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 3 & 4

Chapter 3: Small Victories

"You can't still be serious about this," ADA Robin Wood pleaded as he and his former assistant entered the courtroom for the bail hearing. As usual, this courtroom was like a zoo, uniformed officers funneling handcuffed prisoners in the direction of their attorneys while the overworked judge listened with a rapidly growing headache to lawyers squabbling over bail amounts. "Think of your career."

Elizabeth gave him a pointed look and began ticking off the points on her fingers. "One: The Trick case is on continuance until this trial is resolved. Two: I have two months' overtime saved up. Three: I've taken pro bono cases before without consequence. Four: Even if you do threaten to fire me, I'm still not giving this one up." She scanned the bustle of the room and spotted the head of a tall bailiff leading a familiar peroxide head.

Wood let out a weary sigh. "You're not fired," he assured her. "But.we've got this guy!" he insisted for the umpteenth time.

Elizabeth raised a skeptical eyebrow. "And, according to your theory of the crime scene.what? William shot Worth wearing gloves - since he didn't have gun powder marks on his hands, ran back outside to put the gun in his car, removed his gloves so that he could put his fingerprints on the murder weapon, disposed of the gloves in some way so that the police's ten block canvas of the area couldn't find them, then ran back upstairs to hover over the body and wait to get caught?" A sarcastic snort followed this assessment, and she waved to the bailiff to bring Spike over.

"That's not our theory, and you know it," Wood retorted.

"That's the way the physical evidence works," Elizabeth pointed out reasonably. "Now, unless you need me for anything, I've got a client to tend do."

Wood merely shook his head, and Elizabeth dashed off, pushing her way through the onlookers to get to Spike.

He looked relieved to see her, and they managed to get two seats in the back of the room while they waited for their docket to come up.

"How are you doing?" Elizabeth asked softly, taking in the dark circles under his eyes.

He managed a wry laugh. "A word to the wise, luv. Stay outta prison. 'S like livin' in hell."

Elizabeth's hand squeezed his knee reassuringly. "I'll just get you out on bail, and then we can get these ridiculous charges dropped," she decided. "Then you won't ever have to go back."

He managed a wry chuckle. "Ever the optimist, eh?"

She smiled at him. "Always," she agreed.

"Docket Number 415," a nasal voice announced over the bustle of the courtroom.

"That's us," Elizabeth rose to her feet, Spike following only a few seconds later. They approached the defense table just as a pair of teenagers accused of armed robbery were led away.

"Docket Number 415, the People versus William Albrook. Charge of murder in the second degree."

"How does the defendant plead?" Judge Baker inquired, peering over the wire rims of his glasses.

"Not guilty," Spike insisted vehemently.

Judge Baker sighed. "Right. Bail? Tell me all about it, counselors."

"The People request the defendant be remanded without bail," Wood said firmly.

"Your Honor!" Elizabeth protested vehemently. "The prosecution themselves can't even decide what my client did. They've listed every lesser charge they could get - man one, man two-"

"I need a bail amount for manslaughter," Judge Baker agreed with Elizabeth.

"We believe this client is a flight risk," Wood insisted. "He has joint US citizenship-"

"With Great Britain," Elizabeth interjected. "My client's perfectly willing to surrender his passport. And I'd like to point out this is the first charge that's ever been raised against him. My client's from a well-respected family - that includes two of your fellow judges back in England. He runs a private business and has strong ties to the community."

"Doesn't sound like much of a flight risk to me, either," Judge Baker agreed, eyeing Spike speculatively. "Although we'll be taking that passport. Now, will the People please suggest an amount so that we can move on?"

"One million."

"For a possible manslaughter case?!" Elizabeth screeched, outraged.

"Already ahead of you on that, Ms. Summers," Judge Baker assured her. "Since the prosecution isn't providing any reasonable suggestions in the matter, I'm setting bail at one hundred thousand, cash or bond. Next?"

Elizabeth and Spike both breathed audible sighs of relief. "You can handle that?" she inquired softly.

"'ll have to put up the agency," he agreed, "but yeah."

Elizabeth nodded before they stepped aside to let the wheels of justice continue turning. "Good thing Walter's so reasonable," she gestured to Judge Baker as they approached one of the clerks to begin making arrangements.

"I forgot," Spike teased lightly, the elation that he actually got to go home tonight brightening the somber mood he'd been in ever since he'd been arrested, "all you lawyer types know each other."

Elizabeth grimaced. "He plays tennis with my dad. You're lucky he didn't order you skinned alive."

Spike laughed at that and sorted through the papers Elizabeth had brought to arrange his bail. "Still after my hide, is he?"

"Especially when he found out I was defending you," Elizabeth agreed, catching sight of Wood leaving down the hallway out of the corner of her eye. "Can you handle this by yourself? I've got to go see what the hell my partner in crime-fighting thinks he's doing."

He nodded her off, and Elizabeth managed to jostle her way through the crowd, finally catching up with Wood right as he was leaving the building.

"You wanna tell me what that was about?" she demanded pointedly.

Wood sighed. "Look," he began apologetically, "your ex is the only lead we've got on the Trick case now that our witness is dead."

