Prodigal by Confused Muse

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Chapter Notes: Disclaimer: All Ip rights to BtVS belong to Joss Whedon and the Powers that be. No infringement of those rights is intended.

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He'd put this off for too long. Stalking was the anticipatory stage of the hunt and one he often enjoyed, true, but the waiting was beginning to tell on his limited patience. His hand strayed to the bottle at his side once again, his long fingers making a fist when he reminded himself that he'd need all his wits about him for this encounter. He found his cigarettes and dug a lighter from his jeans pocket, flicking it on and breathing in the smoke as he slouched further down in the driver's seat.

The last time he'd been here had been a night of desperation for all concerned, high drama in every sense of the word. He was desperate to get rid of the psychotic wonder Angelus, to regain Drusilla's attention, and generally all round desperate not to wake up in a hell dimension. She'd been desperate too....Desperate enough to team up with him, to bite that sharp little tongue, to curb that nasty little temper. He grunted to himself. She had to be the most spoiled Slayer he'd ever heard of. So used to getting her own way, all the time, dictator of her sandpit here on the Hellmouth. And yet he remembered the moment of hesitation he'd felt when he'd looked back, Drusilla in his arms, and felt the lead settle in the pit of his stomach at the thought of Angelus killing the feisty blonde.

'Beginning of the bloody end, that was' he thought to himself. Drusilla had been inconsolable when she awoke, the knowledge that Angelus was gone for good tormenting her already fractured mind. Spike had been glad he'd had the foresight to chain her up, or she'd have made a bloody ruin of her own face and no doubt staked him into the bargain. Dealing with her grief laden rage had been even worse than enduring the months in the factory after Angelus had resurfaced, when he could only sit and watch as night after night the lumbering moron walked off with his dark goddess, hearing the taunts and the insults and the laughter. The rage that had slowly turned into ice cold hate and iron determination with every put down that left Angelus' lips had kept him focussed back then, but here with Dru he was left with nothing but regret and despair. Angelus' death had taken Drusilla more surely than his abrupt return and despite everything Spike had done, everything he'd been forced to do to save their love, nothing was going to bring his princess back.

Weeks had passed and Drusilla had shown no sign of calming down. She wore her demon face nearly all the time, curses and epithets flung at him without cease in between wailing for her 'Daddy'. Nothing Spike could do appeased her, not the victims he brought her, the pretty dresses, the jewels...nor the beatings he gave her in his attempts to bring her back to her old self. As always his pain and frustration transformed slowly into rage, his temper on a shorter and shorter leash as the weeks went by, but even his demon couldn't run on hate and anger forever and he was just...tired. Tired of Drusilla's obsession with her sire, tired of listening to her ranting, tired of being alone, and above all, tired of never being enough for the creature he'd once worshipped. He'd killed two Slayers to prove himself to Drusilla, to show how much of an alpha male he was, and still all she wanted was that bore of an irishman with the terminally sloping brow.

One night, he'd gone out to take a break from the nightmare of his existence and had a good long think about when he'd last had fun. When he'd felt the edge, that rush which could almost make his heart beat. In fact, the last time he'd fought, "Fists and fangs flying," he grinned to himself. No contest there. Oh, the fight in the church which had let to his crippling had been glorious, especially goading her into admitting she wanted to fight him. Slayers were never quite as fascinating as when they were gripped by battle lust, and the current one lived for those moments of liberation. But being honest with himself, he had to admit it was just as much fun meeting her mother, teasing her, flirting with her, watching her respond with heat, be it fury or blushing, to any innuendo he threw her way. Hell, the journey would be worth it just to see the look on her stern, pouting face. The following night he'd looked at Drusilla one last time, packed what little gear he kept with him, and told his sire he wouldn't be coming back.

Instead, he'd come back to her. The Slayer, the thorn in his side and the ghost haunting his every unsavoury thought. For nights, he'd been waiting to catch a glimpse of her, a flash of golden hair, a glitter of a hazel eye, but there'd not even been a whiff of her perfume.

