Balancing the Scales by Kantayra

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Elizabeth Summers is a rising star in the Boston District Attorney's Office. The only thorn in her side is her ex-boyfriend, William 'Spike' Albrook, P.I. But when Spike is accused of murder, Elizabeth alone rushes to his defense and, in the process, comes to rediscover the fire she left behind in her race to the top.

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Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 1: Trials and Tribulations

"Mister Albrook," Elizabeth Summers rose from her seat in a graceful, fluid motion. The tone she gave to the title was just enough to make the jury wonder whether the witness on the stand truly deserved it.

She walked toward the witness stand in a casual manner, polished black heels clicking on the courtroom tile. Hours had been spent making sure the business suit she wore looked both attractive and conservative, and her shoulder-length blonde hair was tied back in a tight, professional-looking bun. In short, Elizabeth knew how important appearance was to making the right impression, and she was consistently beloved by juries for her striking looks and confident demeanor.

"Or.should I call you 'Spike'?" she read from the folder in her hand, brow slightly furrowed as if she'd never noticed this disturbing little piece of information before.

The man on the stand leaned forward in a seductive stance, smirk already firmly in place. "You can call me whatever you want, luv," he said in a low purr, his soft British accent sending tingles down the spines of all who heard it.

Juror Number Five bit back a snort of laughter.

Elizabeth merely looked up at him critically, eyeing his bleached white hair and scarred brow and obviously finding him lacking. "You aren't called 'Spike', then?" she inquired pointedly.

"'m called a lot of things," he provided unhelpfully.

Jurors Number Five and Two both looked amused now.

Elizabeth decided it was prudent to move on. "You're a private investigator, isn't that right, Mister Albrook?" she inquired.

"Somethin' like that," he agreed, sitting back comfortably and intentionally watching her legs.

"Your Honor," Elizabeth protested, "permission to treat this witness as hostile."

Judge Peterson watched, unimpressed, as Spike licked his lips and followed the curve of Elizabeth's ass intently with molten blue eyes. "Permission granted. The witness will answer the prosecution's questions seriously," Judge Peterson sent a scathing look Spike's way.

He gave her a disinterested shrug in response.

Elizabeth stepped up closer to the podium when she continued so he had no choice but to direct his gaze towards her face. "And, on the night of the sixteenth, that was why you were parked outside the defendant's apartment building?" she continued with her line of questioning.

"Yeah," he nodded, cocky demeanor receding slightly.

"And what exactly had you been hired to do that night?" she pressed.

"Just watch Mister Trick there, and follow him if he left," he said simply.

"I see." Elizabeth stepped back away from the podium and took two paces, creating a short, dramatic pause. "So you were watching Mister Trick's building non-stop from seven o'clock on the evening of the sixteenth until nine o'clock on the morning of the seventeenth, is that your testimony?"

"Right as rain, luv," he agreed with a lazy, seductive smile in Juror Number Three's direction. She blushed slightly in response.

"That's fourteen hours straight?"

"Sounds 'bout right."

"And never once, that entire night, did you maybe.drowse off?" Elizabeth suggested.

"No." Fiery blue eyes were narrowed to steely points now that the true drilling began.

"You never left your car once?"

"No," he insisted vehemently.

"Not once?"

"What can I say, luv, 've got a lot of.stamina." He replied in a breathless whisper.

Elizabeth acted as though she hadn't even heard the innuendo. "Maybe to get something to drink from the café on the corner? It was open all night."

"No," he repeated.

"To use the payphone?"

"Objection." The defense attorney rose with the overly-offended manner necessary for all objections. "Asked and answered."

"Objection sustained," Judge Peterson ruled. "Move on, Ms. Summers."

Elizabeth nodded, not shaken in the slightest. "Where was the defendant's car parked that night?" she questioned.

"Out in back," Spike supplied readily enough. "There's a lot off the alley."

"And could you see his car?"

Spike's eyes narrowed at that, and a muscle in his cheek twitched. "No," he conceded reluctantly.

"How long do you think it would take the defendant to have gotten from his second floor apartment, down the stairs, and around back to his car where you wouldn't be able to see him?" she demanded.

"Objection!" The defense attorney was up in arms again. "Mister Albrook never climbed those stairs. He has no way of knowing-"

"He watched the building for fourteen hours straight," Elizabeth cut in just as vehemently. "He should be able to make a conservative estimate.if he was really there."

"And now the prosecution's testifying!" the defense protested.

"Quite right," Judge Peterson agreed. "Ms. Summers, that last comment was out of line. However, the witness should be qualified to give a rough estimate. Answer the question, Mister Albrook."

Spike shrugged and scratched at his scarred eyebrow. "Five minutes?" he suggested. "Tops."

"So, then," Elizabeth was back on track now, "if, in that entire fourteen hour period, you looked away even once for five minutes, the defendant could have exited the building, gotten to his car, and driven off without your knowledge?"

"If-"

"Just answer the question, Mister Albrook," Elizabeth insisted.

"'S possible," he conceded with a roll of his eyes, "if I looked away. I din't."

