes out of the way, then squirmed under the bed on the opposite side. "Chickens don't have arms. They have wings." "Willow, shove it," he told her. "Just help me get this..." His hand slipped and scraped against the spring. "Ow!" "This wouldn't have happened if you were a little neater," she said. She could hardly believe that she was under a bed with Spike and teasing him. Tambien for sure. "Geez, Spike, are you sure you want this? You could just pull a clean pair out of the drawer, or pick up a pair off the ground." "No, I need this friggin' one. I have to give my re- I have a date and that's one of my lucky socks," Spike replied. "You have lucky socks?" Willow began giggling wildly, her nimble fingers untangling the sock from the spring. "Shut up," he growled. "Just give me the bloody thing." She passed him the newly freed sock, still laughing and watched as he wiggled out from under the bed. She stayed there several moments while she continued to yuck it up, her mind dying to tell Maurice of this little revelation. Of course, he probably already knew, but it was so funny. "Willow, are you done yet?" Spike asked. "Nope," she replied, giggling. She let out a loud squeal as she found herself suddenly yanked out from under the bed. She rolled over to see the blond vampire scowling down at her, which only caused further laughs. "I can't wait to tell Buffy. And Angel. And Xavier. And Nicolas. Maybe I'll rent one of those airplanes and have them-eeii!" The hacker was abruptly buried under a pile of dirty clothing that was unceremoniously dumped on her prone form. She felt more and more being stacked upon her and knew that it would take weeks to dig herself out. She pictured herself in khaki's and a pith helmet, battling the undergrowth of clothing and promptly burst into another fit of giggles. "Bye, little Witch," she heard Spike's very muffled voice call to her. "I have a date to go on." "Word of advice, don't tell her about your lucky socks!" Willow yelled out to him. She heard the door slam in response. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Spike shifted on his feet, transferring the pay phone receiver to his other ear. "So far nothing," he was saying into the phone. "Not that I've had much friggin' time to search, what with all the bloody work that was piled on me." "But you have obtained a position within the conclave, as Primogen no less," Christoph said over the line. "That in itself is excellent, William." "Well, if it wasn't for Willow, I probably would have been laughed right out," he replied. "That song was dead on -- thank heaven for little girls." "Tell me more about this Willow," the Ventrue Cult leader said. "Can she be trusted?" "Of course she can be trusted, what kind of wanker do you take me for?" Spike snapped. "I'm not going to let a pair of luminous green eyes get me to spill my secrets, like a sexy, redheaded Mata Hari." "Red hair, green eyes, sexy," Christoph commented. "Anything else you wish to divulge?" Spike reigned in his temper, glad he was wearing his lucky socks to help him. It wouldn't do to get technically his boss angry with him and he knew that the Ventrue's reach was far. He would not hesitate to destroy a vampire if he posed a threat to the Gehenna Cult. "She's intelligent and has been a great help to me in keeping my cover. She knows nothing of my ties to the Cult and will not know. She is my Whip and that is all." "Very well, William," Christoph said. "I wish a progress report every two weeks unless you make inroads as to your second assignment." "Fine," Spike replied. "Have a good one." He hung up the phone before adding, "Pillock." Checking the coin return for change, he made his way out of the phone booth and started his long trek back to the mansion. He wouldn't chance taking a car, for that would make him easier to spot and follow. As it was, he double checked that he didn't have a tail every few blocks. He stopped at a convenience store on the way back and picked up a carton of cigarettes, lighting a fresh one. Willow didn't like him to smoke that much when they worked and he had to get his fix when he could. He wondered if the little Witch was in the kitchen telling stories with Maurice again. Probably. He found her there more often than not in the late afternoon after she'd been picked up at the Slayer's. The household staff and others who lived there had taken to the red head, despite her being human. He growled to himself when he thought of Nicolas and his more than friendly flirting, which Willow returned with ease. He wondered when she grew up. He could have sworn she was the shy, coltish sort. Coming in through the back, Spike found her just where he suspected, sitting with her legs under her at the small table. She was talking animatedly with Maurice, Angel and Xavier. "Wonderful, the whole bloody Muppet cast together," he mumbled as he approached. "Spike, hi!" Willow greeted cheerfully with a giggle. "I managed to foil your fiendish plot to leave me for the clothing gnomes to finish off." "Bugger," he sighed dramatically. "And I paid them extra." "How was your date, Will?" Xavier asked, a devilish smile on his face. "Yeah, Spike, fill us in," Angel added, leaning back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head. "Male or female?" "Living or unliving?" Xavier said. "Did she have all her body parts?" Angel asked. "Or more than her fair share?" Xavier continued. "Good one, Xav," Angel told his friend. "Thank you, Athos," Xavier replied. "Alright Statler and Waldorf," Spike interrupted. "Shove it up your holes." "But then we couldn't have fun at your expense, Porthos," Xavier said, batting his eyes in an overly dramatic gesture. "Unlife wouldn't be worth living if we had to stop," Angel added with a smirk. Spike looked at Willow and Maurice, both of whom were trying to contain themselves. With a snort, he bypassed them and left the kitchen. "Think he's mad?" Willow asked, watching the blond vampire's retreating form. "No, Miss," Maurice told her under Angel and Xavier's laughter. "He will be formulating a plan to get back at these two cackling ninnies. I've seen it happen before. And had to clean up afterwards." "Well, I'm gonna head up," she said, standing. "See you guys later." "Bye Willow," Angel said. "Tell Spike I asked if his lucky socks worked or not." "Probably the only thing on him that's ever been lucky," Xavier commented. The two vampires started chuckling again as she left. Willow smiled to herself as she made her way from the north wing to the main part of the mansion, then up the sweeping staircase to the second floor. At the top, she paused and looked back down, admiring how the great hall flowed into the ballroom. She could picture lavish parties being held, with women in ball gowns and men in tuxedos. A small orchestra would be set up in one corner, playing music of old as couples waltzed, champagne flowed and everyone talked with uppercrust accents about polo and Wallstreet. Continuing down the halls with a happy bounce to her step, she wondered if Xavier ever held a ball. From Maurice, she learned that they had been here since the late nineteenth century in this very mansion. Xavier had worked his way into the position of Prince rapidly, taking control of the city with diplomacy and strength. She'd have to ask later about that. Opening the door to the suite, Willow was immediately bombarded with loud music that had seeped out into the hall. With an arch of her brow, she looked questioningly at the blond vampire seated on the couch, his feet hanging over the end of the arm, smoking. He gave her an innocent shrug as the words to the song caught her ear. You put de lime in de coconut You drank 'em bot' togedder Put de lime in de coconut Then you'll feel better Put de lime in de coconut Drink 'em bot' up Put de lime in de coconut And call me in the morning She closed the door behind her and snatched the remote off the end table, turning down the volume. "The Muppets?" "I had an urge," Spike replied. "Have fun while I was out?" "Yeah," she said. "I didn't know Angel could talk so much. He's a motor mouth! And he taught me some really neat swear words in Gaelic..." "That's nice," he interrupted. "What say we skip the song and dance and get down to work, eh?" Willow frowned as he rolled off the couch and walked towards the kitchenette. **Did the lucky socks not work? Oh, bad Willow,** she thought as she went to join him. "So, how was your date, anyway?" If she didn't know better, she would swear her voice was tinged with jealousy. "A laugh a minute," he answered. "Now, get on that stupid machine and read me my email." "Yes, sir, Spike, sir," Willow saluted, turning on the computer. He scowled. "Since when did you get so saucy, little Witch?" "Since I found out you were a slob who knows whom Statler and Waldorf are by name," she replied. "Since I found out you mutter to yourself in Spanish sometimes, for some odd reason. Since I found out that you watch Gigglesnort Hotel at 5:30 in the morning wearing nothing but Mighty Mouse boxers that read 'Here I come to Save the Day' while you eat Booberry cereal." Spike was actually blushing by the time she finished. "Yeah, well, I know that you...you..." Willow arched her brow again. "Have a hole in your yellow socks," he finished. **Now that wasn't lame.** "And I don't eat Booberry cereal." "Oh, yeah, that's right," Willow said. "Yeah, that's right." "It's Count Chocula." Part Seven Spike was having a day. He actually had a button somewhere that read that very statement and it would be entirely appropriate for him to wear it. The day started out normal enough. He and Willow had gotten into a routine of sorts over the past two weeks she'd been living with him. At 5:30 in the morning, she'd crawl out of her room to join him in front of the television wearing slippers that looked like giant bear feet and eat a bowl of Lucky Charms. Then, they'd both go to bed for most of the day. Usually, she was awake and down in the kitchen chatting with Maurice by the time he rolled out of bed. He would get cleaned up; go out hunting and while he was out 'accidentally' run into the other Primogen to subtlety grill them about the Omega Virus and the Antediluvian Cult, thus working on his secondary job; then he'd return to the mansion and collect Willow, where they would return to the suite and work. Afterwards, they'd watch television or a video, then the hacker would go to bed only to be up at 5:30 to start the cycle over again. Imagine his surprise when he opened the door to the bathroom connecting both rooms to find Willow singing quietly along to the music coming from her headphones, eyes closed, and up to her nose in bubbles. Spike's jaw dropped to the floor as he took in her flushed face as she lay her head back on a rolled up towel. His mind immediately conjured up exactly what she was not wearing under the bubbles and what she would look like glistening with the soap and water when she exited the tub. He knew he had to move, had to leave the bathroom before he made a complete fool out of himself, but he was rooted to the spot. She lifted one soapy arm and he watched as the bubbles slowly ran down it as she reached for something above her head on the low shelf that lined the wall. He swallowed heavily and took a step backwards, hitting the doorknob with his backside. He yelped in surprise, then practically flew from the intimacy of the bathroom before she knew he was there, closing the door tight behind him. He leaned back against the newly closed door, eyes closed as he tried to regain some semblance of control. He told himself over and over that the nymph in the tub was Willow, not some sexy goddess handed to him on a cloud of bubbles. It didn't help. With a growl, he threw some clothes on, wincing at the tightness of his jeans and quickly left the suite. And promptly ran into Angel. "Woah, Spike, what's the hurry?" Angel asked. "Willow send you out in the hall because you've been a bad boy?" An image of Willow scolding him for being a bad boy appeared in his mind and Spike visibly shook from the eroticism. Angel took this the wrong way, becoming concerned, especially with the threat of the Omega Virus hanging over all vampires. "Spike, are you ok?" "I'm fine, mate," Spike ground out. "Just need a spot of fresh air." The blond vampire pushed past Angel and walked stiffly down the hallway. The older vampire's eyes widened when it dawned on him what his childe's problem exactly was. "Oh boy," he said quietly. "As Buffy would say, this is so not good." ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- After finally managing to garner his rampaging hormones, Spike returned to the mansion and made his way back to the suite, intending on getting right down to work. However, this time, it was Maurice whom he met in the hallway. "Ah, Master William, I have just informed Miss Willow there will be a conclave meeting tonight at midnight," Maurice said. "I shall bring up a newly pressed suit for you later this night." "Swell," Spike replied, wondering yet again how he managed to get himself into this sort of situation. **Because you like what's in this world,** his thoughts told him. **Especially little redhead Witches who like to take bubble baths.