"I guess that would explain why you've slapped this case together in only two weeks. Except you've got the slight problem that William wasn't the one who killed your witness," Elizabeth pointed out. "You got the same police report I did. That gun's been involved in half a dozen homicides over the last decade. You're looking for a mob hitman here."

"And Spike's not." Wood trailed off pointedly.

"I can personally provide him with an airtight alibi for the '97 shooting," she informed him with a roll of her eyes. "William's not your guy."

"And you remember all this from seven years ago?" Wood said skeptically.

"It was a very memorable night," Elizabeth insisted with a hint of a blush.

Wood looked away at that. "That doesn't mean you know him now," he pointed out gently.

"I know him," Elizabeth insisted softly. "I know him better than anyone else ever will."

"Well, either you're completely wrong or all the evidence is," Wood countered. He hailed a cab, and it pulled to the curb beside him. He cast one look up at the cloudy sky and pulled up his jacket collar. "Looks like rain."

Elizabeth merely nodded. "I've got a case to get back to," she informed him.

"And I would wish you luck, but." He shrugged. "It's easier on the DA's office if your William just takes the fall." With a parting wave, he hopped in that cab and drove off.

Elizabeth stood on the curb for a second and took a deep breath to calm herself, pulling her jacket more tightly around her shoulders against the crisp October air, before she returned to the courthouse.

A softly smiling Spike met her in the main hallway.

"Enjoying your freedom?" she asked lightly as they walked together back outside.

"Too much," he agreed. "Better keep me this way, pet. 'm all spoiled to it now."

She laughed. "Don't worry. I've bought myself all the time I need to work on the defense."

"Boss actually gave you your vacation, huh?" he commented, holding the door for her.

"He's not half as nasty in real life as he is in the courtroom," Elizabeth agreed.

Spike held his tongue and his rage. He may not have stuck with the lawyer gig, but he still had enough ins in the community that he'd heard all the rumors about the steamy affair that prick was supposedly having with his girl. "Right," he grumbled, shoving his fisted hands into the leather pockets of his duster.

Elizabeth turned and eyed him critically. "Trial date's already set for later this month," she pointed out. "Which means we're going to need to prepare fast."

"Can lend my personal investigative services," he agreed.

Elizabeth frowned. "You bloody well will not," she scolded, unknowingly using his own terminology. "Your face is going to be all over the news. We don't need-"

He let out an exasperated sigh. "Right, right," he cut her off. "But my partner called, and he's not gonna be left outta this."

"Fine," Elizabeth conceded. "Let him try to track down the gun. But we've," she looked at Spike askance and shook her head, "got to get you fit for trial. And I hate to break it to you, but if you don't want the jury to hang you on sight, the Billy Idol look's gotta go."

"Oi!" He exclaimed in outrage, clutching at the coat lovingly.

"Not in the courtroom," she insisted. "And we'll hafta dye your hair back. I'm sure you remember all those lectures on how important professional appearance is to a jury."

"Shoulda known you were after my hair," he retorted, sulking at the logic of her point. "Always were tryin' to give me makeovers."

* * *

William yawned and shifted uncomfortably in the hard library chair before shaking his head and returning to the task before him.

Buffy glanced up at his movements and smiled. She'd come to learn through working with him that he was surprisingly impatient - never able to sit still and work on something for more than five minutes before getting up and pacing. He claimed it facilitated thought. Buffy was convinced he just got bored easily. But, with Willow and Cordelia researching in the library with them, he obviously didn't want to start stamping around the room. In fact, at first he'd been hesitant to do so even when it was just the two of them.

William watched as Buffy yawned as well, and a slight flush lit up his cheeks at the memory of just why she was so tired today. Last night. Well, their 'date' had been unlike anything he'd ever experienced before. Nightclubs weren't really his thing, but when Buffy had so excitedly insisted they go to one, he hadn't been able to refuse that radiant smile of hers.

They'd just settled down to eat when Buffy's friends had shown up - the two studying with them right now, along with their significant others. It had fast turned into some sort of triple date, although the loser Cordelia had brought in - Was Derek his name? Or Devon maybe? - had been a complete non-entity, obviously there for Cordelia's often overstated pleasure. Willow's girlfriend Tara had been sweet, though - a shy student working on her Ph.D. in Literature - and she and William had spent most of the night debating whether all American poetry should be flushed down the toilet.

But the thing that struck him most about the evening was his companion. Buffy treated him like no one else ever had - like he was fun to be with and funny and attractive, a far cry from the complete loser he'd been most of his life. And the way she looked when she laughed and when she danced. Absolutely beautiful.

With a wistful sigh and a shake of his head, William returned to the incredibly boring transcripts before him.

Buffy looked up at the sound and sighed at the sight of the absolutely delicious young man, long bangs tumbled over his forehead and glasses in danger of falling off as he read the documents before him. She imagined brushing his hair back gently, caressing his face, before she planted a soft kiss on his brow, and.

"Buffy!" Cordelia's voice sounded louder the second time.

"Huh?" Buffy started abruptly, rudely shaken from her wonderful fantasy.

