The traffic out of town had been really bad, even for awhile along the highway. He was miles away before he realized that he had no idea where he was going. Somewhere away from a Hellmouth, that was for sure. He didn’t want to go through that again. Most of his family lived out of the country. He didn’t have a lot of friends, not close ones.
People liked him though, he figured. He liked people. He’d find a place.
Los Angeles, maybe? He knew a few people there, and he knew a demon could fit in, but he didn’t really like big cities. Too much stress.
When he saw the sign that read ‘Kitten Corners, California, Come and Stay Awhile,’ it just seemed right. He parked his Volkswagen in the motel parking lot and registered at the front desk. When the manager looked up at him, he was surprised to see open hostility. He hadn’t done anything but give a friendly ‘hello’ and pay in cash.
“What... who... What’s up with you?” the manager asked.
“Me? Um...” Clem thought for a moment. “Skin condition.” The manager looked more afraid than angry at his reply. “It’s not contagious or anything.” He laid another ten dollars on the counter.
The manager picked up the money with the tips of his fingers and dropped it in the till. “Here’s your key.” He handed it to him, adding “No parties. No women. We run a respectable place.” He smirked. “Not that it’s going to be a problem in your case.”
It was a pretty little town. He wouldn’t mind staying around. The money in his wallet wouldn’t last long, and he didn’t have a kitten to his name, so he decided to look for work. There was a sign in the grocery store window, but the store owner told him the job had already been filled. He got the same story at the gas station. They wouldn’t even consider him for janitor at the factory.
Defeated, he opened the door to his bug, figuring on trying further down the road.
Before he could climb in, a girl called out, “Clem!”
The girl running towards him was a petite brunette, with a big, joyful smile. She gave him a big hug. “What are you doing here?”
“Sophie!” It was the girl from Buffy’s party. The nice one who had danced with him and had been so upset when they were stuck in the house. “I’m just heading through. What are you doing here?”
“I came here to stay with Grandma when Sunnydale, well, you know.”
“What did happen? I haven’t heard anything since I left.”
“You didn’t see it on TV? Sunnydale’s gone. It collapsed, I guess. Nothing left but a big hole.”
“What?” Clem leaned back against his car. “I knew something was going down, but gee. That’s horrible.”
“I know. They think everyone got out. They can’t really check for bodies. I mean, from the pictures you can’t even see houses anymore.”
“I don’t know. I saw Buffy before I left, and she didn’t look like she was going anywhere. And Spike. What happened to Spike? They’d stay, I think. And fight. Oh man, what about Dawn?”
“You don’t think,” Sophie’s eyes filled with tears. “They couldn’t be...”
“Don’t cry, Sophie.” He wanted to cry himself. “I bet they’re okay. Whatever happened, I bet they’re okay.”
“Clem?” Sophie asked, her lip quivering. “Are you busy? I mean, do you want to come to my Grandma’s for supper? She’s been saying I should bring my friends over.”
He looked down at her familiar face. “I’d love to.”
Grandma Mary held out her hand to him without flinching. Unlike Sophie’s over-protective parents, she had lived a rich and traveled life. She could see beyond the surface and took an instant liking to her grand-daughter’s friend.
Clem twitched a bit when her tabby brushed against his leg, but the others didn’t seem to notice. It had been a long time since he’d had kitten, and he had learned to control the craving. He had to admit, the roast beef tasted pretty good.
“Sophie tells me you were looking for work without much luck,” Grandma said. “I could do with a strong young man around here to help out. If you’re interested. It won’t pay much, and it will be a change from living in a big town like Sunnydale...”
Sophie suppressed a giggle.
“But it’s a nice place, and I’m sure people will take to you once they get to know you.”
“Or Grandma Mary will see that they do,” Sophie added.
“What can I say?” Clem said, shaking Grandma Mary’s hand. “You’ve got a deal.”