The Company of Wolves
Willow had completely lost her appetite, but she ate a few more bites
anyway to buy time. Spike had gone completely still. That was alarming
in itself; usually when he was angry, you heard the shouts from five
When Willow couldn't force herself to eat any more, she laid her fork
aside and glanced up. Spike was staring at her, brows drawn down and
mouth set. When she met his eyes, he snapped "Done?", then called for
the check without waiting for her to reply. She followed him out to
the street, trying out to make some sense of what had just happened.
What had set Spike off? Nothing she'd done, she was pretty sure; for
one thing, she hadn't wound up on the floor. That meant it was
something Claude had said. He'd insulted her manners -- as if Spike
cared -- he'd said something about distinguished guests, and he'd
mentioned Chez Liane and her new dress.
They hadn't seen any of Spike's vampire friends that night, nor had
there been anybody in Chez Liane except herself, Spike, and the
Which meant that Claude shouldn't have known about her new dress.
Which meant they were being spied on.
Ick. << If there was a camera -- or another vampire -- in the dressing
room I am going to die right here and now and save Spike the bother. >>
She stole a sideward glance at the vampire. He was striding on at his
usual brisk clip, staring straight ahead. She didn't want to provoke
him, or even attract his attention, since that generally amounted to
the same thing.
In unbroken silence they retraced their steps through the tunnels to
the street. The DeSoto wasn't in its usual space. Willow was shocked
into asking, "What happened to the car?"
"Moved it." His tone of voice didn't encourage further discussion.
They walked past the empty space, then up the dark stairs to the
apartment. Spike ushered her in, then turned on his heel and made for
Willow's long-held patience snapped. "Spike!"
He whirled back and grabbed her. "What the HELL do you want?"
"Read a book. It's what you're good at." He pushed her away and
Willow stumbled back a step, then grabbed her courage and stepped
forward again. "I can't help if I don't know what's going on."
"And you think I want your help because...?"
"Spike. I can guarantee that I'll do the wrong thing if I don't know
what the right thing is. So Claude is spying on us. What's he spying
for, and what should I be trying not to give away?"
He turned away without answering.
Willow grabbed his arm. "Spike, I am really really tired of the
strong silent act. Don't go all broody and slam out the door. It's
almost as irritating as Angel--"
Spike turned on her, eyes golden. "I am NOT the poof! "
She fought to keep her voice calm. "No. I know that. So be not
Angel, and tell me what the Hell you're thinking!"
He morphed into demon face and spoke in a soft, even voice. "I am
thinking that unless I hunt within the next ten minutes I may do
something I would later regret."
Willow backed up. "Are you using that as an excuse to shut me up?"
"If I am, I recommend you take it." He slammed the door behind him;
Willow heard the bolts clicking home.
Willow stared at the door. She had survived standing up to Spike, but
she wasn't any closer to knowing what was up. She sank down on the bed
and dropped her head into her hands.
Decrypted from the Diary of Willow Rosenberg
There is a Master of Montreal. I don't know who he is, or what makes
him a Master, or what his authority is, but Spike is taking his orders.
This isn't like Spike. The traditionalists are holding a Solstice
party, and Spike's going, and taking me.
And he's scared. And he won't admit it, or admit why.
I wonder if anybody will ever read this.
<< I don't care if that toffee-nosed ponce is the Master's right hand.
He could be the Master's left testicle for all I care, he can't give me
orders. And I bleeding knew I was being watched, I didn't need any
oh-so-subtle hints in front of the girl. It's my decision what she
needs to know, nobody else's. >>
<< She's got a lot of gall demanding explanations. I don't explain
myself to anybody. She can damned well take orders and like it. >>
<< How the Hell am I going to drag a mortal through Solstice? Why the
Hell did he invite a mortal? It isn't as if she's on the menu. >>
<< Sod this for a game of soldiers. Time for a drink. And a dust-up
chaser, with any luck. >>
Willow sat on the bed pretending to herself that she was reading.
She'd been staring through the same page of a Harlequin romance for
about an hour.
The door swung wide. Spike stomped in, slammed and locked the door,
then began pacing. He had a cut over one eye. Usually killing
somebody calmed him down; this time, it seemed to have wound him even
Beneath her lashes, Willow watched the pacing vampire. << He's really
afraid. And I don't think he's afraid for himself. >>
Vampires didn't show weakness, they didn't acknowledge favors, and
they didn't want pity. If Willow showed any sign of concern, Spike
would certainly take offense and close up. As usual, she'd have to be
the one to sacrifice dignity.
He snapped "Yes?" and continued pacing.
It wasn't entirely a lie, but it certainly wasn't the full truth. She
was worried about him, and she only knew one way of expressing that
worry that he could tolerate.
He snarled, "Shows you've got some sense after all," and kept pacing.
<< He's not going to make this easy. Surprise, surprise. >> She stood
and closed the distance between them. "Spike, I'm scared, and you're
scaring me worse, and I think that's setting you off. This is a
feedback loop. If you don't calm down -- "
He whirled on her, eyes blazing. "You have no idea what you're dealing
with. You're a baby, and you think Mama can make it safe. Well, Mama
isn't here, and she can't, and if you don't like that, you can shove it
She put a hand on his chest. "Off-topic, Spike. I'm not a baby, and
you're not my mother."