** Thanking the butler, he entered the suite to see Willow sitting at the kitchen table, already hard at work. "Did you hear? Meeting later," she said in lieu of greeting. "This time, we're not so rushed. I already have everything organized, now we just have to decide..." She trailed off as the blond vampire seemed to ignore her and go into his bedroom. "Well, that was rude." Spike had heard her, but he wanted to be reminded of why he wasn't going to become involved with anyone, even if it were for just a quick shag. And somehow he knew it wouldn't be a quick anything with Willow, because he really liked her. The last time he started out really liking someone, he ended up with her for just under a century and everyone seemed to know how that disaster tore his heart to pieces. "Damn, where is it," he growled, sifting through the items in the change dish on the night stand. "It should be right here. I know it was right here." He started to panic, the change and other things being shoved roughly out of the dish. Not finding it, he threw the dish across the room, where it hit the wall with a loud thud. He dropped to his knees and began to look around the night stand on the floor. "Spike?" Willow said cautiously from the doorway. "What's wrong?" "I can't find it! It has to be here, I know it has to be here. Where the hell did it go?!" Spike was losing control of his emotions, a rarity unless it was anger or he was smashed. But the emotion that was rearing its ugly head now was fear. Fear that he lost the item that meant the most to his undead heart. "BLOODY HELL, WHERE IS IT?!!" Willow quickly crossed the room and put her hand on his back, trying to calm him. "Spike, what are you missing?" "My necklace," he said, his voice slightly choked. He looked up at her with fearful eyes. "It's a penny, a 1899 American penny on a chain. Dru gave it to me on our first anniversary alone." He went back to shoving things around on the floor. "It has to be here. That's the only thing I put in a specific place..." "Wait," she said, crouching next to him and grabbing his wrists. He glared at her, but she continued undaunted. "We'll do this slowly and systematically so we don't miss any inch until we find it, ok?" Spike nodded, forcing the panic back down where it settled heavily in the pit of his stomach. What was he going to do if he couldn't find it? He and Drusilla may not be together anymore, but he still loved her. No one can just shut off a love that was nurtured for all those years. Even if he was starting to like someone else. "Now, what does the penny look like?" Willow asked. "It's about the size of a quarter," he answered. "Copper. And the Liberty face is wearing off." "And where do you normally keep it?" "In the change dish on the night stand," he replied. "Always right there." "Then we will start over here and work our way around the room," she told him. "And don't just shove the clothes aside. Pick each up and shake it out before tossing it on the bed." Spike nodded again, and she squeezed his wrists lightly. "We'll find it." As instructed, they slowly began to search for the missing necklace. Working in silence, the task was arduous because of the amount of clothing and other stuff on the floor. Just as he was about to give into panic again, he heard a shout of glee coming from under the bed. "Found it!" Willow called out to him, inching backwards. "It was behind the bedpost, right where we couldn't see it." She pushed up to her knees and held out the necklace. "Voila!" But Spike didn't take the necklace from her, he took all of her into his arms and hugged her. "Thank you," he whispered into her hair. "You don't need to thank me," she replied, her arms moving around his waist to hug him back. "I have a guitar pick from my ex- boyfriend, Oz, that he said he used the very first time he saw me. I wouldn't want to lose it, either." Spike loosened his hold on her enough to lean back and look at her. "You are a wonderful person, little Witch. Don't you ever forget it," he said. Willow started to blush and he chuckled. "Come on, we'd better get to work. Can't be late, now, can we?" ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- They worked together with friendly banter until it was timed to get cleaned up to go downstairs. Then, armed with the nicely printed out papers, stenopad and a pen, they made their way to the meeting -- on time. "I think you are having a positive effect on our Master William, Miss," Maurice commented at the door. "Twice in a row, he is on time." "It's the Power Rangers watch I gave him," Willow joked. "Why no one thought to just give one to him is beyond me." Spike rolled his eyes and dragged her into the room away from the chuckling butler. They took their seats and went over the report together until the meeting started. It was much the same as the last time, with Antonio starting and then moving around the table. But halfway through Nicolas' turn, Willow noticed something out of the ordinary. Turning to a fresh sheet on her pad of paper, she wrote something in large, printed letters and handed it to Spike. The blond vampire glanced at her, then looked down at the pad. **W-wat-watk the TW,** he read to himself, sounding out the letters to the first word in his head. Whatever it was, it had something to do with the Tremere Whip. Willow had devised an abbreviation system in order for him to easily read the report. TP was Tremere Primogen; TW - Tremere Whip; MP - Malkavian Primogen; MW - Malkavian Whip and so on. He glanced up at the brunette secretary-like Whip, being careful not to be too obvious. If Willow had passed him a note instead of whispering to him, it must be something she didn't want to bring attention to. The female vampire usually sat taking studious notes, rarely raising her eyes from the stenopad throughout the meeting. She was raising her eyes now. Repeatedly. Looking right at the two wineglasses sitting on the table in front of Xavier and Angel. *Oh hell,* Spike thought. He needed a distraction and he needed one fast before either of his friends drank from those glasses. His brain turned frantically as he tried to come up with something so as not to cause suspicion. Looking at the pad of paper still in his hand, he reached back and snatched the pen from Willow and turned a fresh page, writing as quick as he could. Willow took both pen and pad from him as he passed them back and looked down at the note. **Fak big pan,** she read. **Ok, that makes no sense. Sound it out like he does, Willow. F-A-K. Fake. Fake big pain?** She glanced up to see him casting a quick glance at her, then at the Whip. Her intuition about the female Tremere must have been dead on as she realized exactly what he wanted her to do. Swallowing nervously, she quietly stood after closing the pad and made her way around the back of Xavier, as if she were just leaving to use the restroom or something similar. Halfway to the door, she started the performance. With a small, fake cry, she grabbed her stomach and fell to her knees, curling over herself. The reaction of the others was exactly what Spike wanted and he silently cheered at Willow's actions. Angel was at the red head's side in an instant, Xavier right behind him. Pretending worry himself, he grabbed the two wineglasses off the table. "Angel, over here," he said as he set the glasses down on shelf behind Willow's chair. Willow whimpered as Angel picked her up and brought her over to the table. She hoped she wasn't over doing it. He set her gently down upon the wood surface and she wondered what she was suppose to do next. "Maurice-" Xavier said, but the butler had already gone to phone the doctor. "Willow, what is it?" Angel asked. "Maybe we should bring her upstairs," Spike suggested, moving Angel out of the way to pick Willow up. The second her head became close to his mouth, he whispered. "Say no, you're ok, put me down." "No, Spike," Willow said. "I'm- I'm ok. You can put me down." "But-" Spike protested. "Put me down, Spike," she repeated. Spike turned as he was setting her on her feet so they were facing her chair. "Stagger, grab glass and hide it," he whispered in her ear. Willow took a step forward, eyes on the single wineglass on the shelf. She faked stumbling as if she was weak, putting one hand on the shelf and one over the top of the glass. "Woah," she said. "You're not fine," Spike said, moving next to her to pick her up in his arms again. She held onto the glass as he lifted her, pulling it up under her loose sleeve. He saw that the second glass was missing and his eyes darted to Trey and Nicolas, who were both standing nearby. **Cor, no,** he thought with pain as he saw the nearly empty glass in Trey's hand. **No, no, no!** He grit his teeth, then turned with Willow in his arms, heading for the door. Angel followed behind them, as did Maurice when they reached the bottom of the stairs. He needed someway to get rid of his companions when they got back to the room. "Willow," he whispered. "Have female problems of some sort." Willow blushed, holding onto the wineglass tightly so as not to spill it. She wondered what the grand production was about, but was willing to wait for an explanation for when they were alone. Something about the way Spike was acting told her there was, in the words of Sherlock Homes, 'something afoot.' Maurice pulled ahead of them and opened the door to the suite. Spike took her to her room and went to lay her on the bed, but she protested. "No, bathroom," she said, meeting his eyes. He nodded and carried her in there, then set her on her feet. "Out." "Willow, I think-" Spike began. "Out. I'm not sick," she said. "And close the door behind you." Spike left, shutting the door as directed and the hacker looked at herself in the mirror. **Now what?** On the other side of the door, Spike had to compose himself before facing the other two vampires. "I don't think Willow is sick, mates," he said, giving Angel a pointed look. "If you know what I mean." Angel immediately looked uncomfortable. "Oh. Buffy does...is...oh." He glanced at the closed bathroom door. "I'm going to go now." Spike held his chuckle as his sire practically dashed from the room. Now all he had to do was get rid of Maurice. "Maurice, could you get our things from the meeting room? And Willow may be needing some pills or something." "I shall get right to it," Maurice replied, turning and leaving just as quickly. As soon as he heard the outer door close, he let out a laugh. Knocking, he cracked to bathroom door. "Coming in," he said, then entered, his blue eyes dancing with excitement. He turned on the water faucet full blast before saying, "Cor, luv, you were perfect!" "Perfect? They're all going to think...well, I don't know what they'll think, but they'll think it. About me," Willow replied. "Now, why did I just humiliate myself like that? And what's so important about this glass. And why do you have the water going?" "The walls have ears, pet," Spike replied, picking up the glass and holding it up to the light. He got a pensive look on his face. "I bloody well hope the one Trey drank didn't contain the virus." "Virus?" Willow asked. Then, her eyes grew wide. "Someone tried to poison Angel or Xavier?" "We'll find out as soon as I get this to..." Spike trailed off and looked at her. "Someone to analyze it." He set the glass on the sink. "I'm going to be gone for a bit and I need you to keep up with your act for the rest of tonight. If anyone asks, I went to the store for you." "Ok, but when you get back, I want an explanation," she said, folding her arms over her chest. "See my resolve face?" "Fair enough," he replied, knowing he wasn't going to really tell her anything that wasn't general knowledge. "Now, you get in bed and act female." Willow shook her head and left the bathroom as Spike went through the other door into his room, then into the kitchenette. He took out a sandwich bag and rubberband, then went back to the bathroom and covered the glass. Slipping it into the pocket of his charcoal grey suit, he returned to the hackers room to see her sitting on the bed, reading a book. "I'm off." "While your out, you might as well get me some Midol and tampons," she said without raising her eyes. "Tampax, slender, easy glide applicator." "Right," Spike replied uncomfortably. "Uh, bye." As soon as she heard the door close, she dropped the book and covered her face with her hands. **I cannot believe I just did that. With a straight face,** she thought. **Then again, serves him right for making me have 'female problems.' Ugh. I'm never going to be able to look at those people again.