"You had a cell phone with you in the car?"

"Yeah."

"And you received.three calls from your office during your stakeout?"

"Yeah."

"One of which was nearly fifteen minutes long."

"Kept my eye on the buildin' the entire time," Spike insisted stubbornly.

"I see." A sly smile crossed Elizabeth's lips, and she intentionally let her bra-strap slip down her shoulder beneath the summer blouse she was wearing, exposing a bit more of her flesh than was entirely proper. A glint of triumph lit up in her eyes when the motion caught Spike's gaze, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, watching the silken fabric slide sensuously against her skin. "You've been a private detective for how long?"

"Just over six years," he replied gruffly, fighting back a groan at the memory of that soft skin in his palm, her warm body beneath him, surrounding him as they.

"So, you must be pretty good at it by now, huh?" She gave him a flirtatious little smile.

He instantly knew something was up. "'ve known worse."

"I'll bet you have," Elizabeth agreed teasingly. "And your job is to observe, am I right?"

"In part." Her perfume seemed overwhelming to him at that moment, the fragrant scent of vanilla bringing him back to the first time he'd glimpsed perfection.

"So, I bet you can tell me which door the Executive Assistant District Attorney just left through, can't you?" she asked with false sweetness.

He snorted. He knew this had been some sort of set-up. "I wasn't hired to watch your boss," he insisted.

"No," she agreed, "but you're still sticking by your story that you couldn't possibly have been distracted, even for a few minutes?"

"Not unless you're admittin' you having done a li'l striptease act in my car," he retorted with a lascivious leer.

"Your Honor-!"

"Quite, Ms. Summers," Judge Peterson agreed. "One more comment like that, and I'll find you in contempt," she warned Spike with a glare.

"Just pointin' out the obvious logical flaw in the question," he insisted defensively. "Oh, and he went through the back."

Elizabeth seethed inwardly at that but forced herself to maintain all outward cool. "Who hired you to watch the defendant that night?" she snapped.

"'m bound not to reveal the name of my employer," he retorted.

"Isn't it true that Alan Fitch hired you? A known mob associate who once hired Mister Trick to commit murder?" she shot out.

"Objection, Your Honor!" the defense exclaimed.

"I'll beat you to it," Judge Peterson gave Elizabeth a harsh glare. "The witness' client has a right to confidentially," she said sternly, "and all criminal acts not in evidence are completely irrelevant to this case. The jury will disregard. Now, Ms. Summers, if you don't have anything else for this witness.?"

"Not at this time, Your Honor," Elizabeth conceded her momentary defeat and sat back down next to where Robin Wood had just returned.

"The witness can step down, then," Judge Peterson announced. "And, given the hour, court is adjourned for the day. We will resume at nine o'clock Monday morning." The gavel resounded throughout the courtroom, and half the staff had already packed their bags.

Elizabeth stuffed several manila file folders into her briefcase a bit more angrily than usual, only to freeze when she felt a hand come to rest in the small of her back.

"Nice try, luv," Spike purred in her ear, leaning in dangerously close.

"Juries don't buy clown acts," she informed him primly, refusing to back down as she turned to face him. The end result was that they were nose to nose, their own bodies' gravity in danger of pulling them together through that final gap between them and.

"You're barkin' up the wrong tree, pet," he assured her, one hand reaching forward to brush aside one lock of blonde hair that had escaped her bun. "Our friend over there din't leave 'is apartment once."

"We'll see about that," Elizabeth said stiffly, fighting the urge to react to his soft touch.

"Elizabeth." Robin Wood was a tall, commanding presence of a man. Strong, handsome African features gave way to a pair of chocolate brown eyes that seemed to see right into souls. However, as the Executive Assistant District Attorney shoved himself pointedly between Spike and Elizabeth, he found himself pitted against no less charismatic a presence. Dark eyes met angry blue for one second before Spike gave way, and Wood succeeded in pushing the other man back out into the aisle. "We need to get back to the office and go over our witness preps," Wood reminded Elizabeth.

"Right," she agreed, turning pointedly away from Spike and following Wood out. "I'd say it's been fun, William, but." she trailed off pointedly.

"Oh, you know you loved it, Buffy," he countered, watching after her sashaying hips hungrily.

She froze for one instant at the name but then shook it off and escaped from the crowded courtroom. She and Wood were greeted by the usual chaos outside but managed to make their way over to the two familiar police detectives near the entrance.

"Finn, Gates," Wood acknowledged as they approached. "We having any problems I should know about?"

Riley Finn, a tall, broad-shouldered cop with sandy blonde hair, shook his head negative. "Just checking up on our collar," he offered.

Wood nodded and casually turned away from the bustle of the crowded hallway so that no one outside their little group could catch his words. "It looks like Worth's going to testify on Tuesday."

Forrest Gates, Riley's street-smart partner, nodded. "We'll have him here, death threats or no," he assured Wood.

Wood gave him a curt nod of approval.

Riley watched with eyes narrowed as Spike finally exited the courtroom. "He just blew our shot at proving opportunity, didn't he?" he said angrily.

