disclaimer in part 1

Still shaking
Still in pain
You put me back together again
I was cold
And you clothed me honey
I was down
And you lifted me honey

Angel or devil
I was thirsty
And you wet my lips

Trip Through Your Wires

Three Doors
by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part Six

Angel's eyelids fluttered. He tried to move his head and groaned as pain washed over him. He lay still until it passed from sharp stabbing against his skull into a dull ache. Slowly, he opened his eyes. He squinted, even the normal lighting of the room making his head pound harder. Faith stood next to the bed, her head tilted as she studied him with her arms crossed over her chest.

"Faith." His throat was dry, and the word cracked in his mouth. He tried to swallow, to say something more since she seemed disinclined to fill the silence. His glance flew to the door as footsteps clattered up the stairs. When it burst open, Buffy entered the room first, followed by Xander and Willow, then Giles. Seeing them and sending a quick look around the room, he realized where he was, Giles' bedroom. He reoriented himself further as the memory of collapsing on the Watcher's doorstep returned. Buffy stopped farthest from the bed and stood to the side, her hand clenching and unclenching nervously by her side, while the others gathered near Faith. Angel watched the Slayer, wondering why she hadn't come closer. Her body was tense, her expression uncomfortable. His mouth twitched in puzzlement. He looked closer, the joy at seeing her alive fading as he noted the dirty, torn clothes. Her eyes were bloodshot, and her hair lay limp and tangled against her neck. Something had happened to her, something he could not remember. He hated his lack of control, his ignorance. He hated seeing her in pain and having no idea why or how to fix it.

"He knows me," Faith said to the others. His throat worked as he tried again to swallow, then he spoke.

"Of course I know you," he said, his voice still unable to rise above a whisper.

"He remembered everything about when he had the soul last time too," Xander said.

"What do you mean?" Angel asked, his brow furrowing. "Buffy?" He turned his gaze on the Slayer, but the look she gave him offered no explanation. When he locked eyes with her, her expression was torn between hate and doubt. Then she turned her gaze away. "Did something happen? In the caves?"

The others turned to each other, reacting to his comments, but not answering him. They acted like he wasn't even here, or he was some science experiment, a lab monkey they were studying. Buffy looked back at the bed, and began to absently chew on her lower lip. Angel's frustration grew. If someone would just explain what had happened...

"What if he really doesn't know?" Willow was saying.

"Well, how can we be sure?" Xander asked. "He's evil, okay? And really tricky and cleverly psychotic, and did I mention evil?"

"What?" Angel said, sucking in a surprised lungful of air. "Evil?" Fear tugged at his heart, and his gaze flew to Buffy again. He tried to reach a hand toward her, and couldn't. He turned his head slightly, wincing at the jolt of pain, to look at his left hand. The fact that he was chained to the bed had apparently escaped him in all the pain and confusion. He grunted. This was unbelievable. He suppressed the annoyance with himself that surged up like bile. His own incompetence was something that could be dealt with later. "Buffy, please." He tried again, pleading with her for an answer he was no longer sure he wanted to hear. "What's going on?" She bit down on her lower lip hard enough to draw blood he could no longer smell and took a step toward him, her eyes too bright.

The others continued to argue, but he was no longer paying attention. He was focused on Buffy, willing her to make things clear, to touch him and set the world right side up again.

"I know you're human," she said, her voice barely audible under the rising hum of the others. "I felt your heartbeat. And you were in direct sunlight."

"Yes, I know," Angel said, relieved she was finally responding to him. "When I woke up in the caves I realized it. I had to breathe. I was cold. It was amazing." He stopped. "Buffy, tell me what's happened? Did I do something?" She looked at him, her face twisted with indecision. Her fists were clenched now, her knuckles white. She took another step toward the bed, her feet seeming to move of their own volition.

"I don't know. Maybe."

"I don't remember anything after the demons separated us," he said. "Then I woke up trapped in a tiny cave, and I was human. Something tore the wall apart, so I escaped through a tunnel. Then I came here. That's all I know." He tried to read her expression, but could only see pain in her eyes. His newly started heart beat faster as self-loathing ripped through him. "What did I do to you?"