"I asked if you wanted me to get you anything from the vending machines," Cordelia repeated with a roll of her eyes. It was all too clear where her friend's mind had been. What she couldn't comprehend was why someone as popular and attractive as Buffy would even give William the time of day, let alone drool over him like he was the saltiest piece of goodness she'd ever seen.

"Oh, um, no thanks," Buffy stuttered, blushing at being caught in the act. William was giving her the most curious look, like he was wondering why she was so flustered at the simple question. "I'm good." She flashed Cordy a bright smile.

Cordelia just nodding slowly, the lengthy "riiiiight" clearly indicated in her expression. "Wills?"

"Get me whatever salty cheese snack they've got," Willow's voice emerged from the piles of books surrounding her. "Oh, and can you fill up my water bottle?" A hand rose over the rim of the literary mountain, waving the aforementioned object.

Cordy took it from her and then rolled her eyes at the last member of their little research group. "What about the stump? Does he want anything?" she demanded in a bored manner.

Buffy's anger flared and her jaw dropped at her friend's rudeness. She half rose, a gasp escaping her lips, fully prepared to chew out this bitch that dared insult William to his face.

However, William beat her to it, his large hand grasping her elbow and silencing her. "Don't bother, pet. Can't blame the Prom Queen for thinking men're nothing but blocks of wood. You saw her date last night."

Cordelia's cheeks flamed in response, and she began an indignant sputter.

"Besides, the wood's the only part you're interested in, am I right?" William added with an evil little smile.

Cordelia, flustered beyond belief, managed to sputter out a "Jerk!" before making a strategic retreat to the vending machines.

William, meanwhile, froze for a second before realizing that, oh shit, he really had just said those thoughts aloud. His cheeks flamed a bright red when he noticed the way Buffy and Willow were both staring at him, jaws dropped.

"Er, that is I.I'm sorry, I didn't mean." he began apologetically, stuttering horribly and not daring to look at either of them. He hastily scrambled for his books. "I-I'll just go, and-"

A giggle cut him off.

He looked up in surprise to see Buffy, right hand covering her mouth and desperately trying to contain her mirth. He frowned for a second, baffled, before she finally let out her laughter.

"You out-snarked the Bitch Queen!" Buffy announced in delight, still letting out delighted peals of laughter. "Too, too funny!"

Willow was giggling as well by now. "Did you see the look on her face? I haven't seen anyone get her that good since college."

It took William a second to absorb the fact that they were actually laughing. At something he'd said. "I-I really didn't mean." he let out one final protest.

"Don't worry about it," Buffy assured him with a soft smile that sent all the blood in his body rushing south at dangerous speeds. "Cordy needs someone to knock her down a peg or two every so often."

"I." He was left completely speechless. Acceptance was not something he was used to. "I really should go. I've finished the 8-14 transcripts and."

Buffy caught that he was feeling a bit flustered and nodded in agreement. "My brain was going numb from sitting in this place all afternoon, anyway," she announced, rising with him. She looked at the gray cement interior of the study room they'd procured in the library basement and shuddered. "Why don't I help you get the rest of those files, and we can maybe catch lunch?" she asked hopefully.

"Uh, sure." An equally hopeful look lit up his eyes. "Only I really should apologize to Cordelia." he added hesitantly.

Willow waved him away. "She'll have forgotten about it by the time she comes back," she assured him. "Some other disaster will have struck her by then. But I'll tell her for you if you want me to."

"Please," William agreed before heading nervously from the study room.

Buffy moved to follow him, but Willow held her back for a second.

"You're right," the redhead said with a wink. "He is cute."

Buffy merely blushed and smiled before running after her partner.

Cordelia didn't even cast the departing pair a look when she returned to the table, resplendent with salty treat, in a panic. "Willow, help!" she gasped out breathlessly. "One of those physics nerds has the same purse I do!"

Willow merely nodded and returned to her studying. Cordelia's latest crisis was right on schedule.

* * *

"So," Buffy sat down on the park bench and rested her briefcase on the ground beside her. "Do you want November or December?"

"I thought we were returning to the library," William commented curiously, stopping before her and accepting one of the folders they'd retrieved from his spacious brownstone apartment.

Buffy plopped her own work down in her lap and snatched up a pen. "C'mon, I know you're sick to death of that library," she retorted with a knowing smile. "Besides, it's beautiful out here." She gestured to the little arbor that surrounded them.

He shrugged and sat beside her, focusing intently on the cover of the manila file folder.

"What's with the moody?" Buffy asked curiously, nibbling on the tip of her pen. "You're not still freaked about the Cordy thing?"

He sighed. "Just try not to lose my temper like that usually," he confessed.

Buffy smiled at him. "Yeah, well, you've just got to let those things out every now and again," she assured him. "Especially when you've got comebacks like that one." She underlined a portion of text. "Knew you had a sense of humor in you."

The edges of his own lips twitched upwards slightly at that as well. "Someone had to tell the bint off sooner or later," he shrugged.

Buffy snickered. "Watch yourself. You sooo don't want to get into a war of words with Cordy."

"I can take her," he insisted with a little grin.

