Summary: A little Spike and Clem re-bonding in a missing Potential scene. C'mon, you don't really think Clem would see Spike for the first time after all that time and not talk to him, right? They just had to let this go in the interest of time...
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time
Author's Notes: Loose ends make me crazy. Do they make you crazy, too? I got the bug while watching Potential and had to retcon. Forgive me.
Thanks, Chris, Colleen and Kelly. Minty, I appreciate your way early look at this. Hope you like where it ended up!
He stood in front of the wooden door, thinking about the irony of trying to decide whether to knock or not. Of course, Clem had always knocked, so he suspected the right thing to do was the same, even if Spike *had* lived there for two years.
He shook his head. Seemed longer. But everything about his unlife in Sunnydale defeated chronological time. It was like he'd been there a good fifty years.
Some days, like this one, it felt like even more.
Watching Buffy with the slayerettes had been interesting. Of course, all that pratty teacher nonsense had crept into his brain to the point that he'd heard himself and almost cringed as memories of old school masters surged to the forefront.
He'd left the lectures to the slayer. After all, it was her show. Seemed to be taking to it like a fish to water, wasn't she? And there was no vague and protective tripe, either. She was tellin' 'em straight out. Even if she was a mite heavy-handed at times.
Shifting from foot to foot, Spike eyed the door of his old crypt.
He knocked. It was just past dusk, and he was bound to be there, if he was still there at all, of course. Not like Spike had rushed over to check in when he'd gotten back into town.
He stood waiting, finally knocking again much harder. If the door didn't open in a moment, he was barging in. Didn't need to be standin' around wasting time in the open.
The door opened slightly. Such a small crack that Spike almost didn't notice. Then, it swung back on its hinges expansively.
"Spike! Wow! This is so great! Somebody at Willy's said you were back, but..."
The vampire felt a small twinge. "Sorry there, Clem. Things have been a bit dodgy of late. Haven't properly paid my respects."
"Well, c'mon in! Mi casa es su casa." Clem laughed at his own joke, wrinkled skin bouncing along with the chuckle. "I mean, for real."
Spike smiled a little. Same old Clem. He stepped inside, taking a look around the dimly-lit space. "Love what you haven't bothered to change about the place."
Clem's eyes flitted around the room. "Well, you know, your place and all. Felt funny about really settling in until I knew what your intentions were. Just keepin' an eye on it. Uh, pretty much." The demon looked uncomfortable, but brightened again almost immediately. "But tell me about you."
Shrugging, the vampire looked down, trying to decide how much to tell Clem. Not that he wouldn't have told him everything anyway, but time was short.
"Well, I would, but I'm in a bit of a rush." He noticed Clem's face falling a little more than the sagging skin could account for and rushed on. "Need a favor."
Clem bustled to the refrigerator and looked inside. "Didn't think so," he mumbled as he turned back to Spike. "No blood, but hey, it's always time for Countrytime, right?"
Frowning, the vampire shook his head. "Not really, no. Not now. Need your help. Nothin' dangerous. M'helpin' Buffy train up some juicy little bits for slayerhood and she's planned a little jaunt for tonight."
"Oooh." Clem almost jumped up and down. "Fieldtrip! I always wanted to do that! And little slayers? Maybe they'll stick around - help Buffy out."
"They're not goin' anywhere for now, that's for certain." Spike tried to hold onto his impatience and cursed himself for seeing Clem for the first time since his return under these circumstances. "It's the slayer's thing. I'm just watching their backs."
"Right..." Clem had a disbelieving note in his voice. "You two back together?" the demon blurted out. "Cause it's not the most positive relationship for you. I mean, you know, the hurting each other thing and all."
Spike ran a hand over his face and sighed. "No, we're not back together," he said deliberately. "But we've got a common enemy here. And all these birds to take care of."
The demon nodded knowingly. "That's how it always starts with you two."
"Clem! Favor?" The vampire was beginning to get a little overwhelmed by the demon's intuitiveness.
"Oh, right. Fieldtrip. Taking them to the museum? Slaughter house? Newspaper office?"
"Well, we were plannin' to go the demon bar route."
Clem pursed his lips in disapproval. "Oh. Well. Whatever floats your boat..."