He slapped her hand away and sneered. "Can't say much for her. Turned
a bright, beautiful girl into somebody who thinks she's cool because
her ex-boyfriend plays guitar."
"You're not going to sidetrack me that easily. What on Earth is going
He grabbed her shoulders and leaned in. "I am, for my considerable
sins, attempting to turn you into somebody who can survive the evening
of the Solstice. Although frankly I'd have better luck pushing an
oiled eel up Mount Everest."
Willow met his eyes without flinching. "And you're making it harder
for yourself by witholding information. If you think I'm so bright,
then give me the data I need. I make a lousy puppet. I make a pretty
His fingers tightened on her shoulders. "I. Don't. Want. A. Partner."
Willow sighed. "Fine. Let me go, and you can go back to pacing
again." She couldn't resist adding, "But do let me know when you're
ready to blame me again."
She knew as soon as the words left her mouth that she'd made a very bad
Once again Willow found herself pinned in the arms of an angry demon,
his fangs grazing her throat. << Sometimes I talk too much. >>
Spike growled, fangs sliding against her skin, "I could solve every
single problem I've got right now."
Willow bit her lip to keep from saying anything else stupid. She knew
that the wrong word could push Spike over the edge.
She had no idea what the right word might be.
Time dragged on. << Why isn't he biting me? >>
As her initial panic ebbed, Willow gradually became aware of Spike's
hard body pressed against hers. << Perhaps bloodlust isn't the
strongest possible need after all. >>
Slowly, carefully, she raised a hand and stroked down the line of his
spine. Was she imagining it, or did his grip loosen a trifle? She
caressed the muscles at the small of his back. << God, he's wound
tight. Talking it out didn't work ... >> The next moment, the hand
tangled in her hair released her. She turned her head and brushed her
lips across Spike's ridged brow. He growled again, but still didn't
bite. She traced the line of his scar with her tongue.
Before she could breathe, she was lying on the bed beneath Spike, who
was ripping the clothes from her body. << I liked that blouse. Shut
up, irrelevant thoughts. >> She raised her hands to help him remove
his own shirt; he growled and slapped her hands away. She contented
herself with caressing his muscular chest while he stripped off his
jeans and shoes. He grabbed her wrists with one hand, pinned them
above her head, and leaned in to kiss her.
<< I am so not going to tell Buffy about this. Or Giles. Or anybody. >>
Then she stopped thinking entirely and focused on Spike, matching his
desperate ardor with her own.
Willow lay cradled against Spike's chest, feeling his fingers stroke
the hair at the nape of her neck. << I wonder if I could ask any
questions now? Probably a mistake. >> She frowned.
He chuckled, bouncing her head. "You're thinking again, Red."
She nodded. "I do that."
He patted her shoulder. "Noted. Go ahead, I'm braced."
"Are you not going to bite me if I say something you don't like?"
"Not just now." His cool fingers slipped along the line of her
"Then why don't we just leave? If you hate this dance so much, why be
there? Why not go someplace else? Quebec, maybe?"
The muscles under her cheek tensed. Spike stayed silent for an endless
moment, then replied, "Can't, luv. We're being watched. Claude didn't
seek us out to compliment your frock. He was sending a message.
Trying to escape would be a direct challenge to those who sent him. I
don't fancy those odds myself, and I'm rather tougher than you are."
Willow sighed. "It was a thought."
"Not a good one." He sat up, carrying her with him. "On your feet,
luv, we need to get you dancing. And dressed, more's the pity. Put
your petticoats on. You'd best practice managing long skirts."
"One-two-three, one-two-three, STOP BLOODY TRYING TO LEAD!"
"You were about to crash me into the wall!" Willow retorted, trying to
pull out of his arms.
"That's the whole point. You have to trust me. You let me direct you
here -- " he squeezed her waist with his right hand -- " and you don't
bloody push back. If you do, we WILL crash into another couple, and
things will go straight into the bloody sewer from there. Again."
They began waltzing again, but after a few moments, Spike released her,
turned away, and began scanning the room. After a few seconds, he
picked up the remnants of her blouse. "Stand still." He ripped the
blouse into a rag, then blindfolded her.
She raised her hands to her face. "What on earth?"
"If you can't see, you'll have to learn to follow." He hit a switch
and "Wiener Blut" began yet again. Spike pulled her back into waltz
position, his grip detached and impersonal. "Again!"
<< Blind trust again. Literally. Spike won't give it to me, why does
he think he can demand it? Sigh. Because he's stronger than I am.
Male chauvinist vampire. >>
Willow collapsed into the chair and tore off the blindfold. "I don't
think I can move."
Spike sat on the bed and looked pensive. "Suggests possibilities..."
Willow pretended to glare. "Only if you prefer passive women.
Extremely passive women."
