Sunnydale airport was pretty quiet when Buffy and Wesley collected their bags and went to pick up the car that Dalton had hired in Wesley's name.

"I can drop you at the hospital, while I get us checked in at the hotel, if you like." Wesley said.

"Thanks." Buffy said, gratefully. She was very nervous about seeing her mom.

'It'll be OK, kitten.' Spike's voice in her head was reassuring. 'Dalton's been keeping an eye on her and he's pretty sure she's remembering you nearly all the time.'

'It's not that, I'm worried about how sick she is and I haven't been here for her…'

'That couldn't be helped, pet. Remember, if she wasn't sick, she'd still not remember you.'

'True. I wish you were here.'

'I am with you, just not physically.'

'One night wasn't enough.'

They'd spent the night, blissfully making love. Spike being gentle, after Buffy's ordeal and Buffy trying to be quiet because of Wesley in the bedroom down the hall.

'I hate being away from you, too. It can't be helped, though. Your mum needs you.'

Buffy went into the hospital and gave her mom's name at the main desk. Minutes later, she was tapping gently on the door to her mom's room.

"Buffy?" Joyce said, a note of disbelief in her voice, when she realized just who had stepped into her room. "Are you real?"

"Oh, mom, I've missed you so much." Buffy said, tears running down her face as she hugged her mother, horrified at how thin and pale she was.

"They said I didn't have a daughter, that I never had any children. Even your father…" Joyce babbled through her tears.

"It was a spell. They made it so no one remembered me."

"A spell? Oh Buffy, that sounds so crazy, are you sure I'm not imagining this? And who's 'they', that can do that sort of thing, witches?"

"No, Mom, just power hungry, corrupt men. The watchers council." Buffy added, when her mom looked questioningly at her. "They thought I died, after me and Spike saved you from Kralik."

"That was real, too? It felt like I was remembering a nightmare. That was what convinced me to see the doctor, that and the headaches."

"I'm so sorry you had to go through all that."

"It was so horrible, Buffy, I thought I was losing my mind. I kept remembering… terrible things, not just you… vampires; zombies roaming the house… but your room; I'd stand in it for hours, looking for traces of you… it was just a spare room… and I kept wondering… if I'd been alone, after I divorced your father, why such a big house? Why three bedrooms just for me? Then one morning I found this, on the spare bed." She reached under her pillow and produced a battered soft toy.

"Mister Gordo." Buffy said, tears flowing freely again. "I thought he'd vanished forever with the rest of my things.

"And the headaches, oh Buffy, it hurts so much but the worse they get, the more I remember."

"It'll be OK, mom, I'm here. I won't leave you."

"Are you a relative?" The voice came from the doorway.

Buffy looked up at the young man.

"Sort of, she's my God-mother." She said, going with what she'd told the receptionist, earlier.

"Oh, that explains it. I'm Ben, and Mrs Summers here has told me all about you. She said you were her daughter but no one could find any record of you. Her condition must have made her confused. It's like that sometimes."

"Is she going to be alright?"

"Her operation is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I promise you, she'll have the best care. Now, I'm here to give her her painkillers and they will make her sleepy, so I suggest you say goodbye, just now and come back this evening.

"Stay with me 'til I fall asleep, Buffy?"

Wesley was waiting outside, in the car, when Buffy finally left her mother for the night. She'd had spent an hour or so having - lunch? - she wasn't sure, with the jetlag, what the meal had been; plus, she still wasn't feeling right, after her narrow escape from RatBastardWatcher. She couldn't even think of him as Wesley's dad.

Unable to keep away, Buffy had gone back to her mother's room and watched her sleep until visiting hours were over.

"How is she?" Wesley asked, as Buffy got into the car.

"They have to operate - day after tomorrow. I'm so scared, what if something goes wrong?"

"I know it's hard… but there's nothing you can do; it's up to the doctors." Wesley said, gently. "I paid a visit to Rupert Giles. One watcher to another."

"He's still here, then." Buffy said, grateful for the change of subject.

"Yes, he's Faith's watcher now and, as far as he's concerned, he never even knew the name of the slayer who came before Kendra."

"He hasn't missed me, then? No big bads, after I left?"

"According to the Watcher's Council 'Hellmouth' file, the mayor of Sunnydale had some kind of pact with demons. Potentially bad."

"We wondered about him, Spike and me; he kept vampire minions…"

"Doesn't surprise me. It seems one of his human staff rebelled, gave a lot of incriminating paperwork to Kendra and her watcher. The mayor had sold his soul in return for eternal youth - but he had to be careful all the same; he wasn't immortal; accidents, sickness… he could still die. He was working towards becoming invincible and then transforming into a pure demon. It seems that when he was young, he was something of a scholar in the black arts. He had worked out, that on a specific date in the future, there would be a chance for him to achieve his rather dubious dream. He wanted to live to see that day."

