Chapter 1: Not So Far to Seek
"Bloody hell!" Spike stood in the entryway of Clem's place, a partitioned dead end off the main sewer tunnels. "Quite an accumulation, mate."
"I know," his floppy-eared friend replied, sitting on the floor in the midst of stacks of Soap Opera Weekly back copies he'd been sorting. "You don't realize 'til you move out, you know? I don't even know where I got half this stuff. And heck, there's even more stored at Mom's."
Spike eyed the mountain of brown cardboard boxes with resignation. Clem had found a snazzy new basement apartment in Hob Hill, the demon side of town, not far from the Red Sunset Bar where the gang liked to hang out (it was nicer than Willy's), and Spike was helping him move. It was one of the disadvantages of super-strength - everyone expected you to carry heavy objects and open jars and the like, once you had a soul, anyway. Since he hadn't told anyone about his little alteration it was beyond him how his pals found out so quickly, but Clem's was the third move he'd helped with in a month. Of course, some of the guys could tell by just looking at him, but not all of them. However it happened, word seemed to have gone out over the grapevine that he was now Mr. Helpful Guy; sort of embarrassing for a former Big Bad. The problem was he didn't seem to be able to say no to anybody. What with family trips to LA and vigorous clean-ups of vampire activity around his home graveyard, he was keeping busy lately.
"Well, might as well get cracking," he said, picking up a box and slinging it to his shoulder like the Covent Garden barrow boys of his youth. All he needed was an apron and a peaked cap.
"The truck's right outside; I think we can get it all in the back and just make one trip." Clem's soft red eyes were anxious; he hated to take advantage.
Spike sighed. That would mean about ten trips up a rickety ladder toting boxes that were packed with lead bars. But he wasn't complaining; he said he'd help, and he was helping. That was another disadvantage of having a soul - it pretty much halved your opportunities for caustic remarks.
"Right, then," he said in a cheerful tone, heading for the ladder.
"Which way?" Spike asked, balancing a particularly heavy box on his shoulder.
"Let me see," Clem's mom said in her heavily accented English, peering at the scribbled label taped to the box. "I think says 'bedroom;' can you read writing?"
"Not from here, love," Spike said patiently. Getting Clem's stuff out of the truck and into his new place hadn't been nearly as arduous as getting it out of the old place. For one thing, the new place had stairs. But on the other hand Mrs. Caprescu was directing the disposal of her son's possessions, and she tended to think things over while he was standing there box in hand.
"Says bedroom," she decided finally.
"Right you are," he said, making for the bedroom. Clem actually had two small rooms, complete with plumbing, a little galley-style kitchen - AND cable television. He was a happy demon. All he needed was a few odds and ends, and he'd be right snug here.
"When you're done, come have nice cup blood in kitchen," she called after him. "I make it just the way you like."
"Really, thanks a lot, man," Clem said after he'd stowed the last box. "Sophie's coming over to help us unpack, and then I'll be all moved in! I can't believe it!"
"Nice place, alright," Spike said agreeably, accepting a restorative mug of pig's blood from Mrs. Caprescu - with burba, too.
"Can you stay and help us decorate?"
"Oh, no, you're on your own there, mate. I'm not getting between your mum and your girlfriend; I might be souled-up but I've still got some sense of self-preservation. And I'd advise you to run for your life, as well, if you know what's good for you."
"Spike! Don't be wise guy!" Mrs. C said, smacking him on the arm. "I like Sophie very much."
"Aw, they get along great, honest," Clem said bashfully. He still couldn't get used to even having a girlfriend, and one that Mom approved of, besides.
"You should get apartment, too, Spike," Mrs. C said, her big hoop earrings quivering with emphasis. "In Romania all vamps live in houses, like people. Nice boy like you shouldn't live in cemetery."
He opened his mouth to deny being a nice boy, but what was the point?
"Hey, man, how you doin'?"
"Wally! Fancy seeing you here, mate! Come on in," Spike said, opening his crypt door wide. He'd successfully escaped the female-dominated furniture arrangement portion of Clem's move, and was just settling in to watch some violence on the telly.
"I was just passing this way, thought I'd stop by," the mer-man answered.
"Want a beer or something?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever you've got."
Spike tossed him a chilled bottle and turned the sound down on Die Hard III, saying, "Well, pull up a chair, mate. What brings you to our little metropolis? Or, in this case, necropolis?"
Wally looked a little ill at ease. "I sorta need a favor, as a matter of fact. I'm not exactly sure how big a favor it is."
"Anything I can do, mate." There, he'd done it again! Bugger! Without even a pause to reflect, so to speak. "You got ghost problems again?"
"No, no; it's nothing like that. It's not really ME that has the problem. Gosh, this is embarrassing." He took a swig of his beer, his blue face troubled. "See, I've got this brother-in-law."
"Oh! So your sis has you running errands, that it?"
"Exactly!" Wally said, looking relieved.
If he only knew; if there was one thing Spike understood, it was woman problems. Sister, mother, girlfriend - girlfriend's sister - it was all the same, really. They'd just look at you expectantly and eventually there'd be trouble. Sometimes it was trouble you could get out of - and sometimes it was fairly permanent.
"Vinnie - he's - well, not to put too fine a point on it, he's kinda shady," Wally continued. "He's always been pretty wild; comes from a rough background. We don't socialize too much. But, well, Dot's my sister and she's worried about him."
"So what happened?"
"Well, he always traveled a lot on business. But suddenly a few months ago, he stopped calling home. That was kind of hard on Dot. To make a long story short, we found out he's here."
"Here in Sunnyhell? I mean, Sunnydale?"
"Right. But I'm not sure where or anything. It's your town - could you help me find him?"
"Sure, mate." Somehow, those words kept rolling off his tongue. Of course he knew that even when he did get a chance to think it over he'd end up helping Wally anyway. "Where d'you suggest we look?"
"Um, know any disreputable bars?"
Spike grinned. This might not be so bad. "Now that you mention it -"
The Power glowed gold. Everywhere she moved she could sense it. It seeped into her skin, irritating her, making her twist and jerk. It mocked her impotence. Sometimes she woke writhing and gnashing her teeth in frustration - and then someone would die.
But she would win out in the end. The Power would be hers, torn from that little fool who had never understood how to use it. She knew just how to draw it to her. And soon, her plan would be set in motion...
"And I am sometimes proud and sometimes meek,
And sometimes I remember days of old
When fellowship seem'd not so far to seek,
And all the world and I seem'd much less cold,
And at the rainbow's foot lay surely gold,
And hope felt strong, and life itself not weak."