** Part Eight Spike waited on the corner of Devon and Cumberland as instructed, a bag of the items Willow requested in on hand and a bag with the glass in the other. A motorcycle came up the street wearing the foretold white helmet with a red stripe down the center. Making sure he held out the right bag, he moved parallel to the street and the motorcyclist snatched the bag from his barely outstretched hand. "Hey, my bag!" he shouted as the driver quickly left. "That prick nabbed my bag!" People ignored him as he began grumbling to himself, playing up the typical LA victim of snatch and run. It helped that he was still dressed in his business suit, giving him more credibility for a theft. He started on his way back to the mansion, planning on catching a cab near a convenient store to add to his cover. He had spoken to Christoph on the phone, using the emergency number he had never used. The Ventrue Cult leader had arranged the pick up and informed Spike on what to do about both the Tremere Whip and the Gangrel Primogen if indeed he ingested the Omega Virus. If the glass of bloodwine contained the virus, he was to somehow secretly capture the Whip and she would be taken by the Gehenna Cult in order to extract information from her. If Trey had become infected by the virus, he would know within two weeks, because the vampire would be dead by then. Either alive or dead, he was to report back to Christoph with the Gangrel's condition. He was actually hoping the female Tremere was the mole, because he loved the action part of the cloak and dagger routine. Violence for a cause was more fun in his book than violence for no reason. Unless he was pounding on his sire, then absence of reason was just as good. He hailed a cab at the store and hummed the James Bond theme tunelessly on the ride to the mansion. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Willow wondered where Spike had disappeared to. He had been gone for three days, just up and leaving without explanation after she'd received a strange email message which she read to him. Since then, she'd been alone in the suite, doing both of their work and entertaining herself. The place seemed very empty without his presence and the constant litany of curses, in English or Spanish. It also wasn't as much fun waking up at 5:30 in the morning to sit by herself to watch Gigglesnort Hotel. But she didn't want to admit that she missed him. She chalked it up to boredom. After the performance at the conclave meeting almost a week ago, he'd given her a sketchy explanation for his actions, including all the details he knew on the Omega Virus. The virus had struck Trey and she got to see first hand what it did to vampires. The Gangrel looked like a very old man, all skin and bones, with his body caving in and his eyes a dull yellow. Angel told her he wouldn't live much longer and it saddened her. She may have not known him very well, but she hated when anyone suffered. Plus, the thought that Angel, Maurice, Xavier or Nicolas could get the same sickness frightened her. The thought of Spike getting it made her feel even worse. Sighing, Willow laid out the dress she was to wear. Xavier had gone and thrown a ball because she asked if he'd ever held one. The mansion was going to be filled with people, both human and vampire, and the servants had been scurrying about all day preparing. The orchestra had arrived a few hours ago and she ventured downstairs to listen to them warm up. The ballroom and grand hall had been polished and shined until everything gleamed. Tables had been set up around the edges of the ballroom, covered in white linen table cloths with small, silver statues as centerpieces. A huge champagne fountain had been set up on one side, with glass flutes standing in perfect rows around it. A bartender was set up in the far corner to offer other beverages besides champagne, and she saw that he was fully stocked for any drink requested, including bloodwine. The ball was to be a lavish affair and she couldn't understand why she didn't feel more excited about it. Moving around her bedroom, she began to get dressed. Everything had been provided by Maurice, to which she blushed when she opened the box of undergarments, but had thanked him profusely. Everything was exquisite and undoubtably expensive, however she knew if she protested, Xavier would scold her for being an old maid when she was only eighteen. She slid on the bodice of her undergarments first, the pale green material snug around her as it lifted her breasts, creating more cleavage than she normally had. She slid on her silk stockings, hooking the garters to the tops, then pulled the matching pale green panties over them. After dabbing on a bit of perfume, she carefully put the dress on, then looked in the full length mirror in the corner of her room. Her lips curled up as she saw herself. The dress was the same pale green shade, with long sleeves and a scooped neck that showed just enough cleavage without making her uncomfortable. It was snug around her torso and waist, the back a series of criss-cross ties over the material, with a tie at the end that pulled the dress nicely over her curves. The rest of the dress was straight, a high cut slit up one leg that allowed her to move freely. Glancing at the clock, she saw that the ball was already underway. She put on her semi-heeled shoes, touched up her lipstick, then gave herself one last glance in the mirror. "It'll be fun," she told her reflection. Her reflection, however, didn't answer. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Spike could have been knocked over with a feather when he saw Willow at the top of the sweeping staircase. Having checked in daily with Maurice about the red head, he'd learned about the last minute ball that evening. Instead of returning to the mansion to change, he went to the exclusive men's shop the butler recommended and was fitted with a new tuxedo right there. Then, he cleaned up at the hotel he was staying at and caught a ride back into the city. "If you weren't a vampire, I'd tell you to breathe," Buffy said from next to him. Angel had her arm in his and both were looking up the stairs at Willow. "I can't believe I'm about to say this, but what are you waiting for, Spike? Go get her." Angel gave the blond vampire a slight push, snapping him out of his daze. Spike did not turn his head or say anything as he made his way over to the stairs. "Spike's in trouble now," Angel told Buffy. He watched as his childe hesitated near the bottom and Willow saw him. "Big time." Willow stared down at the vampire at the bottom of the steps. **Oh my,** she thought, drinking in his tuxedo. The black short coat with tails was over a white shirt and black cummerbund. His black bow tie and the crisp, pleated pants finishing the outfit. **Oh my.** Lifting her skirt with one hand, she put the other on the railing and slowly walked down the stairs until she was standing one step above Spike, so they were eye level with each other. "Hi," Willow breathed. "You're back." "And you're beautiful," Spike replied in a whisper. A blush stole up her cheeks. "You are, too. Not beautiful. Handsome. Very handsome," she said, then gave him a mischievous grin. "Are you sure you're Spike?" Spike laughed and held out his hand. "Willow, will you allow me the honor of accompanying you to the ball. I hear it is to be the affair of the season," he said in a highbrow British accent. "Certainly, kind sir," Willow replied with the same accent, placing her hand over his. "But I am afraid I must warn you, my dance card is almost filled." "I know," Spike said normally, a twinkle in his blue eyes as he led her into the ballroom. "I'm the one who filled it." ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Willow was floating on cloud nine. She and Spike had danced and drank champagne and danced some more, stopping every so often to talk with some of he other guests. She'd only gotten to talk with Buffy for a few minutes before she was dragged out to the dance floor again by her overly cheerful roommate. She wondered why he didn't want to take a break, but she wasn't protesting. Not one bit. Spike knew exactly why he wasn't going to take a break. He didn't want to let go the feeling of Willow in his arms as they danced. It was exquisite torture to him, the hint of cleavage, the flash of her leg, the perfume mixing with her own unique scent overloading his brain. His attraction to her had increased hundredfold when he saw her standing at the top of the stairs. He was lucky he could form a coherent sentence. "Boy, it's getting hot in here," Willow said as the orchestra ended one song before starting up another. "Would you like to step out for a breath of air?" Spike asked, then scowled. **Listen to me, I sound like a bloody idiot.** "Sure," she agreed, taking his arm. They wove their way through the people and out an open side door. They walked for awhile in companionable silence, enjoying the night air and the sounds of the orchestra spilling out of the mansion. "I'm having fun." "You say that as if you didn't expect to," Spike commented. "I didn't," Willow replied. "Because I didn't think you were going to be here. And I just said that last part out loud. Oh boy." Spike stopped walking and turned so he was facing her. "Did you mean it?" he asked seriously. "Yes," she replied honestly, looking into his eyes. Time seemed to slow down as Spike brought his hand up to brush her cheek. The world fell out of focus as she unconsciously licked her lips, causing his gaze to dart to them, then back to her eyes. "You are so very beautiful," he murmured. Then, he bent his head and gently pressed his lips to hers. Part Nine It didn't matter that the kiss was gentle, because the shock that went through them both was electric. Spike's hand slid behind Willow's head as she moved her hands around his waist, bringing her against him. They couldn't seem to get close enough as their tongues met, chasing each other back and forth as the kiss deepened. Uncontrollable were their emotions and the feelings coursing through them from weeks of hidden attraction for one another. Reality in the form of voices intruded on them, and they broke away. Luminous green eyes stared widely at ice blue ones, neither of them knowing what had just happened, but neither of them caring. "Willow, if I don't step away from you now, I'm going to take you up those stairs and make love to you all night long," Spike said in a low, hoarse voice. "Please do," Willow whispered breathlessly in reply. He growled deep in his chest and captured her mouth again, pulling her flush against him. When he let her go, she was panting heavily and her face was flushed with sexual excitement. Taking her hand in his, Spike led her through the kitchen entrance, around the many cooks and servers and through the north wing. When they finally reached the suite, she was barely in the door before he picked her up in his arms, kicking the door closed with his foot. Willow laughed delightedly as he carried her into her bedroom. Once there, he slowly set her to her feet, his eyes burning into hers, causing her heart to race. Their lips met again, tasting and teasing each other as hands roamed over their clothing. Willow pushed the jacket off of his shoulders and it fell to the floor as her fingers found the hook to the cummerbund and undid it. Soon, it joined the jacket on the floor as did his bow tie and the shoes he toed off, their mouths never parting. Spike found the hidden zipper in the back of her dress under the ties and pulled it down. He could hear her heart pounding as he pulled the dress down her arms. She stopped working on the buttons of his shirt in order to pull the garment over her hands, then it pooled on the floor around her feet as she went right back to her task. Willow never wanted anything more in her life than she wanted this man right here, right now. There was no planning, no hesitation, no little voice in the back of her head asking her if she was ready. This time she knew. And she was not to be put off by something as stubborn as a set of buttons. Shoving the shirt down his arms, she yanked the last one until it popped and it fell to the floor. She growled into his mouth, frustrated, when she found not bare skin but an undershirt. She plucked at it with her hands, wanting it off. He finally broke the kiss, both of them panting, as he drew the undershirt over his head. Then, he swallowed heavily as he saw her in the pale green teddy and stockings. Her skin was flushed with desire, her breasts heaving, stretching the material enticingly. Any moment now, he was going to explode into a cloud of dust because of the fire he felt from just looking at her... Part Ten The two new lovers lay side by side, staring up at the ceiling. Their thoughts were whirling, but unknowingly almost exactly the same. **Oh goddess, oh goddess, oh goddess,** Willow thought. She had sex with Spike. Twice! Sexy, smart, clever, silly, adorable William Longstreet, a.k.a Spike - the vampire. And she liked it. Very, very much. **Sweet mercy,** Spike thought. He had shagged Willow. Twice! Beautiful, intelligent, witty, funny, wonderful Willow Rosenberg, a.k.a. his little Witch - the human. And he enjoyed it. Very, very much. Then why was he laying there like a ninny? Turning on his side, he propped his head on his arm and looked down at her. "Willow?" "Yeah," she squeaked, a blush staining her cheeks as she met his eyes. "Listen, we're both adults-" "Well, I am. I'm not too sure about you," she interrupted. Spike's eyes widened at her sass and he let out a chuckle, breaking the tension in the room. "Cor, luv, you are a silly little Witch." Willow had no idea what prompted her to say what she did next, but say it she did. "And you're a silly not so little Spike." "Is that so?" Spike replied, arching his brow. He used his free hand to run down the center of her body, brushing the top of her curls before returning back up. He could feel his not so little- ness stirring again, and he cocked his head to the side. "Up for another round, pet?" Spike's hand had left an indelible burn on her skin, her body becoming aroused again. "If you mean dancing, no. I'd rather stay here with you in bed," she replied. "Good," he answered, lowering his head to capture her mouth in a kiss. