***Part Nine***

"I guess L.A. has been good to you," Buffy said as they entered the Wolfram & Hart building. Andrew could be heard oohing and aahing behind her. It was an impressive building, Angel had to admit. One would think it was your usual, run of the mill law firm.

"I did what I had to do, Buffy."

"Work for the enemy?"

Angel shrugged as an employee brushed past them and said hello. "Buffy," he said in protest. There was no way she would ever understand until he told her the truth. She was right that they hid things from one another in an attempt to protect the other. He had wanted to protect her from the moment he first saw her. He was not sure what her reasons were for wanting to protect him. "Please can you stop bringing that up until we've talked?"

"And when will that be?"

"Let's find your friends and see what's going on there. That's why you're here, so let's take care of that first."

It felt like she was looking right through him. She doubted him and it made him want to reach out and assure her that he knew what he was doing. Honestly, though, he was no longer sure that he did.

"Fine," she finally said and Angel knew it took a lot for her to let the issue drop. "Let's find them."

"Where are Wesley and the others?" Angel asked Harmony. She was useless as an assistant, but it kept her from preying on humans and out of trouble in general.

"Oh my God, Buffy! I never thought I'd see you again. You look great."

"Thanks, Harmony," Buffy said. Angel felt her scrutiny and merely shrugged. "You look good, too."

"Angel didn't tell you I was working here, did he?"

"No, he didn't."

"Who would have thought, huh? I mean, I leave Sunnydale and end up working for Angel. And Wesley. If only Cordelia were here."

"Where is Wes, Harmony?" Angel asked through gritted teeth. The last thing he wanted was Harmony running her mouth about things she should not. She did not know half of what she thought she did to begin with.

"Geez, there's no need to get huffy with me. They're in your office."

"You can take a trip down memory lane on your own time."

"Fine," she said and answered the phone.

Angel placed a hand at the small of Buffy's back to lead her to his office. He enjoyed touching her, probably too much given once he told her everything she probably would not have anything to do with him. So he took advantage of her letting him touch her while he could.

"I don't understand it, Giles. I know my spells have a tendency now and again to go a little wonky, but it's been a while since anything has been this far off."

"What's going on?" Buffy asked. Angel could hear the concern in her voice as she regarded the group.

"It's not working."

"There is another possibility," Giles said with a sigh.

"What other possibility, Giles? They were there a few hours ago and now they're gone. I doubt getting closer to them would be bad."

"What if it was only temporary?"

"Temporary?" Buffy asked. "Willow's spell?"

"The idea you had was an incredible one, Buffy, but it defies slayer law as we know it. It's entirely plausible the Powers That Be did not like the idea of the side of good having so many soldiers."

"I so don't get it. Isn't that their purpose? They want us to defeat evil."

"Yes, but in balance, Buffy. When Anya and I went out in search of some answers while we were still getting information on the First we found out that the slayer line was the reason the First was able to become so powerful. Somehow, things got skewed. Whether it was because you had been resurrected, again, or merely because you and Faith co-exist as slayers, I don't know."

"He's right, Buffy," Angel said softly. He hated to say it, but Giles was right. Things had to be balanced and if something happened to put things out of balance that was never good.

"Well, how can we find out? I mean, we've got to help these girls if they have Slayer powers. And if they had them and lost them," Buffy shuddered. "I remember what that was like, Giles."

"We have some names from our record searches. Perhaps we can contact them and conduct a few interviews. I just thought the girls at UCLA were so close it was an omen to find them."

"And why would the spots have been there this morning but not now? Are you telling me the Powers That Be act that fast?"

"They can, Buffy, I'm sorry to say that I've seen it," Wesley said with a glance at Angel. Angel knew exactly what Wesley was talking about and glared at the man. Wesley was the only one left who knew of Angel's stint as human and what happened with Buffy.

"But why would they wait this long? I mean, it's been months."

"I have no answer to that, Buffy, and I'm afraid my ability to contact them has been severed. Cordelia was their way to contact me. With her gone," Angel shrugged. "I'm afraid I'm cut off from them."

"So we can't find out? That's ridiculous. Those girls deserve to know what's going on."

"Buffy, I've told all of you many times over the years when you cast a spell of such magnitude as the one we did there is a good chance there will be consequences. Using magic is not a game, it can be dangerous."

"But those girls were innocent."

"Not to the Powers That Be they wouldn't have been, Buffy, and certainly not to the other side."

"I'm so sick of this balance talk. Isn't good supposed to win?"

"Buffy," Willow said. "It's all right, really. I wasn't even sure the spell would work. The fact it worked at all," she shrugged. "Well, it saved our lives. We lost some people and we lost Sunnydale but the rest of the world is here. We did that, Buffy."

"I'll have some people research it immediately," Wesley said. "Willow told me about the spell she cast, so I think we can find some information on it."

"Thanks, Wesley," Buffy said with a resigned smile.

"Anytime, Buffy, anything I can do to help. Obviously, we don't know that is what's going on. There could be an entirely different explanation. But I find it hard to believe in a metropolitan area as large as Los Angeles that no slayers would show up with Willow's locate spell."

"Agreed," Giles said.

"So," Xander said from the couch. "There's nothing more we can do here. You did the spell again and it didn't work, so we go back to the house and let these guys get with their research."

"Xander," Buffy said. "This is our problem that Angel is nice enough to help us with. It'd be kind of rude to bail on him and leave his employees who are paid to work on other things to do the work."

"Our resources are at your disposal, Buffy. We're fighting for the same cause," Angel said.

"So, who wants to stay?"

"Not me, I've had enough of LA to last me a lifetime," Faith said as she pushed off from the wall she had been leaning against. The black man, Robin, was next to her and for the first time since Angel had known Faith she looked content, happy even, and Angel was glad for her. If only everyone in this room would get a chance at happiness, but he had contented himself long ago with the fact it would never happen.

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