“Hey! You must be Kendra!” Clem said, awed by the fact that he was finally meeting a real live slayer; he’d never expected to get this close to one. “Wow. I’ve heard so much about you!” He stepped forward, across the threshold, his hand extended, and she paused, glancing over to the guy with the sword before she moved her stake to her other hand, and hesitantly shook his hand.
He could tell she was uncomfortable, but he just blustered his way through. It took time for humans to get used to his appearance, so he always gave them a little grace period before he got annoyed at their hesitance. Her handshake was more than firm, her fingers felt like iron on his.
“Wow. That’s some grip you’ve got!”
She let go abruptly. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“Nah, no worries. You’ve got that Slayer strength thing going for you, right? Besides, I’m a bit flustered, myself. It’s not every day you get to meet one of the two girls in all the world.” He grinned again, then he decided that maybe he shouldn’t be showing his fangs to a Slayer and closed his mouth.
She was gripping her stake awfully tightly. He gave it another look. It was rather strangely carved, twisted and gnarled, the wood smoothed from years of use. It had a long, wicked point. That thing would do some damage whether you were a vampire or not. He swallowed, disturbed by the thought.
“Oh!” She blinked down at it for a second, as if not sure how it got in her hand, then smiled shyly. “It’s my favorite.”
The guy with the sword set it down on a nearby table, and wasn’t that a relief! Clem hated swords. Actually, he hated any kind of weapon, being a pacifist and all, but hey, Hellmouth, right? Sometimes even a face full of tentacles wasn’t enough to defend yourself.
He realized that the guy had to be Xander, so he held out his hand. “You must be Xander. I recognized you right off, from Spike’s description. He was right, you have very expressive eyes!”
Those expressive eyes went wide, and Xander’s jaw dropped, his hand tightening painfully on Clem’s before he let go abruptly. Ow. Clem had forgotten Xander had that super strength thing, too.
“I… I’m not… I mean… He said that?”
“Oh, yeah, he went on and on about how handsome you were. He’s got it bad, man.” Clem paused at the look of surprise on his face. “You didn’t know?” Oops. He hoped he hadn’t screwed things up for Spike.
“Oh, well. That is… We uhhh…maybe?” Xander seemed to be having trouble stringing together an entire sentence.
The Slayer chuckled as she closed the door. “You’ve never said anything, so I didn’t know if we should mention it or not, but I agree. You both have got it bad.”
Xander turned a bright red and stammered some more. It was really cute. Spike had picked himself a good one, Clem could tell.
There was a giggle from over by the kitchen, and Clem saw the young woman standing by a counter top covered in papers. She was pretty, but what set her apart was the energy he could feel surrounding her. He could tell from half a room away that this was a powerful witch.
“They’re right, Xander,” she said softly. “The wuh-way you two look at each other sometimes is so sweet.”
“Hey!” Xander cried out. “We are not sweet! We’re…we’re warriors. Warriors are not sweet!”
“Sure they are.” The witch argued with him, smiling at his discomfort. “Kendra’s a warrior, and she’s very sweet.”
It was Kendra’s turn to blush. Awwww. No wonder Spike liked these people. Clem felt right at home with them already. And it sure didn’t hurt that their embarrassment was so tasty. The witch, who he realized must be Tara, looked down at her shoes and did some blushing of her own.
“Please excuse my manners,” Clem said, walking back to her. She shook his hand without crushing it, he thought happily. Thank goodness not everyone around here had superhuman strength.
“You have got to be Tara.” Clem smiled at her. “I could feel your energies from across the room.”
She looked surprised. “Oh! Do they bother you?”
“Oh, not at all. It’s just a thing,” he rushed to assure her. “You know how it goes. Some demons have x-ray eyes, some have the ability to thrall, and some shoot paralyzing mucus out of their noses. Our thing is auras and yours just shouts powerful witch.”
She blushed again, her hair falling down over her eyes as she ducked her head shyly. “Well, we all have our gifts.”
Clem nodded. “So we do.”
“Where have you been, Clem?” Xander joined them at the counter, followed by Kendra. “Spike said he looked all over for you.”
“Not to mention that Drusilla said you had accepted an invitation to stay with the Master of the Hellmouth.” The Slayer had her hands on her hips in a no-nonsense kind of pose, and Clem saw for the first time the resemblance to Pam Grier that Spike had mentioned.
