Angel looked over his shoulder.
"Fred, Wesley. Get in. Let's go,"
They slid into the back seat as Lorne sauntered onto the sidewalk and leaned against the door of the car. Angel looked up at him.
"All right. What do you see?"
"Somebody in danger who could put a lot of other people in danger, too," Lorne reached across Angel and offered Willow his hand.
"Hi. I'm Lorne. I know you gotta skadaddle. You're a witch, right?"
"Um," said Willow.
"Don't let him out of your sight. I mean literally. This could get bad. How are your binding spells?"
Willow stared into his bright red eyes.
"Solid," she said.
"They're gonna need to be more than solid,"
"Any other good advice?" snapped Angel.
"Uh-huh," Lorne leaned into Angel's ear, saying softly, "You might wanna give Fred here a little background before you put her to work for your cause. She's got the moony eyes on ya,"
"I'll call you," said Angel.
"I thought you'd never say it. Actually, you won't have time," said Lorne, "But it's a nice thought," he swayed away, calling over his shoulder, "Bring the young'un home for a song. Maybe something by Helen Reddy. I am woman, hear me roar, with a voice too loud to ignore..." the precise tenor strains faded in the alley. Angel snapped the transmission into drive and they were on the dark street, buffeted gently by the warm LA wind with its sweet stink.
"Um...Angel?" Fred said, leaning foreward, "What you guys were talking about inside, about the portals?"
"Well, if dimensional integrity was compromised, we're not talking about portals. We're talking about an interdivisional tear. Portals are like paved roads, compared to serious four-wheeling. Do you guys ever go four-wheeling?"
"Not in a while," said Angel.
"Well, it's rougher terrain," said Fred with a breathless giggle, "If you know what I mean. You can't just drive a vintage convertible up the side of a mountain,"
"So...if it wasn't a portal Buffy went through, what was it?"
"We don't know she went through any kind of a portal or anything," said Willow, "We do know that she's dead. She's not breathing,"
"Sure," said Fred, "Because the body is the wrong vehicle, in an interdivisional sense. It won't go. Not if there's no portal,"
"What are you saying?" said Angel, "That she just left her body behind, right? So she's not in another dimension at all? She's just...lost in between somewhere?"
"It's not possible to take the physical body with. Not in interdivisional travel," said Fred, "Einstein tried to explain that once. That's where he was when he got the Relativity Theory,"
"I thought that was in a dream," said Wesley.
Fred giggled. "Dreams," she said, "There are lots of kinds of dreams,"
"Wait," said Willow, "Are you a physicist, or a shaman?"
Fred burst into laughter, "Sure. And Buddhist...lots of things. Physics after the 5th Solvay Congress pretty much gave up on assuming an objective reality,"
"OK, everyone not getting the point," said Willow, "Buffy is dead. She gave up her life for a reason. How do we know she isn't just dead? It's the natural order of life, and I won't mess with that,"
"Exactly what I mean," said Fred.
"No. That we think we know what natural order is. Nobody knows that!"
"Willow," said Wesley, "Did you see Buffy jump?"
"No," she said.
"But you do know that dimensions were breaking down?"
"Yeah. Everything was coming apart. Every entity in every dimension was going to suffer and die. We saw them...glimpses of them. Things you've never seen...and we were all in trouble. We were all going bye-bye,"
"Who would do such a thing?" asked Wesley.
"A god. A god who wanted to go home,"
"Really?" said Wesley, "Fastenating,"
"So it can't be a portal," said Angel, "We'll have to open up the dimensional division the same way it got opened before,"
"No." said Willow. "That will never happen again. I will not allow it," she looked directly at Angel, "I'll kill you if you try,"
"Oh! Oh, my God!" Fred cried out.
"What? What?" said Angel, glancing along the street for trouble.
"Tacos! Oh...oh, TACO BELL! There's still Taco Bell!"
"There were five Taco Bells in Sunnydale the last time I was there," said Angel, "We're not stopping. I'm sorry, Fred. This is too important,"
Fred flopped back into the seat, folding her hands. "Love is important," she said, softly.
Angel frowned at her in the rear-view mirror. She didn't catch his eye because he wasn't reflected in it, but she gazed at the back of his head with longing and sighed. He flinched.
"Angel," said Wesley, "Do you have a plan?"
"Not without me, you don't," said Willow.