Elizabeth gave him a reassuring smile. "There was definite reasonable doubt there," she assured him. "You get us our witness, and the case is in the bag."

Riley nodded grimly. "This is the only charge we've managed to stick on Trick in five years." he began.

"And we won't let him go," Wood assured him. "Just make sure Worth's here bright and early on Tuesday morning."

Riley gave him one final nod before he and Forrest vanished back into the throng of court workers escaping for the night.

Elizabeth sighed. "There was reasonable doubt, right?" she asked hopefully.

"Oh yeah," Wood assured her with a kind smile. "Albrook made a royal ass of himself. The jurors might've been amused, but they weren't convinced."

"It feels like I'm the one who got made an ass of," Elizabeth countered, gratefully stepping out into the cool October air. When the halls of justice were crowded like that, it could get unbearably hot in just a few minutes.

"Nah," Wood assured her. "You made all the right calls. It's not your fault he wasn't dumb enough to fall for our trap."

Elizabeth flashed him a grateful smile and lolled her head around on her stiff neck.

"Only a dozen briefs tonight," Wood teased, "and then we get to relax to the sound of drunken judges arguing."

Elizabeth laughed at the joke and preceded him into the District Attorney's offices.

* * *

The event Wood had referred to was, of course, the Annual Bar Gala, held this year at the Museum of Fine Arts. For one night, one of the large central halls was cleared, and soft chamber music, fine tables with fine silverware, and plenty of food and wine were set up for the elite of the elite.

Elizabeth walked in on Wood's arm with a bright smile and a sleek emerald evening gown that she knew was the envy of every lawyer's wife in the room. She caught the eye of Rupert Giles, her mentor from Harvard Law, and managed a quick wave before Wood steered her towards a central round table where several of the other young stars of Boston's criminal attorney's office were already seated. The defense lawyer Elizabeth had argued with just that afternoon gave her a broad grin and handed off two glasses of champagne to the two district attorneys, and they quickly settled themselves down for pre-dinner small talk.

"So," Willow Rosenberg, environmental lawyer and Elizabeth's best friend and roommate from Harvard, began, leaning forward on her elbows, "is this some latest gossip I should know about?" She gestured to where Elizabeth's hand was curled around Wood's wrist.

"'Latest'?" Wood raised a skeptical eyebrow and looked to Elizabeth.

"Robin and I have come together for three years now," Elizabeth concurred with a sip of her champagne.

"Uh-huh." Willow looked unconvinced. "'Cause I've heard some suspicious rumors down at the DA's office about you two."

"Rumors?" Wood affected a mock-innocent look.

"Us?" Elizabeth played along with his act with a laugh.

Willow pouted, her shoulder-length red hair falling forward and she sat back with an audible huff. "Isn't there some law about keeping this stuff from your roommate?" she teased Elizabeth.

"Penal Code 403 Section D," Elizabeth joked back. She turned at the tap on her shoulder and smiled to see that Giles was behind her.

"One dance for the old, decrepit man?" he joked lightly, his eyes shinning with merriment.

Elizabeth laughed and took his hand, but not before turning back for one last comment to Willow. "Call me tonight after the party, and we can girl-talk like old times," she teased.

Willow instantly gave Wood a predatory look, and he laughed and held his hands up in defeat.

"Shall we?" Elizabeth said to Giles in a mock-formal voice, slipping into a loose dance with her surrogate father.

"You look well," Giles commented, affection slipping through his normal stuffy accent. His thin wire-rim glasses were perched dangerously low on his nose as always, but the lines of his smile held them in place.

"And, given that I'm seconding the Trick case, that's saying something," Elizabeth agreed. "I haven't had a full night's sleep all month."

"A lot of work, I'm sure," Giles agreed, "but congratulations on your promotion."

Elizabeth blushed. "I owe it all that overbearing slave-driver I interned with," she teased.

Giles laughed. "It's always the same. You children call me an ogre until you get out in field and discover that I've been lenient on you."

"Ah, for the days when I only had to work half-days on weekends," Elizabeth agreed.

"Cordelia said the same thing to me when she called last week," Giles confirmed.

"Cordy?" Elizabeth inquired. "How's she doing over in LA, anyway?"

"She informed me that I should tell you and Willow that she had dinner with Brad Pitt and his agent back in June, and that you should both be horribly jealous."

Elizabeth let out a little gasp of protest. "Bitch," she concluded.

Giles laughed at that before turning matters to a somewhat more delicate topic. "I heard you encountered William in the Trick case," he pressed lightly.

Elizabeth stiffened for an instant before nodding. "Yeah," she agreed.

"How is he?" Giles asked, genuinely interested in his former student.

Elizabeth sighed. "Fine, I guess. I don't know. We don't exactly." Another sigh. "You know."

Giles nodded soberly. "The last I saw him was in the hospital after that bar fight."

"Well, his eye's not gushing blood anymore," Elizabeth tried to make light of the situation. "He got himself a nasty scar, though."

Giles let out a wistful sigh. "I do hope he is well," he agreed. "It always seemed a great shame to me that you kids."