"Believe me, it's necessary. Got a big nasty out there lookin' to take a big bite out of 'em. Girls need to do some fast growin' up."
Nodding sagely, the demon commented, "I gotcha. What do you need?"
The vampire almost sighed with relief. "You goin' to the bar? Cause maybe you'd do a scout around? Warn me off if it's not a... suitable night?"
Clem looked down at his feet, chin disappearing into his chest. "I could, I guess. Don't get out like I used to."
Spike tilted his head in puzzlement. "Why not?"
"Well, things got... complicated."
There was a world of wistfulness in Clem's response. Spike eyed him, really taking a good look at his friend. Suddenly, he realized that things were different with him.
"Met a bird, didja?" It was Spike's turn to cut to the chase.
Clem scuffed a foot, still not looking up. "Maybe..."
"Skin a bit on the tight side, p'rhaps?"
The demon's head came up in surprise. He sighed. "Want to show you something," he said, heading toward the steps to the lower level of the crypt.
Well, he'd started this. Slayer could wait a bit, Spike thought, as he followed silently.
As the vampire walked down the steps and under the floor, his eyes widened in surprise. The lower level of the crypt had been completely transformed. Clem looked back at him and a delighted smile played around his lips and eyes.
"First, how the bloody hell did you get the stink out?" The vampire was dumbfounded as he stepped to the stone floor.
It was the bachelor lair from hell. A large screen television took up the space across from a pit group in weathered leather. A round bed took up the area in one corner. There were brightly colored lights chasing the shadows away in the corners. It was a technocrat's dream.
"Cool, huh?" Clem said shyly. "I've got Tivo."
Spike had no idea what kind of disease Tivo was and his curiosity must have shown on his face.
"It's a kind of... well, television service. Digital. Really cool. Like being in a theatre. You should see Knight Rider reruns on this thing!"
But Spike's eyes had wandered to the compact work-out area off to the right where the caves started. He sighed inwardly. Oh, Clem... A girl, for certain. And probably not a demon girl, at that.
"Thought you looked more fit. A bit... tighter," he ventured.
Clem blushed. "Well, gee, thanks. I've been doing my bit," he said, pushing his arms up in pantomine of a weight-bench workout. "You can tell?" he asked carefully.
"Well, yeah," Spike reassured him. "Wondered what you were doin' different. Gettin' there, aren't you?"
"Trying. Some days I can't tell much difference."
"How did you do this?"
"Well, the guys from SP&L wired the place. I get a few perks."
"Still doing the demon disposal?"
"The ones that don't go 'poof'? Yeah. And the slayer's been busy lately... or somebody has. Gotta hand it to Mayor Wilkins. He put the contract together and it's worked out for the city and me." Clem frowned. "Had no idea about the whole 'going snakey evil' thing. Seemed like a great guy. A real go-getter. Polite. Family man."
Spike almost snickered, but remembered that time was passing. "Gotta run," he said regretfully. "Don't want the slayer going off on her own with the bits. You'll go to the bar... give me a heads up if there's a potential problem?"
"Sure. What are friends for?" Clem said, as he started up the steps. "I'll hang 'til you get there. Looking forward to seeing Buffy. You know, her looks kinda grow on you."
They emerged upstairs. "I don't come up here much," Clem explained. "Stay mostly downstairs. In and out through the sewers."
"I'll remember that. And I'll be back." Spike stopped at the door. "One thing," he said, turning slowly. "You'd be a right catch for any girl. Don't have to change who you are for 'er."
Clem colored slightly, a bit perturbed. But even as his face darkened, it began to brighten mischievously. "Yeah, right."
Spike nodded and opened the door. Clem's voice hit him like a ton of bricks. "Still," the demon said, "nothing wrong with trying to be more than you are for somebody." His voice was light. "Right? After all, you went and got that soul, now, didn't you?"
The vampire turned slowly back to look at his friend. "Wanker. You were savin' that," he said accusingly.
Clem shrugged. "I call 'em like I see 'em, Spike. And the slayer was here looking for you while you were gone. You were right, you know. A man can change."
"Yeah. But sometimes you wonder what you changed into."
"Was it worth it?"
Spike paused in the doorway. "I'll let you know."