"Oh, really?" Buffy gave him a skeptical look and sat the file down beside her. She'd never seen the playful side of William before, but she was liking it. And somewhere deep inside, she'd instinctively known that they'd hit it right off as soon as he let himself open up to her.

"Just stare at her hair like there's something mildly distasteful about it, and watch her run off to the bathroom to check it," he responded with a sly grin.

"Oh my god, you are so evil," Buffy laughed.

A soft chuckle escaped his lips as well, and he slouched back against the bench comfortably. The brief thought struck him at how odd it was that he felt so at ease with a woman this attractive, but he quickly pushed it to the side. "Not if I can help it," he assured her.

"Then why are you in law school?" she teased.

He groaned. "God, you sound like my dad."

"Really? 'Cause I thought I sounded exactly like my dad."

"Lawyer?" he inquired.

"Of course," she agreed with a roll of her eyes.

"You get the lectures about how you have to be cutthroat, too?"

"While getting yelled at all the time for arguing back," she added.

He sighed. "A grand life, isn't it?"

"But at least we all turn into socially dysfunctional adults who perpetuate the birth of new little lawyers," Buffy agreed. And then blushed. The sudden image of creating little lawyers with the man beside her had popped into mind, and certain of the intervening steps had been rather appealing.

He snickered at that. "That why you're here, then?" he asked curiously. "The family business and all that rot?"

"Actually I'm here to save the world," she countered coyly.

"Oh?" A well-sculpted eyebrow rose at that. "Do tell?"

"Well, it's just.I want to help people, help keep them safe. And since I'm a bit short to take up the police of things," she shrugged, "I'll settle for locking the bad guys away."

"Ah, an idealist lawyer then," he teased.

"You're not an idealist?" she countered.

He shrugged. "No room to be anything with dad breathing down my neck all the time."

She bit her lip apologetically. "I know what you mean. I've had to scream to be heard myself."

"I settled a bit more for staying quiet and out of the way," he admitted hesitantly.

"Yeah, well," Buffy countered with an affectionate smile, "you're brilliant at the whole lawyer thing, so joke's on him, right?" On the bench beside him, her hand cautiously reached over to brush his knee.

He didn't pull back from the warm caress. "Guess so," he agreed with a little gulp. The way she was looking at him was doing the strangest things to him. Suddenly, he felt strong, powerful, desirable. Thoughts of catching her up in his arms weren't being counteracted by the usual embarrassment and insecurity. He leaned forward, and.

A drop of rain hit him right on the tip of the nose.

And then another fell and another, and soon the pair of them were squealing and scrambling to bury their folders safely in the protection of their briefcases. The park suddenly became the worst place to be as the sudden cloudburst drenched them.

William grabbed an abandoned newspaper from the bench across from them, and they both held it over their heads in a poor imitation of an umbrella as they ran for the nearest shelter. The first thing they came across was a wooden gazebo, and they gratefully escaped the rain in the small structure. It was the sort where the white planks left wide gaps in the roof, but vines had been planted around it, providing a limited cover of greenery. Still, it wasn't entirely dry.

"Please tell me we saved everything in time," Buffy requested, sitting on the hexagonal wooden bench that rested at the center of the structure and then inching over towards William a bit when she found that one of the many drips in their partial roof was landing right on her shoulder.

"I've got copies if anything got wet," he assured her, peeling off his tweed jacket and grimacing. "Would offer you my jacket for the cold, but." He flung the wet garment down onto the bench and sat beside her. The entire world appeared to be in a haze until he realized that his glasses had just steamed up. "The weather hates me," he concluded, removing the spectacles and placing them in his jacket pocket. One hand pushed the damp hair off his forehead, slicking it back.

Buffy's mouth suddenly went dry. The incredibly handsome man she'd only seen hints of was suddenly before her in all his glory. The glasses had drawn attention away from the razor's edges of his cheekbones, and the lenses had obscured the brilliant blue of his eyes. The somewhat silly mop of hair was minimized by the rain. And the body. The white button-up shirt he'd worn beneath the tweed was equally wet and clung to a leanly muscled physique beyond any of her wildest fantasies. She gulped as he plucked at the thin wet fabric that was stuck to an absolutely scrumptious looking pectoral and longingly followed the trail of one droplet of rain as it ran under his collar to caress the skin beneath.

William saw her shiver again and promptly misinterpreted the reason behind it, venturing to reach over and rub one of her arms for warmth. His own eyes were desperately avoiding where her own wet clothing was clinging to her slight form, and he had to consciously keep himself from moaning whenever he saw her wet flesh.

"W-Warmer?" he asked hesitantly, venturing to look her in the eyes.

She nodded dumbly, still staring at him with wonder. "You should wear your hair like that," she decided with a gulp. "M-Maybe cut it a bit, too."

William had, at that moment, been debating the pros and cons of kissing her. As a result, her comment seemed like the most ridiculous non sequitur he'd ever heard. "Bloody hell, Buffy," he exclaimed. "You're giving me a makeover?!"

A smile twitched at the edges of her lips at that. She was sort of starting to like snarky William. His eyes darted down to her mouth in response, but he didn't move in further. C'mon, Buff, her inner voice cheered her on. He's all shy and stuff. This is sooo your move.