Elizabeth smiled softly as well. "Yeah," she agreed, thinking back on her Harvard Law days.

* * *

"Our goal is to be ready for trial in two weeks," Giles informed the handful of students he'd chosen as assistants. "This is a very tight schedule, and I will expect you all to do whatever I, or any of the other members of the firm, tell you to. Now.Rosenberg and Chase? You two will be responsible for searching through Roy Auto's expense reports and double-checking everything against their tax returns."

He dropped a huge stack of papers in front of Willow and Cordelia, and the two women grimaced at the work ahead of them.

"Albrook and Summers? You two will look up precedents on Motion Five that Mister Carleton was so kind to impose upon us yesterday. We have to be ready to argue before Judge Simmonds on Tuesday."

He plopped copies of the motion in front of Buffy and the shy, young man that sat at the back of the room, away from everyone else.

"The rest of you will work with the office staff in generating the exhibits we'll need for our preliminary case presentation on the 15th. Any questions?" Of course, there were none. Yet. "Then, get to work."

The room vacated more efficiently than any fire alarm at Giles' order, leaving only the four law students with special assignments behind.

Cordelia turned to Buffy and grimaced. "Guess we won't be seeing each other for the next week," she said apologetically.

"Yeah, and we thought it'd be great that we all got in at the same firm," Willow agreed. She gave Buffy a guilty little smile, sorry that her friend was the odd man out.

Buffy put on a big smile for show, but she did feel left out. "That's the business," she decided. "All work and no play."

"And it'll be all work since you're paired up with the nerd," Cordelia mumbled under her breath so that the man in back being discussed couldn't hear.

"Be nice," Willow hissed, whapping Cordelia on the arm. "Well, we've got to grab some files from the office so."

"Until we're all work-free," Buffy waved, watching her friends go with a sigh. She then turned to her partner in this hellish exercise.

She'd never really paid much attention to the quietest member of their class. He always sat in the back row, he never talked to anyone, and the only time he ever spoke was to answer some obscure question that no one else in the class had the slightest clue about. As a result, he'd gotten a reputation for being one of those socially dysfunctional geniuses. It certainly didn't help that he wore all tweed all the time, had the geekiest pair of glasses imaginable, and let his brown hair poof up in the most ridiculous way.

Nevertheless, this was their job, and Buffy was going to damn well do it right. "Hi," she said, offering him her hand, "I don't think we've talked before. I'm Buffy Summers."

The hand that took hers was large and strong and warm. "William Albrook," he agreed in a softly accented British voice.

Their eyes met then, and Buffy felt her breath catch in her throat as something just.clicked. Never, ever had she seen such an amazing shade of blue in all her life. She was suddenly aware of the strikingly handsome features that lay behind the glasses and bad hair, and the powerful, lean build beneath all that tweed. Her face flushed slightly as she felt herself drowning in the twin pools of blue, and she nervously managed to stammer out.

"U-Uh, so shall we get off?" She winced at the slip. "I mean, get going?"

* * *

The song came to an end, and Giles left Elizabeth to return to her friends with a parting comment that she should call more often.

Elizabeth returned to her table to find Wood had take to dancing with Faith Vlore, the world's nastiest opponent to have in all the Massachusetts court system. Apparently, Faith was offering Wood a conciliatory dance after the way she'd smote him back when they had tried to prosecute Missus Anders for killing her husband.

"My date's run off, huh?" she commented lightly, turning back to where Willow was sipping her champagne contentedly.

"Jealous?" Willow pried.

Elizabeth shrugged. "Robin's a really nice guy," she said simply.

"And.?" Willow pressed.

A sigh. "A little sparkage, maybe," she agreed. "And it has been pointed out to me that dating a minority would put me in good standing should I ever run for office."

"Do I sense a touch of Hank Summers?" Willow teased.

"Dear old dad," Elizabeth agreed with a roll of her eyes. "I'm almost hesitant to date Robin just because dad would be such a conservative prick about it."

Willow smiled knowingly. "Or you're using that as a convenient excuse because you're not really interested in being more than just friends."

Elizabeth laughed. "See? This is why you were top of our class."

Willow grinned as well. "Well, it doesn't take a genius to notice that you haven't really taken to any guy since." She trailed off abruptly at her faux pas. "Sorry," she apologized with a wince.

"You can say his name," Elizabeth insisted. "It's not like I'll freak out-"

At that moment, their conversation was cut short when the cell phone Wood had left at the table rang. Elizabeth quickly searched the crowd for him but came up empty and, shrugging, answered in his stead. "Hello?"

"Where's Robin?"

Elizabeth recognized the agitated voice of Amanda, the office secretary. "He'll be back in a minute," she replied.

"You don't understand," Amanda insisted. "This is urgent. I need to." She paused when she belatedly recognized the voice on the other end. "Elizabeth, is that you?"

"Yeah, it's me," Elizabeth agreed, concerned now. "What's happened?"

Amanda took in a gasping breath. "It's terrible, Elizabeth," she said. "Mister Worth? Th-They got to him."