"Hence stopping aging. How did Kendra spoil his plans?"

"She didn't. For all of that, he was still human and, as such, outside a slayer's jurisdiction."

"What happened?" Buffy could tell from the tone of his voice, that she wasn't going to like it.

"Rupert killed him, before he achieved invincibility."

"Giles?" Buffy was startled at the notion but then she thought of his betrayal of her on her eighteenth birthday.

"Council orders, straight from my father. He probably felt that if anything went wrong, Rupert was expendable. Turns out he did a good job, got away with it; helped, no doubt, by a cupboard full of very strange items in the mayoral office."

"The cops turn a blind eye, in this town, to that kind of thing; probably thought he brought it on himself. Who'll be running the council, now your father's gone?"

"I really couldn't say but I can guarantee that whoever it is will be just as bad."

"How did the new girl - Faith?" Wesley nodded. "How did she end up here?"

"Kendra's watcher went back home, after he got her killed. They couldn't leave the Hellmouth unguarded, not with all the demon activity, so the council sent Faith here. She's been kept busy."

"Tell me about it; the things I saw when I lived here..."

"You and your friends?"

"Yeah, did you find out what happened to them?"

"Yes. The internet is a wonderful thing, among others a stalker's paradise; Dalton's been using it, as well as more conventional ways of keeping track of your friends."

"You got on OK with him?"

"Well, that's two vampires I've met, that seem civilized. I'd never have believed it…" He shook his head, "Dalton used to be a watcher… when he was…"

"Alive?" Buffy said, brightly and Wesley nodded his agreement.

"Anyway," He continued, "Willow went to Oxford and her werewolf friend went with her. Xander went to LA, after he graduated; his girlfriend went with him."

"Cordelia? They stayed together, even though they couldn't remember me or…?" She trailed off, as she realized that Wesley was looking at her, oddly. "Sorry, that sounds… it's just that Cordy said… more than once… that it was only all the slayer stuff that made her find Xander even a little bit cool. I did wonder, with no one remembering, if the two of them would wake up and think it was some kind of insanity."

"Oh, your friend Xander found his standing amongst his peers much increased, after he foiled an attempt to poison them all."

"Huh?"

"One of the school caterers had a mental breakdown and filled the main course with rat poison; Xander caught her and alerted everyone. The police estimated that, if not for his quick action, most of the school would have died."

"Go Xander!" Buffy said, impressed. "That would have really hiked up the annual school death toll. Not that it wasn't always high, anyway…"

"Yes. Grim reading. There was a fatality that day, though; a young man shot himself, on school premises but, because of all the fuss with the poisoning, no one found him for a couple of days."

"Oh." Buffy said, quietly, "Anyone that I …?"

"A young man by the name of Jonathan Levinson. His father was a gun collector, not always legally; it seems he didn't keep his latest acquisition properly secured."

"Jonathan… I don't know the name…"

"No. judging from the newspaper accounts, hardly anyone did. He had no friends…"

"Bullied?"

"I don't think so, more ignored. Even his parents… well, his father noticed the gun was missing before he noticed his son was, too. When he realized… his first thought was, coming so soon after Columbine, that his son was planning a similar event. He tried to get rid of his remaining guns, before he reported the boy missing."

"Harsh."

"The police found the guns, buried in his garden. It seems they investigate non-supernatural events in Sunnydale, quite thoroughly."

"Gives them something that they can actually solve, I guess. Xander the hero…" Buffy said, changing the subject back to her friend. "Why L.A.?"

"It seems that Miss Chase wanted to become a film star and her father was going to finance her chosen career."

"And Xander's freeloading?"

"Not at all, he stepped in when Mr. Chase fell foul of the tax authorities. From what I can gather, the family lost everything and Xander is doing the best he can to help his girlfriend with her dream."

"Wow. They really love each other. Who would have thought?"

"I think you'll find that it's no more strange than a slayer in love with a vampire." Wesley said, pulling in to the hotel car park.

"What are the rooms like?" Buffy asked.

"Surprisingly pleasant; yours is across the hallway from mine. I've put your cases there but I've not unpacked for you."

Buffy lay, naked, on 'her' side of the double bed, while, in England, Spike lay on 'his' side of their bed.

'I miss you so much…'

'Me too, pet, me too…'

With their eyes closed, they could believe that they were on the same bed, together.

'Are we likely to be interrupted, kitten?'

'No, Wesley's busy knitting. I think he's handling his guilt by keeping occupied.'