"We fought," she said, her eyes wide, her lips trembling. "Angelus and I. Maybe you and I." She shrank back at the reminder, and her hands shook with the effort of not moving closer to the bed. "I don't think you were human then, but I can't be sure. None of us know what's going on."

"I understand," Angel said, subdued. He jingled the chains of the restraints lightly. "You did what you had to, that's good." Buffy nodded, not trusting herself to speak. "Whatever happened before," Angel began, "the demon's not in me anymore. I don't mean it's just under control. I mean it's not there at all. I can feel the absence of it." He looked for understanding in her face, but she covered the flicker of response with carefully guarded blankness. "How can I prove it to you?" he asked.

"That's the whole problem, isn't it?" Xander said. Startled, Buffy turned to see that the others had gathered behind her, had stopped talking amongst themselves to listen.

"I don't think he's evil," Buffy said, her voice stronger than it had been a moment earlier.

"But can you be sure?" Faith asked, cracking the knuckles of her right hand.

"No," Buffy said. "But I think we should assume he's telling the truth, that he doesn't know anything about Angelus. Innocent until proven guilty."

"Doesn't work with murderous vampires who we already know are guilty of killing bunches of people," Xander said with a shake of his head.

"Maybe," Buffy admitted. She tried to keep her gaze confined to the corner of the bed and the pattern of the bedspread, but her eyes kept wandering up to rest on Angel's body. "I'm not saying we should untie him. But what do we gain by treating him like he's our enemy? He could just as easily be good as evil." She paused. "We need to prove it one way or the other."

"What about a truth spell?" Willow suggested. "I know I saw one in the Grimorean Rites. You've got that here don't you, Giles?"

"Yes, quite a good idea, Willow," Giles agreed. "I don't know the spell offhand, but we should be able to find the ingredients fairly easily. I'll need someone to make a trip to the magic shop to pick up what I don't have here."

"What time is it?" Buffy asked, her eyes still on Angel. She wouldn't meet his eyes, but she couldn't seem to tear her gaze away from his body. "Is the shop open?"

"It's almost nine," Giles answered, after glancing at his watch.

"Which reminds me that today is a school day and we're already late," Willow pointed out with a sigh. "Not that this isn't more important, because it is. But sometimes I wish saving the world counted as an excused absence."

"But that would require life to be fair," Xander said in mock surprise.

"Oh yeah, I forgot about the necessary unfairness quotient," Willow said, turning back toward the stairs. "I'll find the spell and make a list of the stuff we need," she said as she left the room.

"I'll go to the store," Xander offered.

"Excellent," Giles said.

"I can stay with him," Faith suggested, nodding her head toward Angel.

"No," Buffy said, just as Xander opened his mouth. Angel watched the small blonde girl's emotions flicker across her face. He barely kept himself from smiling; she had no real reason to believe him, but the fact that at least part of her did filled him with happiness despite his awkward position.

"Why not?" Faith asked, frowning.

"I don't want someone who's already condemned him to death in here with him ," Buffy said.

"I'm waiting for the lie detector results just like everyone," Faith said, raising her eyebrow.

"I'll stay with him," Buffy said. This time Angel was unable to keep his lips from turning up into the smallest of smiles. Dirty, tired, and confused, she was still the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

"Oh yeah, that's a great idea." Faith rolled her eyes.

"Someone needs to look at the wounds," Buffy said, bracing herself for argument.

"Because..." Xander asked.

"Look if he's evil we're going to kill him anyway, so who cares what happens in the mean time. And if he's not someone should be looking at the wounds. He's human, they could get infected," Buffy said.

"So you play a little game of doctor with the prisoner, get all close and lovey-dovey..." Faith said.

"You think I would let him go? That I'd compromise any of you?" Buffy asked, forcing each of them to meet her angry gaze. Faith's eyes narrowed when she saw the shame that sparked in the others' faces. Her fists clenched, but she kept her mouth shut.

"No," Xander said quietly. "I know you wouldn't." Buffy blinked her eyes, a smile of surprised gratitude blossoming on her face.

"Okay then," she said. "Go do what you have to, I'll make sure bachelor number one doesn't go anywhere."

"I'll go with Xander to get the supplies then," Faith said with a sigh. "But if anything happens I reserve the right to say I told you so...and kill the next demon lover any of you have, no questions asked."