Elizabeth's face turned pale. "G-Got to him?" she repeated in disbelief. "You mean he's dead?"

Amanda nodded before realizing that Elizabeth couldn't see her. "Shot dead," she agreed.

Elizabeth rested her head in her hand with a groan. "What happened?" she asked wearily.

"The police caught the killer," Amanda assured her quickly. "He's being held at the station."

"Well, at least that's something," Elizabeth said, fighting back the pain in her heart that their attempts to protect their witness had failed and forcing herself to do something about it. "Robin and I will be right there. What's the killer's name?"

"William Albrook."

And Elizabeth belatedly heard the sound of a champagne glass shattering as it fell to the floor, the horror of what she'd just heard making the rest of the world seem to shrink back in space and time. "N-No." she uttered shakily before the phone fell from her hand.



Chapter 2: Loyalty

"Elizabeth," Riley said with a weary smile as she burst into the squad room still dressed in the elegant eveningwear from the ball, "yeah, I know we blew it, but at least we got the guy who-"

"Where is he?" Elizabeth ran a hand through her now-disheveled hair, her mind narrowed down to pinpoint focus. Really, it was a wonder she hadn't had an accident on the frantic drive here.

"We've got him in interrogation room two," Riley provided, "but he's as good as convicted. We've got the gun with his prints, in his car. And he was hovering over the corpse when we-"

"In a second." Elizabeth held up one hand for silence, continuing to wind herself through the assortment of desks and over to the necessary room.

Riley chased after her, somewhat surprised by her determination. "It's still salvageable, though," he quickly defended himself. "If Spike's working for Wilkins, then it shoots his credibility to hell in the Trick-"

Elizabeth came to an abrupt halt outside the interrogation room and breathed a deep sigh of relief to see Spike, safe and sound and looking very dejected, in the chair of the cold concrete room. Some irrational voice in the back of her head had only heard that he had been involved in a shooting and had refused to let her mind relax until she finally saw him alive and well. The violent pounding of her heart slowed from its deafening cacophony, and she finally first registered Riley's presence fully.

"He's cuffed," she said simply.

"He is considered dangerous," Riley pointed out.

Elizabeth shook her head. "He's not dangerous," she insisted. "I need to talk to him."

"He asked for a lawyer," Riley provided. "It could be a while before we can get a public defender in, and-"

"I need to talk to him." Elizabeth's tone brooked no argument.

Riley let her into the small interrogation room and, after a pointed look, removed Spike's handcuffs.

Spike looked up at that and noticed Elizabeth for the first time, the hints of a pleading look forming deep in his eyes.

"Leave us," Elizabeth instructed Riley.

He scratched his head hesitantly. "I'm not sure if that's such a-" he began.

"This is a privileged consultation," Elizabeth informed him primly. "Mister Albrook has a right to privacy."

Riley looked confused at that. "Miranda-"

"Only applies to agents of the justice system," Elizabeth concluded. "And, as of now, I am not acting as such."

"Then, why.?" Riley shook his head at her stubborn look. "Where's Wood?" he asked pointedly.

"No clue. Now, if you'll leave us."

Riley didn't look convinced, but he shrugged it off and shut the door behind him.

Elizabeth breathed a slow sigh of relief and turned back to Spike. "How are you doing?" she asked softly, a regretful smile on her face.

"Been better." He seemed to relax now that they were alone, some instinctive knowledge telling him that the danger had passed.for now.

Elizabeth pulled up a chair so that she could sit beside him. She tentatively reached out for his hand and gave him an affectionate smile when he didn't pull away. "Tell me about it?" she requested softly, her free hand venturing to cup his cheek.

And, as if a dam had suddenly burst, Elizabeth suddenly found herself cradling a frightened Spike in her arms, cooing soft promises as his tears stained the silk of her dress. She didn't mind, though. Nothing mattered at that moment except clearing up this horrible misunderstanding.

"I din't do it," he murmured repeatedly against the comforting warmth of her breast. "It wasn't me, Buffy. You've got to believe me."

"Shh," she whispered softly, suddenly uncomfortably aware of the spectacle they must be making to those stationed outside the one-way glass. "I believe you. I never doubted even for a second." As if in defiance to those outside, she gently stroked his platinum hair, noticing that even though the locks were bleached now they were still every bit as soft as she had remembered.

He slowly calmed down at her words and finally pulled away from her warm embrace, embarrassed at his own actions. He wiped frantically at his tear-stained cheeks and looked pointedly anywhere but at her. For a brief instant, his eyes alighted on the mirror on the wall, and he knew his emotional outbreak had been witnessed by all.

"And now you think 'm a complete wanker," he attempted to joke lightly. His heart wasn't in it, though.

Elizabeth kept her grip on his hand and smiled at him anyway. "I can't imagine I'd take to being accused of murder any better," she assured him.

"Yeah." He let out a weary sigh. "'m being railroaded, luv," he provided.

She nodded. "I kinda heard. I wasn't paying too much attention, though. I had to see you."

"And you have no idea how much the friendly face is 'ppreciated." He managed a tight-lipped smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

"Yeah, well, you know I'm always here. We're in this together." She trailed off and bit her lip nervously.