She leaned forward slowly so that her body now brushed the strong length of his and oh-so-gently brushed her lips up against his. Her eyelids fluttered closed as she held the kiss for a few seconds before she moved to pull back.

William's eyes had widened, shocked beyond imagining when she'd kissed him, but now he belatedly realized that she was stopping. He quickly leaned back into her, reasserting their lips' contact and slipping his arms around her to deepen their kiss.

Buffy whimpered against him, and her hands came up to twine in his damp hair, holding him to her more tightly, her tongue teasing his lips now and begging entry.

His mouth opened against hers, and their tongues quickly met and danced. Buffy's guided at first, the more experienced of the two, but William's was a fast learner, and soon they were equals in their passionate struggle.

So absorbed were they both that neither noticed when the rain stopped and the sky cleared above them, nor would they notice for another hour. At that moment, the world encompassed only the two of them.

* * *

And William walked into the law library the next day, brown hair cropped into short, stylish curls that he'd slicked back, wearing black jeans and a white button-up with rolled up sleeves that bared his powerful forearms and the top two buttons unfastened to show off a bit of the hard muscle beneath, and glasses nowhere in sight.

Buffy couldn't help but snicker when Cordelia's jaw dropped and the other woman began drooling uncontrollably at the salty goodness that had been hiding in a nerd's disguise. "Do you need a towel?" she teased her friend lightly before getting up to brush a soft kiss across William's cheek.

* * *

"Always after the hair," Spike grumbled.

"Actually," Elizabeth informed him with a sly smile, "I kind of like the platinum look."

He raised one skeptical eyebrow at that. "Weren't so thrilled when I first dyed it," he reminded her.

"Yeah, but it's grown on me since then. I think it's kinda sexy," she admitted, cheeks reddening slightly before she turned serious once more. "But it still has to go."

He groaned. "Not brown," he insisted vehemently.

"Fine. Pick whatever color you want. Just make sure it looks natural."

"Black?" he ventured.

"Where, oh where, did your black fetish come from?" she teased lightly before eyeing him critically. "Black will work," she concluded.

He breathed a sigh of relief before a leer curved the edges of his lips. "Think the platinum's sexy, do you?" he practically purred.

Elizabeth felt her body respond to his tone but forced the reaction down. "Okay, Mister I Just Spent the Last Two Days In Jail And Need Sleep, here's your cab." She placed a hand on the center of his back and guided him toward the open car door.

"Prison's lackin' some other.comforts, as well," he replied, his voice dripping innuendo as he looked her up and down.

Elizabeth sighed, and the first drops from the storm-head above fell to the pavement around them. For a second, they created the strange illusion that she was back in law school and those succulent lips had still to be tasted. She shook the notion off.

"Good-bye, William," she said, turning professional once more. "We'll meet Tuesday to discuss our plan of attack."

With a shrug he climbed into the cab, slamming the door behind him. Elizabeth watched the car until it rounded a corner and escaped her view before quickly hailing another. The rain had picked up a bit of the chill in the October air, and suddenly she was left feeling cold and very alone.



Chapter 4: Innocent

With a weary sigh, Elizabeth sat down on her favorite bench in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. If nothing else, the boring bar banquets had at least turned her on to the museum and the peaceful, relaxing environment she could find inside. Sometimes, when the stress of her work seemed overwhelming, she'd move it to this location and spend the afternoon looking at the great masterpieces of the past and thinking through her problems. And, boy, was she having problems right now.

She had no idea now why she'd thought representing Spike would be anywhere approaching easy. The man was simply the most cantankerous, irritating, arrogant creature in existence. Well, except maybe for her great black tomcat, Angel. But that was beside the point. The point was that Spike stuck firmly and resolutely to the fact that he hadn't done a thing wrong, and he wouldn't even consider any of the defense options that gave him the best chance of winning.

Oh no, Spike insisted that he was being set up, and rather than providing holes in the witness testimony, he and his private investigating partner, Xander, and Xander's annoying fiancée, Anya, were trying to actually solve the case of who had framed him. It was more of a headache than Elizabeth wanted to handle at the moment.

The problem was that, if Spike had indeed been set up - of which she had little doubt - then there were really only two suspects. The first, the Wilkins crime syndicate, was a hopeless tangle of 'family' ties, hired assassins, and spokesmen trained specifically for eluding any kind of investigation. The second alternative, the Boston police department, was just as bad. Either way you looked at it, a mountain of secrecy and self-preservation rose up, and neither of the 'good old boy' clubs were ever likely to cough up the real killer.

And that wasn't even the worst of it. Every day she had to sit with Spike, preparing their defense strategy. Spike, of course, had no idea who had framed him, who had put the gun in his car, or how devastatingly sexy he looked when he cocked his head at her in that one way and gave her that soft, innocent smile of his. And did he have any clue how well nigh impossible it was to try to resist stroking her fingers through that angelic white hair of his? And what about those powerful, well-muscled forearms that seemed to 'casually' brush against her just a bit too often? And how on earth was she just supposed to sit there and not kiss him when he was giving her that seductive smirk, or the full pouty lip, or the lazy yawn, or.or just staring off into space? God, that man's lips should be illegal. Maybe she should write some legislature to that effect.

