"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 shit 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 fucking hell," Spike cursed, sucking on his finger as he set another pile on the table. "Fucking 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. **Fuck, 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..."
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?"
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."
"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. "Fuck, 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.
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 fucking 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.
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...."