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Willow woke up to find herself pressed snuggly against a cool body, an arm around her waist. Her eyes widened as all that had happened hit her again, the images flashing in her mind. Panicking, she extracted herself from Spike's arms, getting out of bed and throwing on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. She glanced at the clock, then immediately decided that she didn't care about the time as she practically bolted from the suite. She ran down the hall and knocked loudly on Angel's door. When the sleepy vampire answered it, she pushed past him into his suite. "I need to use your phone. I need to call Buffy. I need to get my head examined!" "Willow, what is it?" Angel asked, concerned. "I am an idiot! A complete moron. I'm worse than Xander on his bad days! I should be locked up for my lunacy," Willow said rapidly. "I should stop talking to you and call Buffy." "Buffy's right here," Buffy said, coming out of the bedroom. Willow gasped when she saw her best friend. "Oh! You're here. You're here! With Angel. In-in his bedroom. Doing things. Buffy, you're not suppose to be doing things with Angel! His soul. Oh no, can this get any more bad?" "Willow, calm down," Buffy told her, gesturing with her head for Angel to disappear. The vampire nodded and moved into the second bedroom, shutting the door behind him. "I'm sleeping in the spare bedroom, not with Angel." "Oh, well then I guess it's ok," she replied. "No, it's not ok. Vampires and sex is bad. Bad." "Let me guess, you and Spike?" Willow blushed bright red. "Three times," she mumbled. "I can't believe I did it. Well, I can, considering that I did. But he-he's a vampire. I'm not. He has no soul. I do. He's a bloodsucking fiend! And I had sex with him!" ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- The phone rang on the night stand not half a second after Willow had left. Spike knew instantly when she had moved from his arms, but allowed her to continue to think he was asleep because he sensed her panic. He hadn't expected her to leave the suite however. Growling to himself, he grabbed the receiver. "What?" he snapped. "Alpha one omega, Mr. Longstreet," a mechanical male voice said on the other end, then disconnected. "Bloody hell," Spike swore, swinging out of bed and slamming down the phone. He went into the bathroom and threw on the faucet, rapidly washing himself with a soapy washrag. There wasn't time for a shower as he hustled into his room and threw some clothes. He opened the bottom drawer of his dresser and pulled out a metal box after he was dressed. Opening it, he retrieved something that he rarely used, preferring to follow the old ways of hand to hand combat. He checked the clip in the semi-automatic, then tucked it in a hidden pocket in his duster. He grabbed two more clips and stuck them in there as well, then went into the kitchen and scribbled a quick note to Willow. Keys in hand, he left the suite in a record three minutes. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Angel heard her exclamation and threw open the bedroom door. "I'm going to kill him," he stated, moving to the door. "Huh? Angel, why?" Willow said as Buffy moved quickly, trying to put herself between her pseudo boyfriend and the door, but she was too late. "Angel, stop," Buffy said, trailing after him. Willow ran up behind them just as the older vampire stormed into her suite. "Where are you, Spike?" Angel called. Willow frowned when he didn't answer. Walking past Angel, she went into her bedroom to see it empty. "Spike?" She continued through the bathroom into Spike's bedroom, but he wasn't in there, either. "Spike, are you here?" "Hey, Wills, there's a note for you. I think. It's really, really messy, but it's signed by Spike," Buffy said as Willow exited the bedroom. She quickly took it from Buffy and read it. Wilo~ Had to go Emurginc Spike "He says there was an emergency and he had to go," Willow said quietly. Her eyes filled with tears and she forced herself to keep them from spilling. "Um, do you guys mind if I go in my room now?" "No, we'll leave," Buffy replied, ushering Angel out the open door. "I'll be here the rest of the day, if you want to talk." "Thanks," Willow told her. Buffy nodded and shut the door. The hacker walked slowly to her room and climbed into the empty bed, letting the tears fall. She grabbed the pillow Spike had been using and hugged it to her, silently wondering if he had left because of her. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "I cannot believe you let her escape!" Spike yelled as he paced. Those that had been at the apartment where they Gehenna Cult had been holding the interrogation of the Tremere Whip were scared that they were about to lose their unlives. "Of all the bloody, idiotic..." Spike spun and grabbed one of the guards by the throat, rasing him off the ground. As the Cult member who had led the offensive against the Whip, he was in charge of the entire operation - from her capture to her interrogation and now it was to be for her retrieval. If she got to her fellow Antediluvian Cult members, each of those present in the room would be exposed. "Now, how long has she been gone?" Spike asked in a falsely calm voice. "Four hours," the guard in his grip croaked. "We evoked A1O as soon as we found her gone." "She couldn't have gone far, what with the sun," he surmised. "However, all she needed to do was get to a FRIGGIN' PHONE!" He emphasized his words by squeezing harder, the guard now clawing at his hand in pain. Spike dropped him and spun on his heels, his mind working rapidly. "Sunset is in twenty. I want teams of two to sweep the area. Let's hope she didn't get to a phone, people, or we're all dead." ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Willow was depressed. She sat in the kitchen, absently tracing a pattern on the table with her fingers. Spike had been gone for close to a week, with no word as to where he was or when he was returning. Even Maurice found his behavior strange, having talked to the blond each day he'd been gone before the ball. "Miss Willow, do not fret. Master William shall return soon," Maurice said, joining her. "I'd like to believe that," Willow replied sadly. "But it's been six days. Six days since we...we..." "Were intimate," the vampire butler finished. She nodded. "I am sorry, Miss. I wish I had some way to make it better." "That's ok, Maurice," she said, rising from her seat. "I'd better go and get dressed. I'm suppose to meet with Antonio in a little while." Maurice watched the red head depart, slowly shaking his head. "Master William, you had better have a good excuse for not being here." ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Spike was shoved into the room, falling to his knees as he bit down his cry of pain. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his duster on the floor where they'd pulled it off his shoulders five days ago. Five days of trying to break him, of excruciating pain and hunger. But he never spoke. He also never screamed. Silently thanking Angelus for his cruelty over the years and then again when he had lost his soul, he focused on the one part of him they could not hurt - his mind. "You are a strong one," the familiar voice said from behind him. "Rarely has anyone lasted for more than three days, but you Spike." Antonio, the Tremere Primogen stepped into his line of sight. "You have lasted for five. Most impressive." Spike didn't reply, surveying the ten other vampires in the room. He had guessed that the Italian vampire was an Antediluvian Cult member, but had no proof. He had been trying to break the Whip, but had only one day to work on her before she escaped. "But I wonder how much longer you will last when we start on the redhead," Antonio continued. He chuckled when Spike's head snapped up. "Ah yes, fair Willow. Such soft skin, such fiery hair. And she's a natural redhead, too." Spike vamped in both fury and fear, launching himself at the vampire. The others in the room reacted swiftly, grabbing him and throwing him across the room. He landed in a heap on his duster, the pain in his body not even remotely comparing to the pain of the thought that Willow had been captured. Antonio laughed delightedly at the blond. "So, William Longstreet," he sneered. "If you tell us what we want to know, we'll let your little Whip free. If not...well, I'm sure I can find some way to amuse myself. She does have the tightest..." A deadly calm settled over Spike at the vampire's words. Everything slowed as he turned his head, his battered human mask in place, and pinned down Antonio with his cold stare. The Italian faltered slightly, his laughter trailing off as the first bullet erupted from the.45 in the blond's hand. Spike had no expression on his face as he rapidly unloaded the clip between the vampires in the room. He whipped a new clip out of the same hidden pocket and barely paused his firing as he reloaded. He rolled up to his feet, ignoring the ten vampires on the ground, each with their kneecaps expertly blown off. Antonio was the only one with which he was concerned. The dark haired Tremere was gasping in pain, bullet holes littering his body. He let the newly emptied clip drop out of the gun, hitting the downed vampire as he patiently put in the last one. He chambered a round, then put the cold metal to Antonio's forehead. "Where's Willow?" Spike asked quietly, his eyes blue chips of ice. Antonio managed to grin, despite his predicament. "Thank her for the fuck," he replied. Spike pulled the trigger. Part Eleven Painfully straightening, Spike picked up a chair and broke it, grabbing one of the wooden legs. He went from vampire to vampire, including the escaped Tremere Whip, staking each one with little effort until there was nothing but dust and a forever unhealable vampire body left in the room. He returned to his coat, sliding it up over his ripped up arms. He winced when the leather hit his bare back, but did not utter a cry. Pocketing the stake and gun, he made his way out of his prison and into the night. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Tears coursed down Spike's face as he stared out the window of the cab. Undoubtably, his Willow was long gone. He wouldn't put it past Antonio to have taken her, the Antediluvian Cult members always being cruel and unscrupulous. Pain radiated from his heart, overwhelming the physical pain from his torture. Part of him wished that he had let Antonio kill him, the other part was glad that he had avenged her by killing the Tremere. The cab arrived at the mansion and Spike instructed the driver to wait. He stumbled up the fancy steps to the front door and pressed the bell. Taking a deep, unsteady breath, he forced himself to prepare to face those inside. "Dear Hell, Master William," Maurice gasped upon opening the front door. "Be a mate and pay the cabbie," Spike said, forcing himself to walk forward into the mansion. He headed straight for the stairs, wanting to get to his suite before he broke down completely, both physically and emotionally. He knew he shouldn't have gotten involved with Willow, the pain he was feeling echoing the pain Drusilla had caused him. He was halfway down the hall when the first sob overtook him. He fell heavily against the wall, uncaring of his injuries as he clenched his stomach. His Willow, his little Witch... "NO!" Spike screamed hoarsely, spinning and driving his left fist into the wall, breaking both. Someone ran and caught him as he began to fall to the ground. "Spike, what happened?" Angel asked, putting his arm around the younger vampire and helping him down the hall. "Willow," Spike choked out, but couldn't say anymore as his throat closed up. "What about her?" Angel said, opening the door to Spike's suite. When he saw his childe's pain filled face, he decided to put off questioning for later. He led Spike to his bedroom, stepping over the piles of clothing until they got to the bed. Then, he carefully removed the blond's duster, wincing when he recognized the marks of torture. Without hesitation, he unsnapped Spike's ragged jeans and pulled them down over his bare and cut up feet. Carefully, Angel got him into the bed at the same time as Maurice entered the room. "I have brought the first aid kit, Master Angelus," Maurice said, holding a cooler in one hand and a medical bag in the other. "Thanks," Angel replied, taking the items. He opened the cooler first and took out the container of fresh blood. Gently, he helped Spike to sit up enough to drink, studying him carefully. Someone had done a good job on his childe, and it angered and confused him. Who would want to torture Spike and why? Spike forced himself to stay conscious, needing to tell Angel about Willow. "Angel," he said, his voice rough. "Willow, she's..." "Shh," Angel quieted him. "Tell me later, Will." He used the old name with affection and concern, then watched as Spike slipped into unconsciousness. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Spike heard a voice speaking near him as he swam back to consciousness. He concentrated on that voice, allowing it to pull him awake. ..."then Xavier asked exactly what type of bug crawled up Angel's butt and if it itched. I suggested a dung beetle and got boo'd out of the kitchen. I wish you could have been there..." He opened his eyes slowly, afraid that he was hearing things. When he could focus, he turned his head and saw the most beautiful sight in the world. Willow. "Hey, you're back," Willow said with a large smile. "Xavier said if you didn't wake up soon, we'd use you as a pinata." "Willow?" Spike questioned. He reached out, not sure if she was real. She took his bandaged hand in hers and he felt tears spring into his eyes. He pulled her abruptly onto the bed, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close. "I thought I'd lost you, little Witch." "No, I've been here the whole time," Willow started, confused and emotional that he was awake. "You, on the other hand, were gone for days! Where did you go? Why did you go? Was it me? Oh goddess, it was me, wasn't it." "Willow, shut up," Spike said suddenly. "Just let me hold you for awhile." Willow's jaw clacked shut, her eyes wide at his abrupt silencing. She had so many questions, so many worries that he needed to assuage. She felt him place a kiss on her head, then rest his cheek on her hair. She decided her concerns could wait. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "Well, isn't this a cozy picture," Xavier commented from next to Angel in the doorway to Spike's room. Spike didn't even open his eyes. All he did was raise his hand and give him the finger. Willow, however, was only prevented from bolting upright by the tightening of the blond vampire's arms around her. "My, my, Porthos. Getting rude in your old age," Xavier said, walking into the room. Knowing that Xavier wouldn't be leaving anytime soon, Spike opened his eyes and gave the vampire a tired look. "What do you want?" "Why to play nursemaid, of course," the Prince answered. "I do so love getting into that white uniform and touching my patients in all sorts of places." "Xavier, you're perverted," Angel said, sitting down on the opposite side of the bed. "That I am," Xavier conceded. "But a well liked pervert." "Says who?" Willow ventured quietly. She felt Spike's rumble of laughter beneath her cheek and smiled. "See what happens when you disappear, Will. Nothing but insolence from your Whip," Xavier said, pretending to be affronted. "Speaking of disappearing," Angel prompted. Spike groaned mentally, trying to dig out of his overtaxed and tired brain a good lie. Then, he found one that couldn't be disproved. "Dru got herself in a bit of a pickle and I had to go bail her out," he told them. He felt Willow tense in his arms and he cursed at himself, but continued the lie. "Of course, my actions on her behalf weren't welcomed with open arms." "You mean that Drusilla did this to you?" Angel asked skeptically. "No," Spike said, knowing that Angel would see through that lie immediately. "Bunch of Tremere." That was at least the truth. "So I take it she's fine and dandy?" Xavier said. "Peachy," he answered. "And happily back with her Nutty Professor. Those two are so bloody cute, it makes me want to heave." He felt Willow relax onto him again and filed that away for later. "I shall instruct the band to strike up 'Hail, the Conquering Hero,'" Xavier said. "Aramis?" "Hmm?" "Do something useful. Go find a stake to throw yourself on," Spike told him. Xavier chuckled and stood. "That is my cue to depart. Fare thee well, Porthos. Athos. D'Artagnan." The vampire Prince left the room in his normal proud stride, exiting the suite. "I'm gonna go, too," Angel said, rising. "Do you need anything?" "To have my bloody head examined for helping Dru," Spike replied. "But nothing else I can think of." "Ok. See you later," Angel said, then left as well. "Looksch like itsch just you an' me, kid," Spike joked in a really bad Bogart impersonation. Willow groaned at him and sat up, twisting so she faced him. "That was really pathetic, Spike. Are you sure you didn't get hit in the head too many times?" He tilted his head to one side, studying her. "What's wrong, luv? You don't look like your usual Witchy self." "You tell me," Willow answered seriously. "I'm sorry, pet," Spike said after a moment. He sighed and closed his eyes. "There are some things that I just can't tell you about. I wish that I could have stayed there all day with you in bed, but if wishes were nickels..." "You'd still be poor," she finished. She climbed out of his bed and headed for the door. "I have some work to do. You just rest and get better, ok?" Spike opened his eyes and watched her leave, a sadness hanging around her shoulders. For the first time since he became a member of the Gehenna Cult, he hated it. Turning on his side, he cursed whatever higher power gave him a conscience and forced himself to go back to sleep. Part Twelve "Willow," Spike called, heading to her room a few days later. The comradery between them had been strained as he healed. They still joked and worked together, but there was an underlying tension. And he knew it was his fault. He'd give anything to turn back the clock. "Willow, can you help me with this friggin' mem-" He cut off his sentence when he saw her, the paper in his hands wrinkling as he clenched it. The red head was facing him, eyes closed, wearing nothing more than a blue sports bra and running shorts. Her hair was loose, her feet bare as she danced to the music coming over the headphones, the walkman held in one hand. She sang along to the words, moving her body in time with what she could hear. "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, I do not feel ashamed. I'm your hell, I'm your dream, I'm nothing in between. You know you wouldn't want it any other way." Spike was having trouble swallowing as she wove an intricate pattern with his arms, her pelvis making erotic figure eights as her head moved to the beat. "I'm a bitch, I'm a tease, I'm a goddess on my knees. When you hurt, when you suffer, I'm your Angel undercover. I've been dumped, I'm revived, can't say I'm not alive. You know I wouldn't want it any other way." The instrumental part must have come on, because she stopped singing but not dancing. He needed to move, to do something besides stare at her. But he was glued to the spot as she started turning in a circle. Now, her back was to him and the paper in his hands ripped in half as she wiggled her butt. "Cor," he whispered, his eyes trailing down to her feet and slowly back up again. Then, he saw something on her lower back that made the world drop out from beneath his feet. Prompted into action, he was at her side in two long strides, stopping her with his hands. She let out a loud yelp and tried to spin, but he held her still as he looked at the mark. "Spike, what are you do-" Willow started to say, but the vampire released her as suddenly as he grabbed her, tearing from her bedroom and out the door. She followed him just as rapidly, wondering what had gotten him worked up. She hit the top of the sweeping staircase as he ran across the great hall towards the front doors. "Spike! It's daytime! Wait!" Spike threw open the doors and ran outside, protected from the sun by a cement overhang that covered the drive. He got as close to the edge of the sunlight as he could and looked up into the clear, blue sky. Willow dashed out the door, a frantic look on her face. "Spike, what are you doing, trying to get yourself fried?!" She grabbed his arm and dragged him towards the door. "Get inside you stupid, idiotic jackass!" He looked down at her, an odd expression on his face. "Willow, I need to know. That mark on your back, what is it from?" "Mark? You mean that funny looking birthmark? I was born with it," she replied, closing the front door firmly behind them. "Now, what's this all about. You ran outside, in the day. I think I've aged fifty years in less than a second. I should stake you, that's how mad I am and where are you running to now?" Spike was sprinting towards the stairs again and she had no choice but to follow. "Glad I wore this outfit," she muttered as she traversed the stairs. When she got back to the suite, he was at the kitchen table, writing something on a piece of paper. "Spike, enough with the running," she panted, walking over to him. "I need you to follow this exactly, no questions," Spike told her. She opened her mouth and his head shot up. "No questions." Willow nodded, then accepted the paper from him. There was a phone number at the top with G1 under it. The rest of the instructions were simple once she translated from Spike. It only read 'pay phone.' She raised her eyes to him and he handed her a pocketful of change. Suddenly, certain things he'd said came back to her like pieces to a puzzle. He couldn't tell her some things, his two mysterious disappearances, the bizarre email message that prompted the first one, the wine glass. **Is Spike a spy?** Putting off her questions, she quickly went into her room and put her socks and shoes on, then was out the door without a word. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "Um, hi," Willow said into the receiver of the pay phone. "I was told to call this number and, er, tell you G1?" "Hold please," the female voice on the other end told her. "O-ok," she replied, looking out the windows to the booth nervously. She was very confused and a little scared. It was a good possibility that Spike was a spy. Her Spike, the vampire that made her laugh and her toes curl. The same man who had become her lover nine days ago, then disappeared. And when he finally returned, he was beaten and bruised. "Yes, who is this?" a new, male voice came over the line, breaking into her thoughs. "And how did you get this number?" "Uh, Willow," she answered. "And Spike told m-me to call and tell you G1, although I don't know what it means. And I had to go to a pay phone and it's daytime, or I bet Spike would have, er, come out and called you himself." "Spike? You mean William Longstreet?" "Yes," she replied. "Listen closely," the man said. "Tell William station G; circular route; no harm, no foul. Got it?" "Station G; circular route; no harm, no foul," Willow repeated. "Any-anything else?" But the tone coming over the line meant that the man had already disconnected. She hung up the receiver and tucked Spike's note in her pocket, then made the long trek back up to the mansion. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- The smoke was heavy in the air when Willow entered the suite. Before she could say a word, Spike grabbed her arm and dragged her into the bathroom, shutting both doors. Then, he turned on the faucet full blast and faced her with an expression that she couldn't decipher. "Well?" he said. "I'm suppose to tell you station G; circular route; no harm, no foul," Willow repeated the message. Spike ran his hand through his short hair. "Ok, I need you to pack your backpack with a few days worth of stuff. Clothes and what not." "Why?" "I'll explain later," he put her off. "Once you're packed, come back in here and turn on the faucet." With that, he shut off the water and went through the door into his bedroom. He didn't wait to see if Willow did as he told her, knowing that she would. He went over to his dresser and opened the top drawer, reaching up under it to pull a quarter inch thick, black book out of its hidden spot. Then, he retrieved the metal box with the.45 and reloaded it with a fresh clip. All the while he was doing this, he tried not to think of what the mark meant for both himself and the world. He heard the faucet go on and he brought the items into the bathroom with him. Willow was sitting on the toilet seat, hugging the backpack to her with a scared expression. She stared up at him with her luminous green eyes and he swallowed heavily. **Remember the Alamo,** he thought for no reason as he took her bag from her. "You can read this when you get there," he told her, sticking the black book in it. "Where am I going?" Willow asked, tucking her hair behind her ears and looking at the gun on the sink with trepidation. "You're going to take a cab, which I've already called for, to the convenience store on Marshall," he replied. He picked up the gun and looked at her. "When your facing away from the store, go right and keep walking until you get to MacArthur's Park Cafe. Go inside and find a waitress named Janice. Tell her that you're waiting for the last train to Clarksville, then follow her." "Um, Spike, you're making me really scared," she confessed. "I'm sorry, little Witch," Spike said, crouching down in front of her. He held up the gun. "Do you know how to use one of these?" "No, and I don't want to know," Willow replied. "They're bad, I could hurt someone, I could get hurt." "I need you to take this, Willow," he said seriously, pressing the cool metal into her hands. "All you have to do is move this safety button and pull the trigger." "But I don't need it," she protested. "I'm just Willow. Why would I need it? Spike, what is going on? I'm past the scared point and am now entering terror. Terror is not good. Gives me hives." Spike took the gun back from her and set it down next to him, then took both her hands in his. "This is important, ducks. I promise I'll explain when I get there after dark, but you need to go now, ok?" Willow nodded. He scooped up the.45 and stood, shoving it into her backpack and zipping it up. Then, he handed the bag to her and turned off the faucet, leading the way out of the bathroom to the door. "I'll see you later, right?" Willow asked at the door, backpack firmly on her shoulders. She couldn't help feeling that something awful was going to happen and they'd never had a chance to resolve things. In response, Spike traced her jaw with his finger, then pushed his hand into her hair and bent his head to capture her mouth. The kiss was hard, with the feelings they'd both been bottling up and that of the unknown danger approaching making it all the more intense. When he released her, he forced himself to step back and open the door. "Be careful, little Witch," he whispered. Willow nodded again and left the suite, walking quickly down the hallway for the waiting cab outside. He continued to stand there, one hand gripping the door as he watched her walk out of sight. Then quietly, he said to the empty hall, "I love you, Willow." Part Thirteen Willow looked around the empty room that was part of the series of small apartments above the cafe. She'd done exactly as instructed, walking from the convenience store for what seemed like forever in the late August Los Angeles heat until she reached MacArthur's Park Cafe. Then, she'd found Janice, gave her the cryptic song lyric and was escorted to this room where she was suppose to wait goddess knew how long with nothing but her backpack and a straight backed chair for company. It didn't help that every little noise made her jump, her head spinning as she tried to discern where it had come from. "Oh goddess, Spike, please hurry," she whispered as her eyes darted to the only door, then to the sunlit window that led to a rickety fire escape. She held the backpack in her lap and could feel the outline of the.45 under the material, which did not give her reassurance. "Ok, Willow, you need to calm down," she told herself after a loud crash of dishes falling downstairs made her heart leap. She closed her eyes and willed her body to relax, focusing on the red room that began the an Alpha meditation. Soon, she had gone through all seven 'doors' of the meditation and she felt clearer and more in control. Opening her eyes, the empty room seemed less threatening, the fact that she was alone less worrisome. Spike would be joining her as soon as the sun went down, so all she had to do was wait. Thinking of waiting, she remembered the book the blond vampire had put into the backpack. She decided to move to the window and sat on the open sill before digging the book out of her bag. Then, with her legs crossed Indian style, backpack in her lap, she began to study it. Embossed on the cover, black on black, was the title which she had almost missed. "The Book of Nod," she read aloud. She flipped through the pages, noting that it wasn't a published book and that it contained three separate sections: The Chronicle of Caine, the Chronicle of Shadows and the Chronicle of Secrets. She glanced out into the sunny day, then began to read. The Chronicle of Caine was about the creation of the first vampire, Caine. She remembered the passages about him and his brother, Abel, from her early study when she went to Temple. Caine had been jealous of his brother and had killed him, thus causing his father to exile him. The chronicle went on, detailing his transformation to a vampire, of how he came to make more Kindred and Jyhad that followed. It also showed how the different clans came to be and of why the need for the Masquerade. The second chronicle, or The Chronicle of Shadows, reminded her of Nicolas' work. It explained the different clans as well as a few laws and commandments. The main difference was, however, that all that she had read thus far had been written in verse. The last page of the section was a list of proverbs and a she had to laugh at a few of them. "'To rid yourself of an enemy, outlive him.' Not too hard if you're a vampire and the enemy is not." Shifting, she got a little more comfortable and turned to the last section, The Chronicle of Secrets. As she turned the page, the words seemed to jump out at her. "The signs of Gehenna," she read. She knew that Gehenna meant the end of the world, the destruction of all beings on the face of the earth. As she continued to read, she realized that this part was like one of Giles' books of prophecy. "'And the Dark Mother herself will be brought forth and there, in the valley of Enoch, will there be a battle a duel of Dark Father and Dark Mother. The Demon Queen will bite deep. The Damned King will bite deeper. We will not know the thing which will happen, but the sky will tear apart, and the earth below and the forces of Hell will pour up out of the ground,'" she read, then shuddered. "That almost sounds like the Hellmouth opening. Or with Acathala." Turning the page, she continued, "'On the Third Day, there will be silence. The crows will feed on the carrion, plague will dance amongst the ruins. The last of the Wild Ones will leave this place. The last of the Moon-Beasts will fight and fall and the Antediluvians will make for themselves an Empire of Blood. They will rule with iron talons. They will wrench the hearts of all still alive and the full sum of the earth's living will come and live in the Last City, called Gehenna. And there will be a reign of one thousand years, and there will be no love, or life, or pity. The mighty will be as slaves. The virtuous will be made foul. Every good gift, and every perfect gift will be tainted by the Father of Darkness, whose power will come from the nether realms.'" The sun began to dip in the sky, slowly descending as day bled into night. "'When the snows consume the earth and the sun gutters like a candle in the wind, then, and only then will there be born a woman, the last Daughter of Eve, and in her there will be decided the fate of all,'" Willow read, mentally noting that the last Daughter of Eve would be the last human being to be born and that this chronicle was predicting nuclear winter. She started to read the next verse, then paused, her eyes widening before she read it again. "'And you will not know this woman, except by the mark of the Moon on her, and she will face treachery, hatred, and pain. But in her is the last hope.'" Willow looked up as the final bit of daylight disappeared into the horizon, the realization of Spike's actions settling heavily upon her. "Oh goddess." ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- She didn't know what alerted her to the danger. She had been sitting on the window sill, waiting for Spike to arrive, studying The Book of Nod in the street light coming from outside. Perhaps the goddess had been watching out for her, or perhaps living with the dangers of the Hellmouth day in and day out over the past three years had honed her senses, but either way she knew that the person on the other side of the door was not a friend. Quietly, Willow slipped the book into her backpack and pulled out the gun. Just as silently, she levered herself out the window onto the fire escape and slid the bag over her shoulders before leveling the.45 at the door. Her breaths were coming in short pants as her heart raced. She wanted to bolt, to tear down the rickety stairs and run until she collapsed, but the need to see her foe seemed to be more important. Why, she did not know. The door to the empty room opened slowly and she pushed up the safety as Spike had shown her. The man who entered the room was unfamiliar to her, but did not make him any less dangerous, especially since she could see he held a gun, as well. His eyes darted around the room and he spotted her, his expression feral in the street light. Willow squealed as he raised his gun and she closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger at the same time he did. His shot clipped the window sill next to her head, chips of wood flying outwards as she fell backwards from the recoil of her action. She felt as if she'd gone deaf from the loudness of her firing and she was lucky she held onto the gun as she scrambled to her knees. Another shot rang out, hitting the metal of the fire escape and she screamed. Not bothering to aim, she started firing wildly into the room with her two hands clutching the gun tightly, her hands barely above the window sill. Each shot made the.45 jerk in her hand, but she did not fall backwards. She continued to fire until another bullet from her attacker whizzed by her ear, a sharp stinging sensation causing her to turn and crawl down the stairs head first until she got to the next landing. Then, she stood and ran, her footsteps banging loudly on each metal step until she got to the street. Gun still in her hand, she tore around the corner of the alley and onto the crowded Marshall Street. Her only thought as she pushed her way through the throng of people was of Spike. Not because he would protect her, but because she might die without getting a chance to tell him that she was in love with him. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Spike was halfway to MacArthur's Park Cafe when he saw her running straight for him. Eyes widening at the panic and fear that was written on her face, he sprinted towards her. "Willow," he called, getting her attention. Willow threw herself into Spike's arms when they met, tears streaming down her face. "He tried to shoot me. Oh goddess, Spike, he tried to kill me and I shot at him. Lots of times," she babbled, holding onto the vampire tightly. "Come on," he said, flagging down a cab. They got inside and he gave the driver an address, then pulled the hacker into his arms, holding her close as she stifled her sobs. Ten minutes later, he threw some money at the cabbie and escorted her into a parking garage. He picked a car at random and broke the window. "What are you doing?" Willow said as he unlocked the door. "We're getting out of here," Spike replied, pushing her slightly. She quickly climbed across the front seat to the passenger side. He followed her and hot wired the car, then drove calmly out of the garage. Half an hour later, they were on the Pacific Coast Highway heading north. "Where are we going?"she finally asked after she'd calmed down. "To a cabin I keep in case I want to get away," he answered, checking the rearview mirror often for a tail or the police. "I usually go there to hide out because I want to, not because I bloody have to." "I'm sorry," she said, looking down at the gun still clutched in her hand. "No, luv, I'm sorry," Spike told her. He reached over and put his hand on her leg, giving it a brief squeeze. "I should have come with you, or better yet, not let you leave at all." "Then why did you?" He took an unneeded breath and let it out slowly. "Because those were my orders," he said, glancing over at her pale and tear stained face. "The phone call," she said with semi-understanding. "Does this mean that you are a spy?" Spike chuckled humorlessly. "Of sorts," he replied. "Did you have a chance to look at The Book of Nod?" "Yeah," Willow answered. "I read the part about the mark. Do you really think that I am the last Daughter of Eve? "No," he