'Time to end this, Slayer,' he thought. He opened the door, crushed his cigarette under the heel of his boot, and walked up to ring the doorbell. He grinned wickedly when it was answered.

"Hello, Joyce."

"Oh. What do you want...Spike, isn't it?" At the woman's resigned tone, his eyelids narrowed and he took in her appearance. Joyce Summers looked exhausted, pale and ill, and her shoulders slumped. Everything about her declared here was a woman defeated. She even turned her back to him and trudged down the hall to the kitchen without a backwards glance at him, a wave of her hand all that indicated she knew he was still there. Cautiously, Spike moved forward, inching his way over the threshold, expecting to bounce any second. His eyebrow shot up when he discovered he was still welcome. What the hell was going on?

His eyebrow shot up once again when he saw the half empty bottle of vodka on the kitchen counter, a generously filled glass in Joyce's hand. He'd been on enough return trips to oblivion to recognise someone who was drinking as though their life depended on it, and the burning ache he'd felt at leaving the young blonde to her duel with Angelus returned with a vengeance. No sign of the girl for days, Joyce drinking, and calling that placed her deliberately in harm's way. 'No. You'd have heard if something had gotten the better of this one. Demons always know,' he told himself, resolutely ignoring the tendril of doubt that sneaked in and suggested he'd been too preoccupied with Dru to pay attention to anything else.

"Joyce, why don't you tell me what's happened?" He opted for tact, deciding that there was always time to downgrade from there if need be.

"Hmm?" The woman seemed to have forgotten all about him. Not a good sign.

"Joyce. What happened? Tell me what happened to Buffy," He sounded calm, but his patience was never his strong point, and he knew he was going to smash something if he didn't get some answers soon.

"She's gone," was the flat response, followed by another, rhythmic swallow from the glass. "She's gone and she's not coming back."

The burning ache he'd controlled earlier ignited into blistering pain and rage, a fuse starting at the base of his spine and running upwards until his demon burst forth in ridges, teeth and claws. He barely suppressed the accompanying roar, his self control shredded and torn. He turned away from the Slayer's mother and opened the back door, standing in the warm Californian dark and letting his demon thrash against the bars of its cage of flesh. Ten minutes later he walked back into the house and took a seat. Like an automaton, Joyce was refilling her glass from the half empty bottle, and seemed vaguely surprised to find a strong hand on hers preventing her.

Spike waited until her focus was on his face, then spoke very carefully.

"Joyce, I need to know exactly what happened. Tell me, please," he stressed the please, keeping his voice low, not wanting to startle the woman and reawaken his demon.

"We had an argument. She and I. After you came by that night. And I, I," tears welled up in her eyes and overflowed, and she hung her head, mussed blonde curls shaking as silent sobs shook her tall frame. Spike's arms automatically went round her shoulders and drew her close, offering silent comfort, and before he could stop himself or question what he was doing, Joyce clutched at the lapels of his duster and clung as sobs shook her body.

Sensations assaulted the vampire's mind. Surprise was the first, closely followed by the demon's notice of a vulnerable victim and blood source practically volunteering itself. Self disgust was high on the list too, but holding a woman in his arms felt familiar, comforting. Of course it was comforting. He'd held Drusilla like this often when she was reliving her past, troubled by visions, or just having one of her fits. And his mother, for the months after his father had died, long before Drusilla had found him. Just as suddenly as it had begun, Joyce pulled back from him and turned to face the window.

"I told her that if she left this house, she shouldn't bother coming back," Joyce's voice was quiet and trembling, as she continued. "I've not seen her since, and I've no idea where she is, if she's still alive, if she's still doing whatever it is she does."

"She's still alive, Joyce," Spike stated, with more assurance than he felt. "I'd have heard it if someone had managed to....If something had happened to her."

She turned then, her hazel eyes 'So like her daughter's', he thought, flashing.

"So where is she, Spike? Why can't we find her?"

"Maybe you've just not got the right hunter," he gave the woman a lopsided smile. "But I think that's about to change."

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