"Done," Buffy agreed. "If I ever end up with a whole new demon lover, you can reserve the right to kill me too."

"I'll hold you to that," Faith said, pulling her lips back into a mock snarl. The brunette Slayer swaggered to the stairs, Xander on her heels. Giles turned to the man in his bed, and the Slayer who stood next to him, her hand resting on the bedspread just millimeters from his body. He sighed softly to himself, and bit down on the offer he had planned to extend to help her tend the wounds. He could tell none of the injuries were life-threatening. And he knew demanding to help her would only seem to show distrust. He took off his glasses and cleaned them with an agitated motion. Truth be told he would have preferred Buffy were as far away from the prisoner as possible. But he would not willingly undermine her already shaky confidence.

"I'm going to help Willow prepare for the spell. We should have everything ready very shortly." He turned to go, then stopped and faced Buffy again. "If you need my help with anything, just call." The Slayer smiled, knowing how much it cost him to leave her with what could be the man who had killed his lover. He nodded once, and left the room.

Buffy returned her attention to the figure in the bed. She studied the tears in his shirt and pants, noticing where the blood seeped through more heavily on a few of the cuts on his chest. He lay still, not talking, just letting her look. Then she touched his arm lightly, her fingers tracing the blood-stiffened fabric, and he loosed a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

"I'll have to cut off your shirt," she said. "There's no way to get it over the cuffs.

"It's going in the garbage anyway," he answered. "Don't think it's possible to repair the damage at this point." She nodded slightly, her attention not focused completely on his words. He shivered under her gaze, his skin prickling at the thought of her hands cutting away the cloth that bound him. He tried to bury the thought, but couldn't keep from straining slightly toward her as she turned from the bed to rummage through Giles' dresser drawer.

"No scissors," she said, her back still turned. She looked at the door, knowing she should just ask Giles to bring some scissors up from the kitchen. But for some reason she couldn't bear the thought of anyone else entering the room. Her body felt his nearness like a vibration. She could feel him behind her; she didn't need to see him to know his eyes were following the curve of her spine, her hips. She swallowed, her throat tight with the need to be near him. Part of her screamed that this was a mistake. She should get out now, but the other part of her reveled in having the perfect excuse to run her hands over him.

She turned suddenly and returned to the bed. She tugged gently at one side of his shirt, then planted her right knee on the bed and swung her other knee over to straddle his body. Angel watched, his mouth fallen slightly open, his breath coming in soft pants, as she grabbed the fabric of his shirt in her hands. With Slayer strength she ripped it along each side, making short work of the seams. Her fingers shook as she worked more clumsily at the line of buttons along his chest. Impatient with her fumbling, she tore that as well, sending buttons skittering across the hard floor. Angel barely heard them bouncing and rolling away; he couldn't seem to focus on anything but the glint in her eyes as she leaned over him, and the cool air that hit his feverish skin when she peeled the abused cloth away.

She hissed as she took in the bruises and gashes that marred his skin. Her fingertip gently traced a bruise on his collar bone, then she slid her finger over his chest and probed a deeper wound on his bicep, drawing back when he gasped at the sharp jab of pain.

"Sorry," she whispered. "That one's pretty bad." She looked at her fingertips, now red with his blood, and he felt the void where the bloodlust had been. The smell of it was gone. He knew she would have to douse him in crimson before it would register. The intoxication, the need, the longing, the richness, all of that was gone. He could see the blood, just as he could see the ceiling above him, or the wall, and it meant nothing. It was nothing. He tilted his head, and she wiped her fingers absently on the rags of his shirt.

"We'll have to bandage that one," she said, then trailed her finger down his chest to rest by a deep cut on his stomach. "And this one. Are there any more that deep?" He thought for a moment, trying to isolate each pain in the mass of aches his body had become.

"I think there may be a pretty bad one on my back," he said finally, remembering the scrape of rock as he made his escape and the ache, the burn that reached from his back deep into his torso.

"Okay," she said. "I'll have to clean them, then I'll bandage them. They're not pretty, but you'll heal," she said, smiling a little. He returned the smile.