“Invitation? Is that what she called it?” Clem shook his head. He didn’t know why he was surprised. Drusilla was good at twisting the truth into knots. He’d seen a dozen examples of that, and he’d only been there a few days.
“So she was keeping you there against your will?” Kendra frowned at that.
Clem nodded. “I definitely did not want to be there! If Spike hadn’t asked me to go, I’d never have gotten within a mile of that place.” He hopped up onto one of the stools close by. “Hope you don’t mind, Miss Kendra, but I walked all the way from Crawford Street and boy, do my feet hurt!”
“Oh, certainly. Please, help yourself. Would you like some water, or perhaps tea?” The Slayer walked around the counter into the small kitchen area, and opened the door to the refrigerator.
Clem peered into the fridge as best he could from his side of the counter. “Is that Dr. Pepper I see?”
“Why yes, it is.” She pulled one out and handed it to him with a smile, then while he was opening his and having a good, long drink, she grabbed a bottled water, which she handed to Tara. She passed a Dr. Pepper to Xander and opened another while Xander spoke.
“So you’ve been at the mansion on Crawford Street all this time?”
“Oh, yeah.” Clem watched Tara and Xander get comfy on the other stools, while Kendra leaned on the counter top. “I think I’d still be there if it weren’t for…” he paused while he set down his soda, then made air quotes, “Puffy Spike.” He grinned as they laughed.
“I learned the hard way not to say that in front of him, though. I thought he was going to tear the room apart, the first time it slipped out.”
“You called the Master of the Hellmouth ‘Puffy’?” Tara asked, her eyes going wide. “That doesn’t seem like a very safe thing to do.”
“Don’t I know it!” He looked around sheepishly. “We were playing poker, and I was hoping to throw him off his game. See, I know for a fact that he was listening to my heartbeat to tell if I was bluffing or not. I’ve got darn good hearing myself, but hey – vampire. They’ve got no heartbeat! So I thought I’d even the odds a bit by distracting him, right?”
“What happened?” Xander leaned forward on his stool.
Clem sighed. “He totally destroyed the table where we were sitting. Ripped the leg right off of it and pounded the rest into splinters.” He shook his head sadly. “I had two pairs, queens high. I think I would have beat him, but there was no way to know by the time he got through.” Clem leaned forward conspiratorially. “He’s got a bit of a temper.”
Xander laughed. “So does my Spike.” He blushed again. “I mean our Spike. Our Spike has a – has a bad temper, too. It must run in the family. Or something.”
Both the girls smiled at him. Clem could tell that they knew what was going on, even if Xander and Spike were both still trying to delude themselves.
“That’s not what’s important, right now, though.” Xander changed the subject. “Did our Spike get you out? Have you seen our Spike? Where is he?”
“Oh, right!” He’d gotten so caught up in meeting everyone Spike had told him about that he’d forgotten why he was here.
“They have Spike. Spike took me to see Spike before he set me free. I mean Puffy Spike set me free. After he showed me your Spike. Who they have. He’s chained to a wall down in the basement.”
Xander stood. “We have to get him out.”
“Hey, whoa!” Clem protested. “You’d better think that one through, Mister Hothead, before you go running into a well defended nest of vamps like a wild man. I mean, yeah, I hate to think of him being there, too. But to be honest, I think that’s what they have in mind.”
“What do you mean, Clem?” Kendra asked.
He turned to the Slayer. “I was staying up on the second floor, and Puffy came by a couple of hours ago. He said he was tired of Drusilla sniffing all around me, and he wanted me gone.”
“Sniffing?” Tara was cute when she scrunched up her face like that. He liked the wrinkles around her nose. Too bad she didn’t have more of those.
“Yeah, you know. She was flirting and standing too close, and she was always touching me for some reason or other. I was pretty uncomfortable with it, because she did it when Spike was watching, and I could tell it was pissing him off.” He grimaced. “Oops. Excuse the language, ladies.”
“She was flirting with you?” Xander asked, obviously surprised.
Clem was affronted. Who was he to talk? Xander didn’t have a single wrinkle on his entire face! Yuck!
“What do you mean by that? I’ll have you know I’m a chick magnet. Every time I go to a party the women are all over me.”
“Oh, no, I didn’t mean it like that. Sorry!” Xander stumbled over his words to apologize. “I just meant… Well, I always thought that the reason the Drusilla on our world was unfaithful to Spike was that she was insane. I didn’t expect this one to do something like that. Especially not in front of Spike.”