said. "But it is possible that she will be a descendant of you." "Oh," she replied, leaning her head on the window and staring out blindly. After a few minutes of silence, she asked, "If you're not a spy, what are you?" "I am a member of the Gehenna Cult," Spike answered, maneuvering off the highway. He could be killed for telling her, but he no longer cared, especially with the attempt on her life. She had become his first priority and anything she wanted to know he would tell her. "The Cult is a secret organization of vampires and some humans and other creatures who are dedicated to saving the world." Willow turned her head and looked at him. "But I thought you tried to destroy humanity with the Judge?" "No, that was Drusilla and Angel," he corrected. "Dalton had found a manuscript one day detailing the locations of the pieces of that bloody smurf and started to gather them. I had to go along with it because my cover at the time was as a big bad master in the Sabbat Sect. Remember, pet, that my involvement with the Cult is a secret." "But why?" "Because there are those out there who would like nothing better than having hell on earth," he answered. "They're usually members of the friggin' Antediluvian Cult. Antonio and his Whip were both members of that." "Were?" Willow said. "I killed them," Spike replied. "Well, I killed the Whip. Antonio I left with half his brain blown out that night I came back to the mansion, thinking you were gone." "Oh...oh!" Willow exclaimed. "No wonder he didn't meet me." After a moment, something else dawned on her. "He's the one who hurt you. But why?" "To find out the other members of the Gehenna Cult were," he answered. "Bastard. May he rot in hell like the pillock he was." "Willow," he gasped. "What language. I see that I've taught you well." Willow giggled despite the situation. "I bet you say that to all your pupils." "Nope," Spike replied. "Only sexy, red headed ones who can make an undead man's heart pound in his chest." "And how many of those do you have?" "Oh, about a dozen." "Spike!" Part Fourteen The cabin was literally in the middle of nowhere. Towering pines were all that was visible in every direction. A dark brown building to match the surroundings, with no visible wires or tanks. They had stopped for provisions close to an hour before arriving, and the remainder of the drive had been spent in silence. Willow looked around tiredly as Spike brought the grocery bags into the small kitchen. The main floor of the cabin was open, with all the normal amenities, including an entertainment center. She smiled when she saw the stack of videos falling out of a cabinet and a few scattered, empty cigarette packs. There was a bathroom in one corner and a set of stairs that led up to the loft in another. Slowly, she climbed the stairs and dropped her backpack on the floor as the double bed beckoned to her. The loft held only the bed, two night stands and a small dresser, all of which were conducive to a single person living at the cabin. She leaned over the balcony to look down at Spike. "Where are the sheets?" "Bottom drawer," he replied. She nodded and began to make the bed. Once done, she collapsed upon it face first, not bothering to remove her clothes. She was somewhat conscious when she heard him come up the stairs and whimpered when he turned on the lamp. "Come on, luv," Spike said, pulling off her shoes and socks. "Let's get you into bed right proper." He helped her sit up, then removed the rest of her clothing. Digging through her backpack, he found her nightshirt and put it on her, then tucked her under the covers. "Spike?" Willow said, her lids heavy. "Yeah, pet?" "Will you hold me?" "You never have to ask," he replied, stripping down to his boxers and climbing in the bed next to her. She curled up against him after he switched the light off. Soon, the only sound in the cabin was of her steady breathing as they both drifted off into sleep. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "Spike?" Willow called, sitting up. She had woken a few minutes ago to find the other half of the bed empty and had panicked slightly. She was still shaken up over the events that occurred earlier and needed reassurance that everything was to be alright. "Spike?" When she didn't receive an answer, she crawled out of bed and over to the loft railing. Looking down, she could see no sign of him. The only light in the cabin was coming from a single night light plugged into an outlet in the kitchen. "Spike?" she called out for a third time, her voice rising with worry. She hurried down the stairs and checked in the bathroom and on the couch. No one. Opening the door, she stayed just behind the invisible barrier and peered out into the night enshrouded forest. She was afraid to even stick her head out, afraid that there would be someone next to the door waiting to kidnap or kill her before she could blink. The man earlier that evening had been a vampire, she'd seen his ridged face, and from what Spike told her, figured there had to be a leak of sorts in the Gehenna Cult which meant that they could know where the cabin was. Which meant that Spike could be dead. "Spike!" Willow yelled out the door as loud as she could, her thoughts having taken that horrible turn. "SPIKE!" Spike was halfway up the steps to the cabin when the red head threw herself in his arms. "What is it, Willow? Are you alright? Did something happen?" he asked in rapid session, his eyes darting around the shadows. "I thought someone took you and you were dead," she cried, holding him tightly. "Cor, no, luv. No one knows where we are," he told her as he picked her up and brought her into the cabin. Shutting the door behind him with his foot, he brought her over to the couch and sat down, with her in his lap. He held her close, rocking her slightly against his bare chest. "I had to run out for a bite before dawn, that's all. I had expected you to still be asleep when I returned, because I planned on rejoining you in bed." The last part was said with a teasing note in his voice, causing her to raise her head. "And just what do you think was going to happen in that bed, buster?" Willow said, the tear tracks bright against her face from the night light. "Well, I was hoping for a few sheep to miss the fence," Spike teased. "Then I could have breakfast in b-mmmp." His sentence was cut off by Willow smashing her tear soaked lips onto his, her mouth plundering his mouth as she wrapped her hands around the back of his head. Her short nails dug into his scalp as the kiss intensified, all of her feelings of the past few days pouring into it. Fear, love, sexual tension, the unknown. Each of which prompted her to let go of his head and pull off her underwear before she straddled his jean-clad lap right on the couch, their mouths never parting. Spike had been surprised at first, but her burning lips against his brought forth everything he'd been feeling for the past few days. Love, hate, sexual tension, fear, anger. All of this coursed through him, causing him to push his hands up under her night shirt and hold her close, his cool fingers against her heated skin... ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Willow collapsed upon him, burying her face in his neck, holding him close. His arms encircled her again under her shirt, the material the only thing preventing them from sinking into each other as he brought his head down and kissed her on the side of her neck. "I love you, Willow," he whispered, so quietly she would have missed it if not for the proximity of his mouth to her ear. She raised her head and looked into eyes that reminded her of a blue sky reflected on a sheet of clear ice. "Oh, Spike, I love you, too," she told him, tears of happiness filling her own. "I was so scared that I wouldn't get to tell you." Spike was startled. He never expected for her to hear his confession, and he sure as hell didn't expect her to return his feelings. He raised a shaking hand to her cheek and she nuzzled into it. Sitting up straight, their bodies still joined, his lips met hers in the sweetest kiss he'd had in close to one hundred years. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "Any more?" Willow prompted the next evening. They had returned to bed shortly after their admissions and made love until dawn, then slept the day away snuggled together as close as they could get. Spike had made her 'breakfast' and she saw first hand how he almost lit himself on fire. Now, they were sitting at the small kitchen table as he regaled her with stories about the many times he saved the world. "You know the other ones, luv," Spike replied. "The Judge, although I wasn't much help in that being stuck in the bloody wheelchair." He frowned over the memories. "Teaming up with the Slayer to stop Angel from opening Acathala. Didn't do too much, then, either. I was too busy trying to get Dru out, as promised. I really should have stuck around." "You did what you thought was right," she said. "Plus, I don't think Buffy would have wanted you there, especially because of what happened." "What did happen?" he asked. "Poopsy never told me." "I gave Angel back his soul just as Acathala opened," she answered. "She had no choice but to send him to hell. Spike's eyes widened, a pang of remorse in his undead heart. His sire may be a bone of contention in his unlife, but he didn't deserve that. "Cor, that's harsh." "Yeah. Buffy ran away and didn't come back until almost a month into school. I didn't even find out that the curse worked until Faith showed up in Sunnydale four weeks after she got back," Willow said, giving him a sad look. "I don't know how she managed to stay alive. The guilt and grief would have driven most people to suicide." "Buffy is the strongest Slayer I've ever met, and I don't just mean physically," he told her. "She's got something in here..." He put his hand over his heart. "That makes her better. I'm glad I'm not on her shit-list any more, because sooner or later she'd get me." "I'll protect you," Willow said, reaching across the table to pat his hand. "And who's going to protect me from you?" Spike asked with an arch of his scarred brow. "Nothing, if you keep saying things like that," she replied with a sweet smile. "I can levitate a mean pencil." "I know, I've seen it," he said. "When?" she asked, confused. "When you were searching for a way to defeat the Mayor," he replied. "I popped up through the tunnels to leave that green book..." "That was you?!" Willow said. "We couldn't figure out how that book got to the library for the life of us. Goddess, we must have puzzled over that for a good ten minutes before we realized we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Or a gift vampire, I guess. That's what you meant that night of the first conclave meeting when you said you saw us pull that all nighter. Wait, you were helping us?" "My job, remember?" Spike said. "Oh yeah," she replied. "Color me blond and call me Buffy." Spike burst out laughing at her insult to her best friend. "Cor, pet, don't let the Slayer hear you say that or you'll be wearing your bottom lip over the top of your head." "Um, eew," she said. "That's a graphic picture." "I can paint a few more for you, if you'd like," he replied with a devilish smile. "That's ok, Spike," Willow told him. "You keep your sick, disgusting, evil, demented, gross, perverted, vomit inducing..." "You can stop any time now, little Witch," Spike said. She gave him a grin and stuck a bite full of food in her mouth. "Anything else you want to know? I'm going to have to run to town in a few to make the calls." "Yeah, how come there's no windows in this cabin?" she asked. "I built it that way," he replied. Willow's eyes widened. "You built this place? Yourself?" "All by my bloody lonesome," he answered. "How long did it take? What did you use? How come it's so nice?" "Two months, trees and I'm not going to dignify that last one with an answer," Spike said, scowling at her. He stood and took her empty plate to the sink. "While I'm gone, don't go outside. There are a lot of wild animals out there that would be happy to gobble you up, and that's my job." "I don't see why I can't come with you," Willow complained, walking over to him and wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head on his back. "Because the townies know me, you'd stick out like a red thumb," he answered as he washed the dishes. "I don't want anyone knowing where you are, not with the leak." They had both come to the agreement that there had to be a leak inside the Gehenna Cult that needed to be dealt with before she would come out of hiding. Of course, with college classes starting in a week, that put additional pressure on the situation. "Fine, I can take a hint," she sighed. She let go of him and wandered into the main room, picking up the remote off the floor behind the couch. "Just remember to call Buffy or Angel and tell them that I'm safe." "I will," he replied, drying off his