"Just slower this time." She nodded, absently touching her own rib, the broken bone already healed to a faint ache, and lowered her gaze. Her cheeks reddened as her position, straddling his waist, registered. Quickly, she swung down off the bed, feeling a pang of loss at the distance put between them. She turned to the shirt and tore the fabric into long strips, then went into the bathroom and soaked one of Giles' hand towels in warm water. She squeezed out some of the excess moisture but the cloth was still dripping when she brought it back to the bed. She hesitated a moment, seeming to brace herself, then squatted beside the bed.

"This may sting," she muttered, keeping her eyes away from his face. She tried to concentrate on each wound, each body part, individually rather than acknowledge what they were part of, who they were part of. She touched the cloth to the arm in front of her, feeling it jerk slightly as the warm water irritated the wound, but there was no sound other than the exhalation of breath. She blotted at the wound until it seemed clear of dirt, then tied one of the strips of shirt on as a bandage. Telling herself this was going to be a piece of cake, she moved on to the next cut. This one was smaller, needing only cleaning, rather than a bandage.

Angel closed his eyes, and resolutely turned his face toward the ceiling. The breath he inhaled shuddered in his lungs, but he focused on the blackness behind his eyelids and tried to ignore the feel of her hand stroking his skin through the wet terrycloth. The sensation was curiously intense, both painful as some of the cuts reopened and bled again, and sensuous as the water slicked his body. He tried to pretend it was anyone but her who was touching him, but his body knew the truth.

He wanted to look at her, needed to see her, and his eyes flew open. He studied her face as she tended him, the way her eyes narrowed in concentration, the way her mouth was slightly open, the way her eyes met his only briefly and slid away. She pulled away and walked around to the other side of the bed, beginning the same treatment on his other arm. No longer trying to deny himself, he watched her intently. She reddened, blushing slightly under the scrutiny. Then she bit her lip and rubbed a little harder at his arm. He winced, and she stopped. Her eyes finally met his, locking her to him. She leaned a little closer to him, her head tilted, and he moved as close as the chains would allow. But before their lips met, she jerked back, and shut her eyes tightly. She reminded herself to breathe and opened her eyes again, careful this time not to look too closely.

"I'm not sure how to do the back with the cuffs on," she said when she could speak. "If you try to turn with them on you might reopen something." He nodded silently. "Anyway," she said, filling the silence, "They'll be here with the spell stuff any minute and I can do it afterwards."

"You're sure the spell will prove I'm not evil?" he asked. She hesitated, then spoke softly.

"My head can't be sure," she admitted. "But my heart is." She met his gaze and tears brightened Angel's eyes. He cursed the bonds that kept him from holding her in his arms, telling her with a kiss what he knew he would never find the words to say. He swallowed and this time, he was the one who looked away.

"Thank you," he said. She shrugged, dismissing the need for thanks, but stepped forward and briefly squeezed his hand in hers. She cocked her head listening to something he could no longer hear.

"They're here." She released his hand and stood back, surveying the bed. She crossed her arms, holding herself, and waited while footsteps clattered up the stairs. Willow entered first, clutching a spell book to her chest, then Giles with a bowl filled with herbs, and Xander with a candle. Faith came last, her hands stuck in her back pockets. Xander hesitated when he saw Angel, shirtless, several of his wounds bound, his chest covered in scrapes and bruises. The hesitation lasted only a moment, and he kept his face expressionless, his mouth only hinting at a frown. Faith strolled over to the bed and pulled at the chain on that side.

"Just checking," she said with a shrug.

"We're ready," Willow said softly.

"How does it work?" Buffy asked.

"Well, we sprinkle this power on him while we chant the spell. And it should bind his tongue so he can only speak the truth," Willow explained. "I mean...in theory."

"I'll uh...sprinkle," Giles said with a wry smile.

"Let's get it done," Buffy said. She edged closer to the bed, her thigh pressing against the edge of the mattress. Angel patiently waited while Xander lit his candle, and Willow opened her spellbook. She began to read while Giles dipped a small brush into his bowl of powdered herbs and shook them over Angel's torso. A tingling began in Angel's chest, the barest hint of a tickle that pulled at his ribs. Willow began to repeat the spell and Giles shook more powder on him. Angel watched the dark powder settle against the whiteness of his skin. He exhaled slowly, feeling the tingle move higher up in his chest and settle at the base of his throat. He realized his muscles were clenched and forcibly relaxed them, moving his gaze to Buffy as Willow began the spell a third time. Seeming to feel his gaze, Buffy turned her head toward him and gave him a small smile. He turned back to the spell when Xander handed Willow the candle.