Okay. That made sense. Clem knew he was over sensitive about his appearance. His skin didn’t have the lovely, subtle grayish-green tinge so many of his kin had, and he’d been teased unmercifully about it as a kid. He’d tried to let it go, but he was obviously still not over it.
“Oh. Right. I thought about that, too. That was actually the main reason I never took her up on it. Spike can be really cranky, and the last thing I wanted to do was get between him and his lady, you know?”
Xander nodded. “Right. So if he let you go, how do you know that our Spike is there?”
“Puffy took me down to the basement and walked me right past the room they had Spike in. It was out of the way, because we had to double back in the opposite direction to get to the escape hatch to the sewers. I’m positive the only reason he took me that way was to make sure I saw Spike.”
“You’re sure you had to double back?” Kendra asked. “Sometimes old basements can be confusing.”
“Oh, yeah,” Clem said. “We went by the kiln twice. I can’t imagine they’d have two kilns in a place like that.”
“What? They had a kiln?” Xander found that amusing. “So Spike and Dru have a pottery business on the side? I can see it now. Souvenir ashtrays that say, My friends went to the Hellmouth, and all I got was this ‘damned’ ashtray?’”
Kendra rolled her eyes, shaking her head, but Tara laughed. That was good, because Clem hated to be the only one laughing. He’d have to run that idea by his uncle later. There were enough demons who came through Sunnydale just to feel the Hellmouth in their bones. He could sell to the local bars, or maybe set up a small shop down by the docks…
“Kilns can be useful for magic, Xander,” Tara said. “More often than not, it’s sorcerers that use them, but some witches do as well. It might be a leftover from the last tenant, but it’s possible that Drusilla uses it.”
Clem nodded. “My uncle Randolf had one in his back yard, that’s how I recognized it. He’s a potter, not a sorcerer, but this one looked just like his.” He smiled, fondly. “Uncle Randolf used to chase us kids around the yard, threatening to use us to glaze his pots.” He laughed, until he glanced up and realized that Kendra and Xander were staring at him with expressions of shock and dismay. “Ummm. It must be a demon thing.”
Tara smiled at him. “When I was very young, my grandmother used to threaten to toss my brother and I into her cauldron and use us as ingredients in her spells.”
“She did?” Kendra didn’t look too happy about that, but then, Spike had told him that she was raised by watchers. She might seriously think Tara’s grandmother meant to do it.
Tara laughed. “Don’t worry, Kendra. She didn’t even have a caldron.”
Kendra blushed, looking relieved.
Wow, she needed to get out more. Nothing against her watcher or anything, but Clem bet Kendra had never even seen The Simpsons. Looking around the room, he realized there was no TV anywhere. Holy smokes! That meant no Frasier, no Will and Grace, no Law and Order. He gasped as he realized the magnitude of the situation – no Friends! Something had to be done! If the two of them survived this whole mess, he and Tara would get together and make some plans. Kendra needed a life in the worst way.
Clem fought to get his breathing back under control. He forced his attention back to the three humans just as Tara moved a piece of paper around so Clem could see it. It wasn’t the same one Spike had shown him several days ago, but he could tell it was a rough map of the outside of Puffy Spike’s mansion.
Tara handed him a pencil. “Do you think you can show us where they’re keeping Spike?”
Kendra looked at Xander and Tara before turning to Clem. “You may be right, Clem, this might be a trap. But we’re going in, anyway. The more information we have, the better our chances of figuring out a way to get in and out without springing that trap.”
Clem nodded, awed by their bravery and determination. “I didn’t see much, but can give you a map of what I saw of the basement. I saw a lot more of the first and second floors, if that will help. I also know where the guards on those floors are stationed, and when their shifts change.” They seemed surprised. He shrugged. “There was no TV in my room. I was bored.”
Tara laid her hand on Xander’s, and Clem realized there were tears in his eyes, although he was obviously trying to fight them. “We’ll get him back, Xander,” she promised him.
Kendra was out of the kitchen in a flash, and gave him a big hug. Xander held on to her tightly for a minute, then let her go, wiping his eyes. He took a deep, shaky breath, then smiled at them both.
Clem blinked a couple of tears out of his eyes as he bent down over the map and started to sketch out what he remembered of the basement. He was glad there was something he could do to help. He wouldn’t be joining them when they went for Spike; his mama didn’t raise no fools. But this? This he could do.