He nodded. "Seem to recall you tellin' me that once."

* * *

Buffy yawned and padded over to the door, running her fingers through sleep-tousled hair as she did so. The buzzer to her and Willow's door rang again just as she reached it. "Yeah, yeah, hold your horses, I'm co-" She froze in mid-syllable when she opened the door and saw who was on the other side of it. Her cheeks tinged slightly pink, and she quickly moved to straighten her hair. "Oh, um.hi, William. What's up?"

William looked a bit embarrassed that he'd obviously caught her sleeping and ducked his head in that shy manner that was almost permanent. "I-It's Giles," he said nervously. "He wants to see us right away about that brief, and." He trailed off, eyes looking anywhere but at the pointed nipples beneath her gray sleep shirt and the long, tanned legs revealed by her cutoff shorts. Inwardly, he cursed himself for his reaction. A beautiful woman like Buffy could never see anything in a nerd like him. She was popular and pretty and could have any guy she wanted.

"Now?" Buffy's eyes widened in alarm. "Uh-oh, what did we do?"

William shook his head. "Didn't say. Just that we were supposed to.er, get down to his office yesterday." His distraction was caused by the fact that Buffy had just turned around to let him into the small apartment. One of the legs of her shorts had a tear up the back that just barely exposed a hint of black lace. He shut his eyes tight as he entered the apartment and willed himself to remain in control.

"I'll just get dressed," Buffy offered, still blushing slightly. She bit her lip in disappointment when it appeared he had been too busy looking around the room to notice the extra little sashay she'd put in her step. Inwardly, she cursed herself. He was the quiet, studious type. He probably just thought of her as a flaky, vapid blonde, and she didn't know what to do about it. All her tricks for picking up popular guys just seemed to be falling flat on him.

"Oh, er, right." William blushed even harder and stared at the coffee table like it was the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen.

Buffy vanished into her bedroom. "How'd you find me here?" she asked hopefully. After all, looking a girl up was a definite sign of interest.

"I checked the law library. Your roommate was there," he responded. Hell, like he was going to tell her that he'd known all about her ever since she'd plopped down in the seat in front of him in his Legal Ethics class.

"Oh." Buffy tried to hide the disappointment in her voice. Yeah, of course, he'd know Willow. She was the academic type, just like him. Hell, if Willow weren't gay, the two of them would probably be a match made in heaven.

William sat down awkwardly on the threadbare couch and tried his hardest not to dwell on the fact that Buffy was quite probably naked in the other room. "Yeah. So, um, you ready?"

Buffy blushed when she realized her fingers had come to linger on one taut nipple as she listened to the sound of his voice, and she hastily raced to slip her bra and blouse on. "Just another minute!" she assured him, slipping into the pants that accompanied the suit.

She checked in the mirror, frowned, and yanked the pants and blouse back off, choosing a lower neckline and a short, professional skirt instead. She hopped back in front of the mirror in anticipation, decided she looked thoroughly lickable, and ran her brush through her hair one last time for good measure.

William frowned and checked his watch. What could possibly be taking her ten minutes? The image of her lithe, naked body strutting around in the other room popped quickly to mind, and he had to consciously force back the blood that was running south at the thought. "She's just a casual acquaintance," he mumbled his latest mantra to himself. "She has no interest in you outside of work."

"Did you say something?" Buffy frowned as she tried to pick up the muffled sounds.

William's face instantly flamed a deep red. "N-No," he insisted a bit too hastily, moving to rap on the bedroom door. "Are you almost done because-" He was cut off dead in mid-sentence when the door opened, revealing the most beautiful vision he had ever laid eyes on. His Adam's Apple bobbed as he gulped and forced himself to breathe. "U-Uh, we should go."

"Right," Buffy agreed with a little sigh. Would a comment on how nice she looked have been out of the question? Just some little hint that he'd noticed.

William held the door open for her, and they stepped out into the crisp, spring afternoon. With no clue what to do with his hands, he stuffed his sweating palms into the pockets of his tweed jacket and tried to look natural while walking beside the most beautiful woman he'd ever met.

Buffy was equally nervous, but instead of trying to act inconspicuous, she turned to her own defense mechanism: babbling. "So, what do you think this could possibly be about? Because we sooo had that brief turned in on time, and I thought we did a good job with the research. And Giles even said Carleton's motion would probably stand anyway, so he can't really blame us, can he? I mean, we're just second-year students and. We're just learning this stuff!"

"Calm down, luv." Before William had even had a chance to think about what he was doing, his hand came to rest in a comforting manner on her shoulder.

She turned wide hazel eyes to look at him at that, and he instantly blushed and withdrew his hand. Buffy was torn whether to be disappointed at the loss of touch or elated at the tingles that still lingered from where his hand had warmed her shoulder.

"I-I just mean," William hastily began scrambling for words as well, "he knows we're not pros yet, so even if we did bugger it all up, he'll just tell us how to better in the future. I mean." He trailed off, embarrassed. "If that makes any sense," he finally finished in a mumble.