"So mote it be," the witch said, using the candle flame to set fire to what was left of the powder in Giles' hands. The air seemed to ripple and shimmer like the haze of heat coming off pavement on a sweltering day, and a ball of light appeared in the bowl. With a thunderous bang, the light spiked outward and smashed against Angel's chest, disappearing. His mouth was forced open and his eyes widened as a blast of light flew from his mouth back into Willow's spellbook. The light was gone as quickly as it had appeared and everything seemed normal. A permanent tickle seemed to have settled at the back of Angel's throat, but otherwise he felt fine.

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked.

"Yes," he answered.

"Good," she said. "So who wants to start?"

"Let's ask something that he should try to answer with a lie so we know it's working," Willow said.

"You mean the flashes of light didn't prove anything?" Xander asked with a grin. "Okay, here's one we all know the answer to....are you a virgin?" Buffy and Willow both turned to glare at the boy while Faith let out a bark of laughter. Angel narrowed his eyes and raised his eyebrow in annoyance. He shrugged, awkward in the bindings.

"Yes," he said, barely choking out the word before his throat closed up and he felt himself beginning to suffocate. Dimly he heard Buffy yelling, but he was too busy trying to force air into his lungs to make it out. This having to breathe thing kind of sucked, he decided with a resigned scowl as he thrashed on the bed, his head banging against the headboard. Then the pressure eased and he was able to take in a small breath, then another slightly larger. After a few moments of struggling to regain normal breathing, he turned baleful eyes on Willow.

"You could have warned me," he said.

"But if we told you, you could have faked it and we wouldn't know if the spell was really working," Willow pointed out.

"I just thought it would be fun to watch," Xander added.

"I almost died for lying about my virginity," Angel said with a shake of his head, then he grinned. "Talk about embarrassing."

Xander shook his finger at Angel. "You're freaking me out, man. You're smiling and stuff. Your reputation as a brooder is in real jeopardy." Angel raised his eyebrows, and dismissed the boy with a sigh.

"So what's the next question?" he asked Willow. She looked at Giles and shrugged her shoulders.

"Are you evil?" Xander asked.

"No," Angel answered. He was unable to stop himself from flinching slightly as he spoke, but nothing happened. He breathed a small sigh of relief, glad he was still able to.

"I don't think that's specific enough," Willow said. "I mean, if he was evil maybe he wouldn't think he was evil and then when he said no he wouldn't be lying but he would still be evil, if you know what I mean."

"What happened in the caves?" Giles asked.

"What I said before," Angel answered. "I don't remember what happened after Buffy and I were separated, except that I woke up in a small cave. I was trapped until someone or something knocked a hole in the wall. That's how I got out. After I found my way above ground, I came here."

"Hmmm," Giles said. "What bothers me is the missing time. It's possible that he simply doesn't remember fighting Buffy in the caves."

"Either way, this proves he's not evil doesn't it?" Buffy asked.

"I think we should ask a few more questions, truth spells can be tricky as there are so many different ways of viewing the truth." Giles pursed his lips thoughtfully, but Willow was the one who came up with the next question.

"Do you want to kill anyone?" she asked.

"No," Angel said.

"Do you plan to kill anyone or anything?"

"Nothing but my houseplants," Angel said smiling slightly. "The demon is gone. I can feel it. I feel lighter somehow and emptier."

"Okay helium boy, riddle me this," Faith said. "Have you figured out a way to fool the truth spell?"

"No," he answered.

"I'm tapped," the Slayer said. She shrugged and looked to the others to see if anyone else had a question.

"How do you feel about all those people you killed?" Xander asked, his eyes hard.

"I wish I could take back the pain I caused," Angel said. "But I can't. Nothing I do will ever make up for the things I did." He faltered and looked at Xander. The boy's mouth was an unforgiving line, but his jaw jumped nervously.

"Do you have any idea how you became human?" Buffy asked.