Whereas, William Albrook's lips are too tempting for any straight woman to resist, let it be resolved that the aforementioned lips will be covered by Elizabeth Summers' lips perpetually as a public service to all other women who might become distracted while doing business with the aforementioned William Albrook.

Her mind drifted for a minute at the lovely thought of plundering those full, luscious lips in order to remove the cruel temptation. And then she shook it off. What was she thinking about again? Oh yeah: She hated him. For all the reasons she'd just mentioned. And she was certainly not still attracted to him in the slightest. Uh-uh, not one bit.

Full, soft, William lips trailed down her collarbone to the soft curve of her breast. For an instant, pure blue eyes looked up at her, asking invitation, but she couldn't do anything but moan in approval as his hot, talented mouth engulfed her breast. "Oh god, yesss."

Elizabeth snapped back to with a start and ran her fingers through her hair. Really, was it any wonder she was having trouble concentrating? And it was all Spike's fault, distracting her and making everything unnecessarily difficult.

Determined to take her mind off the infuriating still-peroxide blonde, Elizabeth rose from her bench, briefcase under one arm, and decided to have a look at the latest exhibit to visit the fine city of Boston. The guest exhibition was 18th century sculpture - not particularly one of her interests - but anything was better than this.fretting. Yeah, that was it. Pure anxiety. Nothing remotely approaching desire. And certainly nothing so school-girl-ish as daydreaming. She'd long outgrown all of that.

Slowly, she walked between the sculptures that had been set up in the gallery, silently ruing the fact that 18th century sculptors seemed to like replicating statues from the Classical era. Marble, symmetric torsos of lean, sleek muscle weren't exactly what she was in the mood for at that moment.

Elizabeth turned to the impressionist painting gallery for a welcome reprieve from thoughts of naked, sexy men when suddenly a particular piece caught her eye. It was a small thing, really, not much more than a square foot of marble with a sculpted scene rising out from the pure white background. Yet it drew her as if were real, a window into her past.

Elizabeth barely managed to refrain from reaching out and stroking the lean, soft lines of the male figure's body. Like all the others, this figure was nude, slumped lazily back against the body of a great cat and dangling a vine of grapes from one hand. But that body. God, she knew it. She had once felt every inch of it, tasted it, caressed it, surrounded herself with it. Even the pale tone of the marble held a living glow, reminding her of warm, untanned skin as she'd lain in his arms.

With Herculean effort, Elizabeth managed to draw her eyes from the sculpture to the plaque beside it: "John Deare 'Bacchus Feeding a Panther' 1792, on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago." The inscription was so innocuous, so mundane. It couldn't even begin to describe the feelings that ran through her at the sight of the piece. The man within looked so.free, passionate, intense.

And, unbidden, the memories she'd been fighting against ever since she'd taken on Spike's case flooded her. Oh, she'd known a body just like this one. She'd known him only too well.

* * *

"Mmm, William," Buffy gasped, clutching his head to the hollow of her shoulder as he continued to trail soft kisses up and down her collarbone. "Feels so good."

He smiled up at her in response, just the hint of a smirk in his lips. "You're the one who feels good," he murmured against her hair before dropping a quick, chaste kiss to her lips. Then, he sighed. "We should probably close the door."

Buffy agreed with a regretful nod, and she let the arms that had wrapped around his shoulders drop so that he could close the door to his apartment. With a breathless sigh, she sat down on the edge of his kitchen table and watched him as he went to the door, picked up their briefcases and put them over by the couch before locking up. A contented sigh escaped her lips.

Their whirlwind romance had started only.what? Three weeks ago? And already she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. He was The One. The way she felt about him. Well, there was desire there, to be sure, but she'd never felt this close to another man. The two of them seemed to just instinctively know each other, as if they were two parts of a larger whole. She felt completed when she was with him, like someone finally understood her, like she finally really belonged.

"Happy thoughts?" he inquired with a tilt of his head, secretly delighting in the way she looked at him. He'd never seen those emotions in a woman's eyes before, not directed at him. It still astonished him that she had noticed him in the first place.

"Mmm-hmm," she murmured happily, rising to her feet and approaching him sensuously, a predatory purpose in her step. Her hands came up to caress the cotton of his shirt before her nimble fingers drifted to the buttons, slowly unfastening the top one. "Bed?" she inquired with a coy smile.

He smiled as well at that and caught her up in his arms as he kissed her with all the pent up passion in his body. The hours they spent together working were rewarding, true, but he always looked forward to these moments when they were alone so that they could fully demonstrate their affections.

Still locked at the lips, they managed to stagger back to his bedroom and landed on the bouncy mattress with a laugh. Buffy pushed him onto his back and proceeded to fully unbutton his shirt, exposing his lean, sculptured chest to her hungry gaze. "God, you're gorgeous," she whispered for the umpteenth time.

"You're the one who's beautiful," he countered, sitting up beneath where she straddled his waist and slipping his hand beneath the hem of her blouse. Blue eyes asked permission and were instantly granted it. A low hiss escaped from between his teeth - as it always did - when her body and the black silk of her bra were exposed to him. "So beautiful," he whispered reverently, resting his head between her breasts.