"Yeah," she looked up at him with a soft smile, "that makes a lot of sense." It was the most he had ever said to her since they'd started working together. Usually he was strictly business, despite her subtle attempts to draw him out. But this more open William.this was nice.

They stood frozen on the pavement for a minute, lost in each other's eyes, before William reluctantly turned away. "Giles'll be pissed if we're late," he pointed out.

"Right," Buffy agreed, taking her place at his side once more. "You know," she began hesitantly, "that's actually a pretty good philosophy."

"Y-You think so?" he replied.

"We hapless law students have to stick by each other," she agreed. "We've got all this pressure on us and." She took a deep breath. "What do you say we make a pact?"

"A pact?" William inquired curiously.

"I stand by everything you did, and you stand by everything I did. 'Cause, y'know, we pretty much did everything equally and." She trailed off with a blush. While her efforts to chat William up may have failed, it was uncanny how fluidly they worked together. One of them would start an idea, and the other would finish it off. Whenever one got caught up on a detail, the other had the solution. Working together, she was quite positive there wasn't any corner they couldn't argue their way out off. It was.exhilarating. If only it would carry on to other matters as well.

"Perfectly equal." He agreed to that with a shy smile.

"So, we go in there with a united front. We're in this together, right?" Buffy decided, shoulders squared.

"Right."

There was a determined gleam in his eyes that Buffy found sexier than anything she'd ever seen before. "Shake?" she offered her hand.

He shook it. They walked into Giles' office, and.

"I didn't even believe it possible," Giles said with a wide smile. "Congratulations." He took the hands of each of his stunned interns, in turn, and shook them vigorously.

"Uh." Buffy began slowly, confused because they'd been all geared up to face a good yelling. "Huh?"

"Your work on Motion Five," Giles explained patiently. "We got it denied. I really didn't think there was much of a chance, but.whose idea was it to use the Turner Case?"

William and Buffy exchanged a look. "We both came up with it," William finally said sheepishly.

Buffy couldn't help but smile at that. Technically, he'd pointed out the significance of that case at first, but. Well, she had been the one to fit it into their argument.

"You two make an excellent team," Giles concluded. "I trust you would not be adverse to taking on another project?"

Hope flared in both Buffy and William's hearts. Both had been feeling a bit glum lately, since their excuse to work in close proximity was now gone.

"Not at all," Buffy assured him with a bright smile.

William merely nodded.

"Excellent," Giles concluded. "Now, I'd like to two of you to go through the witness interviews for-"

"Witness interviews?" William repeated in disbelief. "Don't you want someone with more experience to handle that?"

Giles merely shook his head. "How else does one get the experience?" he countered. "I have full faith that the two of you will be able to handle it." He shoved a stack of folders their way. "You have a week," he announced.

Buffy and William both nodded and quickly picked up the pile of work.

"Nice work, once more," Giles said cheerily to their retreating backs. The door to his office swung shut.

And Buffy and William both groaned. "Well, there goes the weekend," Buffy said with an apologetic sigh.

"Perhaps we should try to be more mediocre in the future?" William suggested with a completely straight face.

Buffy giggled. She'd only gotten rare glimpses of his quirky - and somewhat sarcastic - sense of humor, but they always delighted her. "Still," she let out a weary sigh and a yawn, "there goes my social life."

William looked down at the polished toes of his shoes. "It's Friday," he pointed out. "No reason not to have some fun tonight. We've got plenty of time to worry about everything else on Saturday."

Buffy blinked up at him in surprise. "Are you asking me out?" she asked hopefully.

William instantly froze like a deer caught in the headlights. His original thought had actually entailed her going out with all her friends and painting the town red, while he sat alone in his apartment moping around like a wanker. "Uh.well, I mean.don't know why you'd want me along." he began, horribly embarrassed.

"We're in this together," she reminded him of their earlier pledge. "That means for the celebration, too."

"Er, uh, great." He managed a shy smile.

"So, why don't we drop this stuff off in the law library," she gestured to the stacks of folders they were both carrying, "and then you can stop back by my apartment around eight?"

"Sure. Sounds good."

Inwardly, Buffy was ecstatic beyond words. He actually asked me out!

And, inwardly, William was cheering just as wildly. She actually asked me out.

* * *

Elizabeth took Spike's hand. "We're in this together," she repeated the words from years ago. "No matter what, remember?"

He shook his head. "You're not a part of this," he insisted. "Got myself into this mess all by my lonesome and-"

"William?" Elizabeth said with a falsely sweet smile.

"Yes, Buffy?" he shot back, a hint of the old fire in his eyes.

"Shut up and stop being ridiculous," she instructed. "You honestly think I'm just going to stand by and watch them pin this murder on you?"

He sulked and grumbled and shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"Now, tell me what happened," she demanded.

He let out a bark of laughter at that. "May not've actually graduated, luv, but 'm not about to provide fodder for the DA to convict me."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "I'm representing you, stupid," she shot back.

He balked at that, jaw dropping in surprise. "Don't need you to defend me," he insisted sullenly. "Can take perfectly good care of myself."