"No," Angel said. "I wish I did."

"Do you know if it's permanent?" Buffy asked.

"No," Angel said. "I hope so. But unless we figure out what caused it, it'll be hard to know who or what might reverse it."

"What happens if you suddenly change back?" Xander asked.

"I don't know," Angel answered, frustration tinting his voice. "If I had anything more I could tell you, believe me, I would. But I'm as confused by all this as you are."

"How much longer should we do this?" Buffy asked Giles. "What more can he say to prove it to you?"

"I think we can conclude that Angel is not evil. And that he is now human. Unfortunately he was unable to help us discover the cause of these changes, but we will, I'm sure, find something of relevance soon." A mild rap on the door to the apartment turned Giles' attention from Angel. He moved to the stairs.

"So I can take off the cuffs?" Buffy asked.

"You may," Giles answered with a smile. He fished the key from his pocket and tossed it to her. Giles went to answer the doors, and she quickly set to work unbinding Angel's wrists. He chaffed at the redness from the tight fetters and moved his wrists and shoulders in circles to loosen them. Buffy sat on the edge of the bed and took his hand in hers. Her fingers trembled in his grip, but she displayed no other signs of what she was thinking.

"How long will the spell last?" Angel asked Willow.

"You'll never lie again," Willow said solemnly. Angel raised his eyebrows. "Just kidding. I can take it off you now if you want, otherwise it'll wear off in a couple hours."

"Just can't wait to start lying again, can you?" Xander asked snidely.

"Exactly," Angel said, refusing to let the boy get to him. "I want to be able to say you don't look like a clown in that shirt without choking to death." He gasped as his throat started to close up again, and Willow quickly said a phrase in Latin. Buffy's fingers stroked over his, and he drew in a shaky breath. "Guess the spell doesn't really allow for sarcasm."

Giles reentered the room with Wesley behind him. The young Watcher had the smug look of a successful research session on his face, and he immediately demanded the attention of the others.

"I believe I've found our demon," he said. He slipped a book from under his arm and opened it to a marked page. A black and white etching took up the full page and he showed it to Buffy. "Is this the demon you saw?" Buffy studied the picture for a moment before answering.

"I think so," she said. "But I got knocked out after just a couple seconds."

"It's called a Dagnu. It seems to fit the profile you gave, communicates telepathically, musical voice, extremely powerful and extremely rare."

"Dagnu, of course, I've heard stories about them," Giles said. "But I thought they were just legends passed on through the generations of demons. Like the human myths of Zeus or Pan."

"Powerful how?" Buffy asked.

"Well," Wesley began, "I don't like to use the word omnipotent, but I can't think of another word that more accurately describes it."

"You're saying this demon can do anything?" Willow asked

"No," Wesley said, "Not exactly. But the limits of its powers are not understood, and it is worshiped by other demons as a god."

"Yeah, but some demons would worship cheese as a god," Xander said.

"This is no laughing matter," Wesley said. "These demons can manipulate time and space, do practically anything they want regardless of the laws of physics."

"If it can do anything, why the hell is it messing around with Angel's soul? Is it really that bored?" Xander asked.

"I don't know," Wesley answered. "These demons have remained an enigma, their motivations, their power, their needs...we understand virtually none of it."

"So how do we kill it?" Faith asked.

"From what I understand they aren't evil," Giles pointed out. "The stories I've heard refer to them as neither good nor evil. They fulfill their own whims, siding with neither the darkness or the light."

"Yes," Wesley agreed. "What I've read confirms that. This volume seems to suggest that their manipulations are often an attempt to understand humanity, or other demons. It seems these demons are interested in what type of reaction a person will have to the situation it creates."

"You mean like the way it made me choose the door?" Buffy asked. "That was some kind of test or something?" She frowned. "It felt pretty evil to me."

"Yeah, they're treating us like guinea pigs," Xander said. "Are you sure they aren't just trying to figure out whether their new waterproof mascara is safe?" He grinned, but the others weren't paying attention.

"I don't think our concepts of good and evil are comprehensible to this species," Giles said. "They are separate from us..."

"So much more powerful that they can't understand our rules," Angel finished.

"And we cannot understand theirs," Wesley added.