'Yeah. I get the impression his father…'

'Was an abusive bastard? Yeah, I got that impression, too.'

'I don't want to think about how close I came to losing you…'

Buffy shivered as she felt Spike's lips brush hers, as real as though they were in the same room. She visualized how it felt to run her fingers through his hair as his kiss deepened, his tongue teasing hers. His glorious naked body pressed against her, as he kissed his way to the sensitive spot on her throat, where he had once bitten her and forever marked her as his. Her body arched against him as he lovingly ran his tongue over her scar, making her gasp as micro-orgasms ran through her.

Breathing heavily over his scar, Buffy smiled as she felt him shudder with pleasure, his hardened length rubbing against her damp slit. Her legs parted, allowing him to gently push into her, her nerve endings throbbing with incredible sensation. Their bodies, so familiar with one another, so right, climaxing almost immediately in mind-blowing orgasms that seemed to go on forever.

On different continents, Spike and Buffy drifted off into sleep, content to be together.

"…and I'm telling you that I don't have a daughter and I certainly don't have a God-daughter." Joyce Summers was feeling much better, after her medication had been administered and had completely forgotten Buffy's existence, again.

"But, Mom, yesterday…" Buffy was crying and Ben was trying to defuse the situation.

"Stop calling me that, please, just stop…" Joyce dissolved into tears.

"I think we'd better leave her for a while." Ben said, gently.

"Why doesn't she remember me, anymore?" Buffy asked, once they were outside the room.

"That's hard to say, she should be more lucid, after her meds. but she just seems to be worse."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"I think it would be best to just leave her alone, until the doctor's had a look. Of course, after they operate, she should leave the delusions behind."

Ice trickled down Buffy's spine as she realized the significance of what Ben was telling her. If her mom was 'cured', she wouldn't remember Buffy any more; worse, if she wasn't cured, she would die.

"I need to be alone, for a while, I'll come back later to see how she is." She told Ben, before going back to the hotel.

'I'm so sorry, kitten…' Spike said, gently, 'I never thought that she'd forget you, again.'

'Forever; after they operate. I'm losing her all over again.'

'She'll be alive, though.'

'Yeah, that's the only upside. I can't bear the thought of leaving her here, alone, again.'

'We could always move back to Sunnyhell…'

They were interrupted by a knock at the door.

"Wesley?" Buffy asked, seeing the look on the young watcher's face, when she opened the door.

"I've just met with Faith, she had some interesting news." He took in Buffy's tearstained face. "What's happened, is it your mother?"

"She's forgotten me again and when they operate, she'll forget me forever."

"Oh, Buffy, I'm so sorry." Despite his having nothing to blame himself for, Wesley still felt guilty at what his father had done to Buffy and her mum.

"Tell me about Faith. Take my mind off mom."

"Well, she's been dating a young man called Forrest and, it turns out he's working undercover, pretending to attend UC Sunnydale, when really, he works for something called 'The Demon Initiative'."

"Something not of the good, I imagine."

"That would depend on your point of view. It seems that these people - scientists backed by the military - have been capturing demons and experimenting on them."

"What kind of experiments?"

"The kind they don't recover from. These people seem to be particularly interested in demon biological weaponry; for example, if the demon can produce a defensive spear from its arm, then its arm is amputated."

"Just to make them harmless, do you think?"

"I doubt it. If they wanted demons harmless, why not kill them? No, I think that they're looking for a military application."

"Demon soldiers? Nasty thought; they'd never be able to control them."

"They've done experiments in that area, too. A behaviour modification chip that can be implanted in the subject's brain, which causes great pain when the subject behaves in a way contrary to the Initiative's wishes."

"Any successes?"

"According to Dalton, a vampire escaped from the facility, who is unable to feed, due to intense pain, experienced if he tries to harm any living thing."

"Interesting. Are you sure they're not on our side?"

'Kinder to stake them, kitten.' Spike put in, shuddering at the thought.

"It's not much of a stretch, to imagine that the military could program the chip to allow a vampire to only kill certain ethnic groups, for example."

"Yeah, that'd be bad. Where's the facility?"

"In a vast underground cavern, beneath one of the frat houses."

"Mmm, I might have been there. A while back, a bunch of frat boys were down in a cavern, worshipping a snake demon…"

'Well, don't go messing with the military, pet. Who knows what these scientists would make of a real live slayer.'

'Don't worry, while I'm here, I'm just concentrating on my mom. No slaying unless I have to.'

'Glad to hear it.'

"Do you think Faith's in any danger, from these people?" Buffy asked Wesley.

"Hopefully, not. She seems very capable, if a little wild."

Buffy's phone rang. Buffy jumped.

"I gave the hospital this number…" She said, worriedly, as she answered it.