hands and coming up behind her. He turned her in his arms and placed a soft kiss on her lips. "I'll be back in a few hours, ok?" "Ok," Willow said. She watched as he went over to the cabin door and opened it. The dark sky beckoned to the night creatures to come out and play. "Be careful." "Hey, it's me," Spike replied with a cocky grin, then shut the door behind him. "Isn't that what Han Solo said before failing his sneak attempt on the Stormtroopers in Jedi?" she muttered to the closed door. Part Fifteen "Christoph, you have a leak, you stupid pillock," Spike growled into the pay phone at the small town store. "Willow almost got killed. Luckily, only her ear was barely grazed, or you would have had a very friggin' pissed off Toreador on your arse." "I know, William," Christoph's voice came over the line. "All of those involved in the G1 call have been dealt with in the proper manner." "Do you think that's going to bloody appease me?" he said with venom. "Anyone could have overheard along the chain of command! Christoph, she almost died." "You have feelings for this human," the Ventrue stated. "Does she know of your ties to the Cult?" "Of course she knows, someone tried to FRIGGIN' OFF HER!" Spike yelled into the receiver. "William, calm yourself," Christoph said. "I understand the circumstances to which she has become knowledgeable of the Cult. And because you feel she falls under G1 status, it was only a matter of time until she would know." "I am so glad you approve," Spike replied snidely. "I'd hate for someone to come and kill her." "You are now assigned Protector," Christoph instructed, ignoring the remarks. "And as such, no further contact with the Cult will ever be made, your previous assignment is reneged and your pledge to the Cult shall be centered around this human. Good luck, William Longstreet. It has been a pleasure having someone like you on our team. May God have mercy on you when Judgement Day comes." With that, the leader of one of the branches of the Gehenna Cult forever cut ties with Spike. Spike hung up the phone and leaned his head on his arm against the privacy wall. He needed to calm down and digest what he had been told. As Protector, it was his sole duty to ensure that Willow stayed alive and had many children in order to continue her bloodline. There were several Protectors all over the world, had been since the Gehenna Cults started. Anyone who bore a mark of the Moon garnered a Protector, whether that person was knowledgeable or not. As long as they lived to have multiple descendants, the Protector did his or her job. Which meant that someone would have to father Willow's children, because he could not. That depressing thought settled heavily on him as he picked up the receiver again and dialed the mansion. "Maurice, get me Angel," he said, interrupting the butlers rapid questioning. He waited, scraping at what little nail polish was left on his thumb. "Spike, where's Willow?" Angel asked upon picking up on the other end. "She was suppose to meet with Buffy..." "The little Witch is with me," Spike replied. "I need you to resign me as Primogen, effective tonight." "What? Why?" Angel said. "Spike, is something wrong?" Spike chuckled humorlessly. "You could say that," he answered. "Now I know how you feel about being so close to the Slayer, yet are unable to have her." "Tell me," his sire prompted, concern lacing his voice. "Willow and I will be gone for a bit, so tell Buffy not to worry and to pass the info on to her parents," Spike replied instead. "Eventually, I'll have you ship us some stuff from the suite..." "What, are you two having some little lovers holiday?" Angel interrupted sarcastically. "For once in your bloody unlife can you not be your jagoff self and help me!" he started to yell again, his emotions getting the better of him. "Willow almost got killed the other night and now I'm her Protector, which means that despite how much I love her, it doesn't matter because I can't have friggin' children!" By now, tears were streaming down his face, and his sharp gasps rang clearly over the line. "Cor, Angelus, I love her so bloody much. I didn't think I'd ever love again after Dru..." Several hours away, sitting on the edge of his bed in his suite, Angel's heart broke for him. Souled or unsouled, Spike was the one who meant the most to him of all his childer. Hand clenching the receiver, he forced his own confusion and sadness down to speak soothingly. "Tell me what you need and I'll get it to you," he said softly. "We're in Ventucopa," Spike said in a harsh voice. "Bring whatever you think Willow would want, including more clothes. There's no phone at the cabin, but I bet she'll want to use the computer. Can't use that cell phone, because the number is too well known. Cor, I don't know, Athos. You just pick stuff. The only thing I want is my necklace on the night stand." Angel caught the dreaded Musketeer nickname and knew Spike was pulling himself back together. "It's too late to head out tonight, but I will as soon as the sun sets tomorrow," he told the blond vampire. "Take care." "Tell that pitiful excuse for a butler that Willow sends her noggin', whatever the bloody hell that means," Spike said. They said goodbye and he hung up the phone. Wiping his face off with the back of his hand, he made his way to the stolen car and back to the cabin. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- Something was wrong. Spike entered the cabin and narrowed his eyes, wondering why things seemed off. "Willow?" he called. "Up here!" Willow called back from the loft. "There's something wrong here," he said, his eyes darting around the cabin. Willow's leaned over the banister, her bare feet peeking over the edge. "The cabin is clean, silly," she teased. "That's what's wrong." She was right. The cabin was immaculate. No more empty cigarette packs laying about, the surfaces were dusted, even the throw rug looked vacuumed and he only had a dustbuster. "It's clean," he said in amazement. "Spike, I think you need to have your eyes checked," she said down to him. "While you're at it, get your head examined, too. Maybe that pea brain of yours rolled out your ear again." She squealed as he tore for the stairs, rounding the other side of the bed as far from him as she could get. Of course, it wasn't going to help, considering the only way out was past him and down the stairs. But she had an idea to get him away from his thoughts of revenge. "Pet, that wasn't very nice," Spike mock scolded, slowly stalking her. "Yeah, but this is," Willow replied, then pulled her shirt off, leaving her quite naked. Spike froze, his pea brain now resembling pea soup. "Cor, luv, you don't play fair." Willow smiled seductively at him, then laid across the bed on her side, her head propped in her hand. "But at least I share my toys nicely," she said coyly. Those were the last words out of her mouth for a very long time. ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------- "Spike?" "Yeah, luv?" "What did they say?" Willow asked much, much later. "About the leak, I mean. Did they plug it?" "As best as Christoph can," Spike replied, not wanting reality to intrude on their idyllic world. But he had to tell her sometime, especially since they might be there for awhile. "My job is now to protect you and..." "And what?" she said, looking up at him. "Make sure your bloodline continues," he finished with a quick mumble. But, being so close to him, she caught it. "You mean, you have to make sure that I have children?" "Yes," he replied with a harsh tone. Willow frowned. "But I thought vampires couldn't have children." "We can't," Spike said, wishing the sun hadn't come up so he could escape outside. "Then how am I suppose to...oh," she breathed. "You're going to leave me, aren't you." It was not a question. "Willow, you have to find a mortal mate who can give you lots of brats," he told her, swinging his legs off the bed and lowering his head into his hands. "What if I don't want a human?" Willow said, crawling over to him and sitting at his side. "What if I think humans are boring and not worthy of my time? Oz wasn't human, he was a werewolf. In fact, I can proudly say that not once have I even kissed a human." "But-" "Is something you sit on," she interrupted. "It's you I love, dummy, and it's you I want to be with. If I can't have your children, so mote it be. We'll go down to the frozen pop store and nuke ourselves a passel of rugrats. But we don't need to do that right now. I'm only eighteen. I think, with you as my knight in tarnished armor, I'll be around for awhile. So, stop moping and make me some cheesy noodles, without lighting yourself on fire this time." Spike stared at her in amazement. She just solved all the problems plaguing him without even a pause in speaking. He turned so he was facing her and took both her hands. "And then Caine's eyes got the look of Visions, and he quieted, then he spoke: 'But if ever one of us is gifted with the love of a mortal without command or awe, without compulsion, a Love given freely, then that Love will be as the gentle rain to even the lowliest of us. And though we shall not Embrace it, it will feed us as if we supped at our Father's table. It will satisfy our deepest thirst.'" "That was beautiful," Willow said quietly. "Is it part of The Book of Nod?" "Yes," Spike replied. "The Chronicle of Shadows. It's part of Caine's prophecy Of Love. I know I'm sounding bloody sappy right now, but I always wanted to find a love like that. Don't get your knickers bunched, I did love Dru with all my undead heart. I loved her before Angelus disappeared and I loved until it had to end. And I swore that I'd never love again. But then a little red headed Witch sneaked up on me one night and smacked me with her sass and I fell head first into the Mersey without a second thought." "Talented, ain't I?" Willow grinned. She darted forward and gave him a quick kiss. "Come on, pet. Let's get some bloody supper in me." "You're accent is terrible, ducks," he told her as they both stood and threw on some clothing. "I know, but you love me anyway." "That I do, Willow," Spike answered. "That I certainly do." Epilogue "John! Jacob!" "Jingle Heimer Schmidt," Spike added from behind Willow. Willow turned and glared at him, crossing her arms over her large stomach. "If you say that one more time, I'm going to let Angel pound you into the ceiling beam like he asked." "Promises, promises," he scoffed, sliding the hammer into his tool belt. "When is the coifed one getting here, anyway?" "He, Buffy, Xavier and Maurice should be here in about twenty minutes," she told him. "Which is why your children better get their little arses into this house before I tan them!" She yelled the last part out the door. Soon, two tow headed boys came running down the wrap around porch to the vastly expanded cabin in the woods. "It's his fault, mom," Jacob said, pointing his finger at his little brother. The seven year old was streaked with dirt, his blue jeans ripped in the knees as he tried to pawn off the blame on his sibling. "Nu-uh," John stated, staring up at Willow with his very blue five year old eyes. "Jake held me down and made me eat worms." "They're good for you," Spike spoke up. "Corey eats them all the time, don't you, luv?" He looked down at the three year old attached to his leg. The red headed, green eyed, little girl smiled up at him and began to bounce on his foot. "Ride, daddy, ride!" "Spike, you're not helping," Willow told him as he began to walk around with Corey screeching in glee. She turned to her sons. "Both of you, bathtub. Grandpa Angel, Gramma Buffy, Uncle Xavier and Uncle Maurice are coming and they don't want to see filthy children." "Yes, mom," they both replied, taking off their muddy shoes and heading for the bathroom. "And I don't want to see any dirt on the backs of your hands," she called after them. "And you, munchkin." She pointed at Corey as Spike came to a halt. "You're gonna help mommy in the kitchen until so your idiot father can clean up his mess and get ready for company." Spike watched as Willow picked up Corey and headed for the kitchen, her rounded tummy causing her to almost look like she was waddling from behind. A smile crossed his face when she turned and blew him a kiss before going fully into the other room. He never in a million lifetimes thought that he'd be a father going on four times over, even though biologically they weren't his children. Emotionally, he loved them as if they were his, almost as much as he loved his red headed little Witch. Whistling to himself, he started to clean up his tools that were used in the always going additions to the cabin. The no longer little place was where he and Willow admitted their love, made their life together, and now were raising their children. He never got to see them in the daylight, but he never felt the need. For wherever his Willow went, there was sunlight. Wherever his Willow went, there was love.