"So what does this mean?" Buffy asked. "We can't do anything? They can just go around changing people from evil to good and maybe back again," her grip on Angel's hand tightened convulsively, "and we can't do anything about it?"

"We may be able to do something," Giles said. "But I'll admit I have no idea what."

"Indeed," Wesley said. "And as of right now, it seems as though their test has worked to our advantage. If they are through with us, then Angel is human, is he not?"

"Yeah, but how can we ever feel safe?" Willow asked. "We'll never know whether they're going to do something else. I mean, they changed Angel back and forth with no apparent reason..."

"Wait a moment," Giles said. "We may have been thinking about this in the wrong way. We assumed that there was only one Angel, that our Angel had been changed back and forth. But what if there are two. One Buffy fought in the caves while the other was trapped, and one who escaped later."

"You mean, somehow this demon separated me into two parts?" Angel said.

"It makes sense," Willow agreed. "Take out the demon and make a pure vampire, that leaves a pure human for the soul."

"This is entirely unprecedented," Wesley said. "But I do not think it is beyond the realm of a Dagnu's power."

"But that means Angelus is still out there," Buffy said, turning to look down at Angel.

"So we should what, make our Angel wear a nametag so we can tell which one is which?" Xander asked. "Hello my name is Human Angel." Willow cracked a smile.

"We can take care of Angelus," Buffy said. "But what if the Dagwood thing gets in the way?"

"We cannot let the Dagnu determine our course of action," Giles said. "We simply do not have the capacity to fight it. And we have no idea when or if it will act again. We must assume that it is finished with you and Angel, or that it will be content simply to observe."

"I agree," Wesley said. "We must act normally."

"Cause this is such a normal situation," Faith said sarcastically. "This plan sucks. We can't just pretend it's not there and wait for it to dick us over again."

"We have no choice," Giles said. Faith punched her open hand savagely with her other fist, her mouth twisted into a frown. Then she nodded once. Giles turned his attention to Angel.

"You are the one it seems most likely would be affected if the Dagnu does act again." Angel nodded, touched by the concern on Giles' face. "I can only repeat my advice, act as if the Dagnu will not cause any more changes." The Watcher paused thoughtfully and lowered his gaze. "I believe you will have enough of a challenge adapting to humanity without the added concern of worrying about further changes."

"What's the big adaptation?" Xander said. "It's pretty much just he can get a tan and come off that liquid diet, right?"

"Unfortunately, no," Giles said. "I cannot guess exactly what the transition will be like, but it involves an entire lifestyle change. Things you've taken for granted, Angel, will no longer be there. Your vampiric strength and healing ability, your reflexes, your night vision. You must learn to eat, to mix with humanity, to perhaps get a job..." he trailed off.

"I understand," Angel said. "I've already noticed bunches of small things, and I know it'll take some time..." He looked at Buffy and his face broke into a smile. "But I can make the transition. I can learn, and change. I want to..." Buffy slid her fingers down his cheek and squeezed his hand.

"So what's the plan then?" Xander asked, turning away from the couple. "If we aren't supposed to worry about the omnipotent demon who could be watching us at this very minute, then what are we supposed to be worrying about."

"Our priority now should be dealing with Angelus," Wesley said. "We need to figure out where he is and kill him before he has the chance to gather a following."

"I'm down with the killing part," Faith said.

"Well, he probably hasn't had time to go anywhere new," Buffy said. "He couldn't have had much of the night left when he got out of the tunnels, if he's out yet."

"But he'd know the mansion is the obvious place," Willow said. "Why would he make himself into a sitting duck?"

"Good point," Buffy agreed. "He could have gone to the sewers for the day..."

"We'll never find him if he's hiding down there. There's too much area to cover, and he's probably expecting us," Xander said.

"I agree," Giles said. "I think we should check the mansion just in case. The other possible locales, the sewers and the caves, are too difficult to search. Where ever he is, he's stuck there as long as it's daylight. So there should not be any problems if everyone stays alert."

"Once night falls, we'll have to make sure everyone either stays inside where it's safe or goes out protected," Buffy said.

"We can use the day to make sure all the invitation reversal spells get said," Willow agreed. "I don't think Angel's been back to many of the houses. We already did Giles' place. But yours'll have to be done too, Buffy." Buffy nodded, her eyes turned toward Angel's hand as her fingers played over it and his thumb massaged her palm.