The corner of his mouth quirked up. "Tomorrow we'll work on country
dancing. Properly it's done with other couples; I can't teach you
most of the figures alone. Bloody Hell." He stood and began pacing
Willow grinned. "What about Claude? Does he have a girlfriend?"
Spike threw her a disgusted look, never stopping his restless circuit.
"I am trying to avoid becoming the laughingstock of Montreal, not to
advertise your shortcomings. No, we'll have to leave the country
dances. Damn. No minuet, you'd never learn it in time, no country
dances, I'm afraid you're going to be a wallflower."
Willow smiled. "Like Jo. I'll just remember to keep the burned
breadth against the wall."
He groaned, "Another bloody book, right," and strode on without waiting
for her answer. Suddenly he halted, struck by an idea. "Actually, I do
know somebody who has a girlfriend. But there's a catch."
Willow looked at him suspiciously. "What's the catch?"
"You'd have to go back to Rafe's." He tilted his head, awaiting her
Willow sat bolt upright. "Over my dead body. And I mean that
literally, Spike. Not only 'No', but 'Hell, no.'"
"Such language." He pursed his lips reprovingly.
Willow glared, meaning it this time. "You're in no position to talk,
Spike. And don't try to change the subject."
"If you don't learn to country dance, you're going to spend most of the
ball on the sidelines."
Willow set her jaw. "Fine by me. It'll be just like high school."
Spike threw up a hand. "As you like. Stand up, let's try a mazurka."
Willow groaned and dragged herself to her feet.
The remaining weeks before the dance slipped by like silk ribbon from a
spool. Spike and Willow left the lair only for food and the occasional
shopping trip, then returned to the endless drill on dancing and
Decrypted from the Diary of Willow Rosenberg
$parser = XML::Parser::PerlSAX->new ( Handler => $grove_builder );
I now know more about forgotten Victorian dances than any non-historian
human needs to know. Whee. I also know that traditional vampires
consider humans prey, not worthy of social notice. Which does rather
raise the question of why they invited a human to the biggest party of
the year, doesn't it? Spike won't answer that question. Spike won't
answer any questions that don't directly relate to (1) which foot to
put in front of the other and (2) how I should behave in public.
I won't bother with question (1) here. I can summarize (2) in one
word: "Grovel". I am to speak only when spoken to, say "Sir" or
"Ma'am" every other word, never volunteer information, and keep my eyes
downcast unless I am ordered otherwise. I think somebody took the Gor
novels seriously. Ewww. On the other hand, if I survived nearly three
years of Principal Snyder without telling him exactly what I thought of
him, I can probably get through this. And Principal Snyder got eaten
by a giant snake, so there's hope, right? Maybe I'll spend the evening
visualizing vampires getting eaten by giant snakes.
Except Spike, who has been rather sweet in a left-handed vampiry sort
I am editing these notes before I let anybody else see them. Or maybe
I'll just leave them sealed until 50 years after my death.
Make that 100.
The evening of Solstice arrived. Willow collected her clothes and went
into the bathroom to prepare herself. She slipped on her black
strapless brassiere, tap pants,and satin shoes, then looked in the
mirror. As short as her hair was, there wasn't much she could do to
make it look formal. (Spike had made some acerbic comments about
defacing her crowning glory, which Willow thought privately was a case
of the pot and the kettle.) She did what she could with her hair, then
made herself up according to Spike's instructions (minimal color,
lipstick, yes, blush, no).
She turned away from her reflection and pulled on her petticoat. Then
she took the black taffeta ballgown from its hanger, stepped into it,
and zipped it up the side. She tugged at the strapless bodice, swayed
back and forth to feel the bell skirt swishing, then turned back to
the mirror. < Still me. > The black material exaggerated her natural
pallor; the garnet drop of Spike's necklace glowed against her skin.
She put up a hand and traced the chain, wondering again what it really
stood for. Suddenly she realized that she had forgotten her evening
gloves. She hastily pulled them on, smoothing the wrinkles above her
elbows, then buttoning the wrists with clumsy fingers.
When she left the bathroom, Spike was pacing again. At the sound of
her footsteps, he stopped, took something she couldn't see from the
table, and turned to her. He was dressed in full white tie and tails,
complete with patent-leather dancing pumps.
<< Goodness, he cleans up nicely. >>
Willow straightened her back and walked to Spike. He was wearing his
expressionless face again. He scanned her from head to foot, said
"Good enough," and held out the thing he had taken from the table.
It was a clear plastic box. Inside, nestled into green tissue paper,
was a single white gardenia. Willow buried her nose in the waxy
"It smells wonderful. Thank you." She raised her eyes to meet his and
felt a flush rising to her eyebrows.
"It goes in your hair. Let me." He took the flower from her hands,
leaned forward, and pinned it into her hair over one ear. Cool fingers
traced the skin behind her ear down to the pulse point. He paused as if
to say something, then shrugged, released her, and stepped back, face a
mask of disinterest. "Ready?"
"As I'll ever be."
He turned away to the table, where lay a silk top hat lay on the table,
white gloves stuffed carelessly into it. Spike picked up the hat, then
bowed and offered Willow his right arm. She took it and they set out.