"Again with the being ridiculous!" Elizabeth exclaimed in annoyance. "The police have a murder weapon; they say your prints are on it. You think a public defender's going to get you off? Or maybe your dad will step in to help?" It was a low blow, and she knew it.

Spike instantly tensed and sent a scowl in her direction. "Don't need your help," he insisted, but even he knew it was a lie.

Elizabeth merely sighed. "Will you just tell me what happened?" she requested.

A moment of silence. "This won't bugger up that cushy job 'f yours?" he asked, concerned.

"Let me worry about that," she assured him.

He sighed and nodded. "Got an anonymous tip around nine," he began. "Was checkin' through old police reports at the time, but Harm called me on the cell."

"'Harm'?" Elizabeth questioned.

"My annoyin' secretary," he explained. "Said there was this guy down on 59th - a Harold Worth - who had some information on the Trick case."

"Did you know that Mr. Worth was one of our witnesses against Trick?" Elizabeth asked pointedly.

He cast her an irritated look. "No, I bloody well didn't," he countered. "Think I would've meddled with a prosecution witness if 'd known?"

Elizabeth just took a deep breath and nodded. "Continue."

"Right," he agreed, "so I get to the building, buzz, and no one answers. So I try the other apartments. Teenage kid up on the fourth floor finally buzzes me in, thinkin' 'm the deliveryman. I go up to Worth's apartment, door's open. I ask if he's there, no answer, I go in. I see the body in the kitchen and run over to it. Just as 'm leaning down to check if he's still alive, half the Boston PD rushes in and tells me I'm under arrest."

Elizabeth frowned. "How long were you in the apartment before they arrived?"

"A minute, tops," he replied.

"And did the kid say he thought you were delivery?" she pressed.

"Yeah," he nodded. "Said to bring the pizza right up 'cause he'd blown out his knee and couldn't take the stairs."

Elizabeth frowned and circled the note in her pad. "That's interesting," she agreed. "What about the gun?"

Spike snorted. "What about it?"

"Did you touch it?" she demanded, giving him a scathing look. "Pick it up?"

"'m not a soddin' amateur!" he exclaimed. "Think 'm stupid enough to touch the murder weapon? It wasn't even there."

This puzzled Elizabeth even more. "The gun wasn't in the apartment?" she demanded.

"Not that I could see. Just was in the living room for a minute, and then the kitchen. But it wasn't near the body."

"So how did it get in your car?" she asked, bewildered.

He shrugged. "Someone planted it there," he insisted.

Elizabeth nodded slowly. "How long between the time when your secretary got the call and the police rushed in?" she inquired.

"Not long," he answered, fingers tapping against the table nervously. "Was right in the neighborhood. Maybe half an hour? Tops."

Elizabeth gave him a wistful smile. "Well, I'd love to know how the police knew to arrive when they did, especially since the guy upstairs seemed so unconcerned by the recent gunshot."

Spike's brow furrowed at that as well. "Think the same people that sent me there called the police to catch me?"

Elizabeth nodded. "It's where we'll start," she agreed. "Although I've got to say.other than that, you were set up pretty well." She trailed off at that, choked up slightly. However, she forced her emotions back under control, a steely determination overtaking her. "Whoever they are," she concluded, "I'm not going to let them set you up for this, William. I'll get you out," she promised.

He looked only half-convinced.

"The unstoppable team of Albrook and Summers, right?" she reminded him with a smile.

"Yeah," he agreed, venturing a weary smile of his own. The erratic tapping of his fingers on the surface of the dingy table increased. "Don't s'pose you could get me a fag, pet?" he asked hopefully. "Took my smokes when the brought me in. Took the coat, too," he grumbled as an afterthought.

Elizabeth smiled and gave his hand one last reassuring squeeze. "I'll see to it," she assured him, rising from her seat and exiting the interrogation room.

He felt a pain settle down over his heart when the door closed behind her and he could see her no more. Determined not to break down again in front of all these tossers, he closed his eyes shut tight and did something he never had before. He prayed.
 

"Elizabeth, there you are!" Robin Wood had just rushed into the police station, having gotten the message belatedly from a very disturbed Willow. "I heard that-"

"Spike's being framed," she informed Wood matter-of-factly.

"What?!" That exclamation came from Riley Finn. "We've got the weapon; we've got his prints. It's an open and shut case!"

Wood was flipping through the preliminary reports as well, a grim expression on his face. "I have to agree," he began. "Just because the guy is your ex-"

Riley looked at Elizabeth in surprise at that.

"I know he's innocent," Elizabeth insisted stubbornly.

Wood let out a weary sigh. "It's all right," he assured her. "I can understand if you want off this prosecution, given that he's an old friend."

"Off the prosecution?" Elizabeth repeated with a little laugh. "Well, I'd say that's a given since I'm defending him and all."

Both Wood and Riley froze at that, looking up at her in disbelief.

"You can't be serious." Wood began with a nervous laugh.

"I'm not going to let you railroad him," Elizabeth insisted. "William is innocent, and I'm going to prove it."

Next


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