My Demon Lover – Chapter 1

Prologue

Dawn almost seemed giddy with excitement as they entered Rack's lair. "Yay, Clem, making with the demon senses! I knew you could find this place!"

"It's not very clean." He looked around with dismay, his long ears wagging slightly with anxiety.

Dawn rolled her eyes, still not seeing the seriousness of her situation. "Don't wig out on me again."

"It's just... I'm still not so sure you should be here. I'm not so sure I should be here..."

"It'll only take a minute. Come on." Dawn walked towards the door, then turned back to see Clem frozen to the spot. "You wanna wait here?"

"If that works for you..."

"Be right back." She shot him a look that spoke "Coward!" just as loud as if she had actually said it and went through the door, closing it behind her.

For a few seconds, Clem hesitated. But no more. This was bad news, and there was no way he was going to let Dawn get hurt. Not with the Magic Box just around the corner. He turned around and ran back into the night.


Three days later

Buffy paused outside the door to the crypt. Over the last couple of years, she had gotten used to just kicking it open, storming inside and getting what she wanted, whether that was information or... right, focus. Spike was gone, and that was probably for the best; she had enough to deal with right now. She raised her hand and knocked.

"Come on in!"

With a slight frown, she pushed the door open. Clem was sitting in the comfy chair watching TV, and looked up with a cheerful smile when he saw her. "Oh, hey Buffy!" He hit the mute button.

"You know", she nodded towards the door, "you probably shouldn't be so come-in-y when you live in a Sunnydale graveyard."

"Aw, you're probably right. I just figure anyone nice enough to knock can't be that dangerous. Here, have a seat. Can I get you anything? Chips, popcorn, cat... uh, coke?" He got up from the chair, carefully brushing some crumbs off the seat before he offered it to her. She hadn't planned on staying long, but she was tired and her body plunked down in the chair before her brain had time to debate the matter. Clem, realizing she wasn't going to ask for any snacks, sat down on a stool in front of her with a concerned look on his face. "So how... you know, how is everything?"

Buffy just shook her head. "We..." She cleared her throat when her voice almost broke. "We just got back from the airport. Giles and Willow are on their way to England. God, I've never seen her like... She's..." The last two days had been hell for all of them. The idea of Tara being gone forever still hadn't had time to sink in properly, everyone had been busy tiptoeing around Willow who had been next to catatonic, refusing to eat, talk, get out of bed or even look at anyone. "It's like she's not even there anymore. Like she got broken and all the Willow inside just ran out. She was my best friend and now I'm not sure if I'll ever get to see her again. Or God, if I even want to."

"Of course you do..."

"She tried to destroy the world, Clem. And she tried to kill Dawn, me and Giles with her own hands. Even if we can forgive her for that, I'm not sure she can ever forgive herself..." Buffy certainly had not planned on letting it all out in front of Clem. Maybe it was the familiarity of the crypt, or the feeling that everything had already been as bad as it could possibly be, or simply his completely non-threatening kindness, but she felt safe here. And as he handed her a napkin ("KFC" in large red letters becoming almost illegible as she blew her nose in it) she realized she was crying. "I'm sorry, it's just... this whole year has been... with me, and Spike, and Xander and Anya, and Willow and... and Tara... it's all been so much, and... I couldn't stop any of it..." She wiped her eyes with the soaking napkin, a little awkward, and looked up at him. "Thank you."

"Oh, don't sweat it, I've got lots of napkins."

"No, I mean... for the other night. That's why I came here. To thank you."

Clem looked embarrassed and scratched one of his ears. "Oh, it was nothing, I..."

"Nothing schmothing. If you hadn't come running to me after Dawn went to Rack's, God knows what Willow might have done to her. That took guts, Clem, a demon searching out the Slayer to tell her something that might piss her off... You may have saved Dawn's life. Which means you saved Willow's life. I owe you for that, and I won't forget it."

He gave her an uncertain smile and grabbed the flab around his stomach. "Well, I guess it's a good thing all these guts finally earned their keep... Do you really think Willow would have hurt Dawn?"

"Thanks to you, we'll never know." They sat silently for a while, Buffy cleaning herself up with another napkin and Clem fidgeting with the remote control as if there was something he was trying to figure out how to say. After a while Buffy stood up. "I guess I better get back to Dawn, she's seriously needy right now. Um... look, Clem, Tara's funeral is tomorrow, if you want to... it's just going to be her friends, Xander talked to her father and he pretty much said that as far as he was concerned he didn't have a daughter. So, you know, if you want to, you're more than welcome to attend."

"Uh..." He shifted uncomfortably, which caused his skin to wobble back and forth in several places."Don't take this the wrong way, I really liked Tara and it's super nice of you to ask, but me and funerals, we just don't... go together, you know? And I know that sounds funny coming from someone who lives in the graveyard, but... when it's someone I knew, I..."

"Sure", Buffy quickly covered, "I mean, no pressure. I just wanted you to know, if you change your mind..."

"I'll think about it." He smiled, his little red eyes showing heartfelt gratitude and sympathy. "Tell the others I'm really sorry about everything."

"Will do." Buffy nodded and shuffled her feet for a few seconds before quickly opening the door. "See ya."

Not until she got outside did she realize how cozy and warm the crypt had been. The moon was up and an uncharacteristically cold wind blew among the tombstones. From inside she heard the TV come back on – Clem was watching "Casablanca" – and she was surprised herself when her first instinct was to go back inside. Instead she shoved her hands in her pockets and walked home with Humphrey Bogart's voice fading away behind her.

"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship..."