"That's true," said Angel, "I can't do it without you. And I will not ask you to do anything you can't live with. I won't, Willow. I promise. But there's got to be a way,"
Willow lowered her eyelashes and swallowed. "OK. I like it better when we're friends, you know?"
"Yeah," he said, "Me, too,"
"I know you love her. And I know you guys have...an unusual connection. But what is it you feel that makes you say this isn't just grief? That you really think-"
"I can't tell you that," he said, "I just know. OK. Wesley, Fred. There's got to be something in the books. How do you make a tear in the...dimensions?"
"Dimensional division," Fred corrected him.
"I need to get there. Sunnydale's got to be full of hot spots. Wesley?"
"Well, certainly. It's a Hellmouth. It's possible that such a radical compromise of the continuum could not have been brought about in any other place,"
"But I don't need to rip through the entire house like a god would, right? I just need a door in. Just a tear big enough to get me inside. A dog door,"
Willow pressed her lips together. "The connection is Dawn. She's the Key. But no blood of hers gets spilled again. Not ever,"
"Of course not," said Angel, with such earnest intensity that Willow's shoulders loosened. She took a deep breath.
"The Key?" asked Wesley.
"She's in human form...but she's the Key to the dimensions. She's pure energy. In the body of a teenage girl. Dawn isn't really Buffy's little sister,"
Wesley was silent, absorbing this.
"The spilling of blood is a ritual condition," said Fred, "Right-uh-Willow, is it?"
"Yeah," said Willow. "Good point. If you make it a condition of the ritual, then that's the way you have to go. That's the door,"
"There's always a back door," said Angel, "Or a basement window, or a fire escape,"
"OK," said Willow. "Analogy getting worn,"
"What did you call the spell to open up the portals? Fred?"
"Yeah. Is there more triverbal in the monks' books?"
"What monks?" asked Willow.
"That...that's a really long explanation," said Angel. "Please, Willow. We can do that later,"
"OK," said Willow, "But I'm gonna want the whole slide show,"
"The spilling of blood is only used in rituals of an intensely transformative nature," said Wesley, "Basically, one uses the life force to feed something, or someone...or the ritual itself. But you will need a blood ritual of sorts in order to jump into the division,"
"Not Dawn's blood," said Willow.
"Dawn's blood won't be needed," said Wesley, "This isn't a breakdown of the entire continuum. The blood that will be spilled will be Angel's. He's going to have to leave his body behind as well,"
"You might not come back," said Fred, "And you might not even find her there, either,"
"I'll find her," said Angel.
"Hold on," said Willow. "We're talking about Angel's soul leaping out and going on an errand and leaving Angelus to mind the store. Am I the only one who sees a market crash coming?"
"It's the only way,"
"There's got to be some place you can seal me in. Some place safe. Before I make the jump,"
When the convertible finally slid to a stop on the gravel drive of Sunnydale's Shady Cemetery, the sky was growing pink. Willow was out of the car and down the stairs into the crypt before Angel could shut the engine off. Angel looked up at the soft beginnings of dawn and his stomach hardened. No more sunlight. But sunlight in Lorne's homeworld had been more trouble than it was worth.
Willow appeared at the top of the stairwell. "This would be prefect. But it's occupied right now. And it's getting light,"
Spike emerged, rat-haired, groggy with sleep, and hollowed. Angel had seen him look better.
"Oh, goody. The circus. You can set up the freak tent in the town square," he turned away.
"Spike, we're going to need to share space," said Willow.
"Then get him a bloody hotel room. Put him in the magic shop basement. What do I care?"
"Spike," said Angel.
Spike wheeled and glared at him. "Yeah, pouf. I got neutered, too. Wanna chant? Make brandy? Sod off,"
"We'll talk later, Spike," said Willow, "Magic Shop. It's only a few blocks, we'll make it,"
"What's he so torn up about?" mused Angel, as gravel spewed behind them, "Where am I going?"
"Three blocks, then left,"
"So, he can't kill. Buffy said he'd adjusted to that...sort of,"
"Well..." said Willow, "Yeah. He adjusted. Like, really adjusted. He sort of adjusted to Buffy,"
"Spike was in love with Buffy,"
"Buffy never went there, Angel. Hello! V-chip does not equal soul,"
"Oh," said Angel, rolling the wheel smoothly as they slid into a parking space, "Oh." he sat, thinking. Willow opened the car door and led him into the shop.