She cradled him against her chest for a minute, running tapered fingers through his soft hair. "William?" she finally murmured softly, planting a gentle kiss on his brow.

"Yes, luv?"

"Do you think we could.?" she blushed. "I mean, I sort of want to. I'm ready and all, and." She gulped and took in a deep breath of air. Lazy nights spent touching in his bed were nice, and she loved talking with him, laughing with him, waking up in the morning beside him. But she wanted more now. "I want you, William," she admitted softly, tilting her head down to kiss him deeply.

After a moment, he pulled back for breath, panting. "Want you, too," he assured her in a husky voice.

She rolled her eyes. About some things he was amazingly clueless, and this seemed to be one of them. "No," she amended, "I mean." She ground her hips pointedly down into his growing hardness. "I. Want. You."

His eyes widened almost comically, and his Adam's Apple bobbed once nervously. "B-Buffy?" he whispered, demanding confirmation.

"I want all of you," she agreed, thumb fondly tracing the razor's edge of one cheekbone. "I want us to be together in every way. I want to feel you inside me. I want to make love to you." She punctuated her requests with a series of kisses down his chest, leading ever closer to.

"Buffy!" he cried out in abrupt alarm when he realized where her mouth was heading. He caught her firmly by the shoulders to prevent her descent.

She looked up at him confusedly, fear and insecurity written in her eyes.

"It-It's not." he hastily moved to explain, face flaming red in response. "I-I mean, I want you, too." He shifted under her weight, and the length of his now fully hard erection brushed against her accidentally. A soft moan escaped his lips in response, and he squeezed his eyes shut tight for a second. "Well, obviously you can feel that." He trailed off, embarrassed beyond belief, before he dared to try again. "It's just that I've never.you know."

Buffy's eyes widened in realization. "You're a virgin?" she asked softly.

"Don't laugh," he begged, burying his face in his hands and sighing wearily.

Laughter was the furthest thing from her mind. If anything, a hint of anger shot through her that in all of his twenty-four years, not a single of the women he'd met had had the brains to see him for what he really was. It had never ever occurred to her that he might never have been with anyone before. Guys always acted so experienced that she'd just sort of assumed that they all had some fun with the local bimbo once they turned sixteen. The fact that William hadn't. Well, it was actually sort of sweet, like this beautiful, good-hearted man had been solely reserved for her.

"I'm not going to laugh," she assured him softly, coming up behind where he now sat with his back to her and hugging him from behind, her head resting against one powerful shoulder. "It's not your fault all other women are idiots."

He let out a bark of laughter at that. "How do you always know how to make me laugh?" he asked with a sigh.

"The same way you always can make me smile," she countered, kissing his bare shoulder gently.

A short nod. "Y-You won't tell anybody?" he pleaded softly, his voice sounding more vulnerable than she'd ever heard it.

"It'll be our little secret," she assured him, loosening her arms slightly so that he could turn around to face her.

"You know," he began with a shy smile, "I think I'm kind of in love with you."

A radiant smile spread across her face, and she gave him a slow, languorous kiss. "I think I'm kind of in love with you, too," she finally replied when they separated for breath. "And I would be honored if you'd let me be your first. If you're ready, that is," she hastily assured him.

"I." His finger trailed over one silk-covered breast before he looked up at her with innocent blue eyes. "You'll show me?" he requested shyly.

"I'll show you everything," she assured him, leaning in to kiss him once more.

Their mouths lingered longer this time, and she took advantage of his growing comfort to lead him back fully onto the bed. She lay back carefully and pulled him so that he lay half on top of her as their hands slowly caressed each other.

"I-I probably won't be any good," he mumbled nervously against her shoulder when her wandering hands found the button of his slacks and deftly popped it open.

"Don't worry about being good," she soothed, lowering the zipper there as well. "This time is all for you. Just enjoy and don't worry about anything."

He sighed against her shoulder. "Thank you," he whispered softly.

She gave him a wicked smirk. "It's not like I'm not getting anything in return," she teased lightly.

He let out a mock-offended huff and proceeded to nibble at her throat in that way that he knew drove her mad. Buffy moaned and squirmed beneath him, nubile body arching beneath his at his mouth's talents. She managed to gain enough control over her limbs to catch hold of his hands, guiding them to her remaining clothes and leading his fingers through the elegant procedures of undressing a woman.

His attention turned from her throat to the things his hands were doing, marveling at the full weight of her bare breasts as he palmed them for the first time, the long slender length of her tanned legs, the dark curls at the apex of her thighs. "You're a goddess," he gasped in awe when she finally stretched completely nude beside him. "Oh god, so beautiful." He tackled her back beneath him, masculine instincts finally taking over at the sight of his naked love in his bed.

Buffy moaned at the feel of skin on skin, the soft head of his cock rubbing enticingly along her inner thigh. He'd figured out enough to prop himself up on his elbows to prevent his full weight from pressing her down, but she still had enough solid William mass above her to keep her pinned in place. His hands were stroking her everywhere, frantically, as if he were afraid that this vision before him would vanish and all he would get were these few moments.