"So I guess Faith and I should go to the mansion," Buffy said, unable to keep her voice completely emotionless. All she wanted was to stay there, next to the man she had been sure she'd lost again.

"No, that's okay," Faith said. "I can handle it alone." She raised her hand to stop the protests that rose in several throats. "Look, we doubt he's even there, right? And I'll just do recon. If he's there, I'll come back and we can go in full force. Otherwise, no point in two of us going." She looked at Buffy, and the other Slayer smiled at her. She shrugged off the unsaid thanks, and looked to Giles.

"Yes, I suppose that would work," Giles said at last. He glanced at his Slayer. "And I believe Buffy would be happiest if she could rest for a while. She's had a hard time of it."

"Xander and I can do the spell over at your house," Willow said. "And anywhere else we can think of." Xander nodded, his gaze on Buffy and Angel's joined hands. He looked up, shaking himself slightly and nodded again.

"Yeah, we can be the invitation busters," he said with a smile at Willow. The two of them headed for the stairs, calling good-byes, and Wesley followed them.

"I'm going to head over the library and continue researching the Dagnu just in case there's something useful out there."

"Don't stay there after sundown without one of the Slayers," Angel said. "The other Angel can get in the school." Wesley nodded, his face pale.

Faith walked out after him. "If he's not at the mansion, I'll go by a couple places like Willy's," she said. "I'll be back in a couple hours."

Giles watched her go, then turned his attention to Buffy and Angel. "Both of you need a change of clothes," he said, motioning with his glasses toward their dirty, ragged state. "Angel you can use some of mine if you're mobile enough to change. Buffy..."

"I knew I should have left some training clothes here," she said, then added with a smile. "I look terrible in tweed."

"Actually..." he hesitated. "I do have an outfit or two in the closet that belonged to Jenny, Miss Calendar." Angel sucked in a sharp breath, and Giles swallowed, his eyes suspiciously bright. "I think they would fit you better than my sweatpants."

"Giles, I couldn't," Buffy said, her voice cracking.

"I know it's awkward to suggest," Giles said. "But I think she would agree that you need them more than she does...or I do," he amended. He crossed the small distance to where the Slayer stood and took her unoccupied hand in his. He squeezed it briefly then let it go. "Please, I want you to. I know you don't want to go home right now." Buffy's lower lip crumpled, and her eyes filled with tears. She nodded, then let go of Angel's hand and impulsively threw her arms around her Watcher. When she pulled away his shirt was wet with her tears, and her hair was damp with his.

"Thank you," she breathed, the words barely audible. He nodded and wiped hastily at his eyes.

"They-they're in the closet," he said pointing toward it. "You can h-help yourselves." After one backwards glance, he hurried to the stairs. Angel watched him go, his own eyes filled with tears. His heart swelled with affection for the man. He knew how much it must have cost the Watcher to open himself that way, and for the sake of the thing who had tried to destroy him. Angel sighed softly. He could never be worthy of Giles' forgiveness, but the man constantly surprised him by offering it. Buffy sat back down on the bed next to him, and he lay still, his limbs heavy with exhaustion. She stretched out next to him and rested her head against his chest. His heart thudded against his ribs under the weight of her head and he smiled.

"I should look at that wound on your back," she said, her voice unsteady.

"Later," he said softly. Her head shifted as she nodded, then her body began to shake. He stroked her hair, running his fingers over the tangled strands, and muttering comforting words. She only cried harder, her body shuddering more and more violently as she let go of the emotions she had been attempting to control since they had begun this ordeal in the caves. Grief and relief combined and overwhelmed her, joy and the pain she had not let herself feel before. He began to cry with her, his chest hitching under her head where her tears slicked his skin with salt water. She clutched at his torso, and he wrapped his arm around her as best he could with the stiffness of his wounds, each holding on for dear life. The tears fell like cleansing rain, washing away pain and fear and festering doubt. Slowly the sobs faded and they lay together with their tears spent; their bodies were weak and exhausted, and their souls abused with the intensity of the past two days' struggle. But they were wrapped in each other and for a moment they were at peace.