Spike swaggered up to Buffy's house, then paused. "Wait a minute…" he said.
"Can I help you?" came a voice from behind him
"Uh, yeah," he said, turning around to find Joyce stepping out of her car. "M' looking for the Slayer."
"Oh," said Joyce, with a sigh.
"By the smell of the place she hasn't been 'round in weeks. What's happened?"
She sighed again then told him, "She went away".
"What?!" the vampire exclaimed. "No. She can't run off again! Not when I don't know where she is. We need to find her."
Joyce smiled despite herself.
"Buffy didn't run away again," she explained, "She went away to college. Across state."
"Was it important? What you needed her for?"
"No," he admitted, then sighed himself.
With a knowing look Joyce took his hand and said, "How about some coco while you tell me all about it?"
With a gracious smile he agreed. "Thanks, mum."
"You're welcome, but don't call me that. It's… odd."
He chuckled, "Right you are."
Sat perched on the island looking into his mug Spike recalled his recent tales to Joyce – the abridged version, anyway.
"So Drusilla cheated on you and you came back here. Again?" she summarized.
"Yeah," he said, "Pathetic, I know."
"She knew, didn't she?"
"Drusilla, she knew. That's why she moved on?"
Spike stood up straight, "What are you talking about, Joyce?"
"Did Drusilla know you're in love with Buffy? It's a simple enough question."
He barked out a single laugh. Then took a breath. Then blinked. "In love with… You're off your bird."
Joyce didn't reply and, eventually, the vampire sat down again. "Is it really that obvious?"
"Damn. Slayer doesn't know, does she? Oh – oh, damn! That's not why she went, is it?!"
"Calm down. Buffy's clueless."
"She quit college and is moving back here next weekend."
Spike was overjoyed at that, and it showed, until he got a hold of himself. "You're not messing with me, are you?"
"No," Joyce answered, looking somewhat defeated. She had wanted a proper end to her daughter's education. "Looks like she can't stay away from the place either. Yesterday on the phone she actually said she missed the hellmouth, can you believe that?"
The vampire grinned saying, "Yeah, I can, actually."
"Yes, well. You'll get your chance, I'm sure. Least that's one good thing that'll come of it."
Somewhat shocked by the comment the vampire took a moment before replying. "You don't mind me pursuing your one and only?"
The question made Joyce's expression lift a little. "Would it make a difference?"
"I- you… I don't know," he said. "Don't reckon she'll take it too well, so not exactly relevant, init."
Buffy's mom didn't agree with that, but she didn't comment.
Finally he got up to leave. "You won't tell her I was here?"
"Promise," she said, walking him to the door. "Be good, Spike."
Flashing her a final grin he agreed to try, then went off to prepare for the Slayer's homecoming.