"Shh," she soothed him softly, her own fingertips running up and down the smooth muscles of his back. "Don't rush things. Just let it happen."

"God, I want you so much," he whimpered against her ear.

"And I'm yours," she assured him. "I'm not going anywhere."

"I-I want to." He trailed off, still embarrassed to say the words.

"I know." She caught hold of one of his hands and guided it down between her thighs. "You're gonna need to stretch me out a bit first." She gave him an impish smile and nibbled at his lower lip. "You're kinda big," she explained with a blush.

He blushed as well but followed her lead, allowing his fingers to cautiously explore her entrance. It was new to him, yet like coming home at the same time. Hesitantly, he rubbed his thumb over the nub of flesh he found and was rewarded with a heady moan. "Th-That's good?" he questioned softly.

"Oh god, yes. Don't stop," she gasped out. Her hand clasped his harder, and she guided his first finger inside her, murmuring her approval when naturally he began to stroke in and out of her.

William, meanwhile, was in heaven. The moans she was letting out were making him harder by the second, and the sight of the most desirable creature he'd ever seen thrashing beneath him like he was the most desirable creature on earth. "I need to be inside you," he gasped out.

"N-Not ready yet," she whimpered. "More."

He deciphered her meaning and slipped a second finger within her, and then a third. He could feel the tightness of her inner passage expand with each new digit, and even imagining that wet sheath surrounding his cock had him in immediate danger of spilling his load.

"Can you feel how wet I am for you?" she whispered into his ear. "How much I want you?"

"Yes," he agreed raggedly, squeezing his eyes shut tight against the climax her words were pressing him towards.

"It's all for you," she informed him. "You do that to me, baby."

"I need." he whimpered.

"I know," she agreed. "Now."

"Now," he whispered back in relief. God, he wanted to be inside her so badly, but the way she was squirming beneath him, he didn't know if he could last. He could feel each throbbing beat of his heart pulse in the blood of his swollen erection, and it was only a matter of time now before he. "Christ!" he cried out in ecstasy, clenching his teeth tight against the impending orgasm.

Buffy halted her movements where she'd grabbed hold of his erection to guide him inside of her. For a few moments, she just let her fingers loosely encircle him, letting him grow accustomed to her as she soothingly stroked his hair. "You in control now?" she finally asked.

He managed a jerky nod. "S-Sorry about that."

"Don't be sorry," she assured him, leading the tip of his erection to the entrance to her womb. "It's kind of adorable, actually. How much you want me."

He opened his mouth to respond, but then the feel of her wet heat overcame him, and he was once again gasping for control.

She slowly removed her hand and returned it to the back of his neck. "Whenever you're ready," she whispered against his lips. "Just push in slowly, and. Oh god!"

The last of his control shattered at that, and he thrust inside her with his full force, panting in disbelief at the feel of her tight passage clenching around him. God, she was like a wet, velvet glove, squeezing him tightly, as if she'd been molded to his contours. Unable to stop himself, he began moving frantically inside her, thrusting in and out with uneven jerks.

"Oh god, hot.so hot, wet, tight.oh yes.hot, Buffy.so hot, so wet.oh god, perfect.you're perfect, luv.oh god, yes.oh god.oh yes."

So it wasn't the most inspired thing that had ever come out of his mouth. Buffy didn't care, though. Her initial cry at the feel of his full girth thrusting hard within her had been drowned out by his babbles, and now she was just clinging on, trying to move with his erratic rhythm but mostly holding him tight as he spiraled toward his inevitable climax.

"So good," William was still gasping out, eyes rolling back in their sockets at the heat of her, "oh Buffy, Buffy." His orgasm erupted within her, stars and fireworks exploding behind his eyelids as he flooded her womb with his seed. His body froze above hers for a minute, jaw tensed and breath hitched, before he collapsed on top of her in a boneless heap.

Buffy breathed in a deep breath. He had barely lasted a minute within her, but god he had felt good. A little whimper of regret escaped her throat when he softened once more and slipped out of her, but she didn't dwell on it. She had anticipated that he'd be completely out of control this once, and she'd just wanted to give him whatever pleasure she could. Given to volume of his roar when he came, she was pretty sure she'd succeeded. That thought was all the happy she needed at the moment.

However, the full weight of his body lying across hers was beginning to make breathing difficult. "William?" she managed to gasp out.

"Buffy." he murmured back softly.

"You're getting heavy," she pointed out.

"Oh god, sorry," he immediately apologized, rolling off of her. "I didn't crush you, did I? Or-Or hurt you? Or.oh god, we didn't use protection!" His eyes were widening in panic now.

"Shh," she hushed him once more, sidling up against him and slipping a casual arm around his waist as she snuggled closer. "I'm on the pill. You didn't hurt me in the slightest. In fact," she fluttered her eyelashes up at him, "you felt really good. And I can survive a brief crushing," she addressed his first concern with a little laugh.

He sighed in relief and buried his nose in her hair, deeply inhaling the scent of lavender. A strange and powerful feeling was coming over him now, in the aftermath. The urge to protect her, to hold her close and never let go, was almost overwhelming, and he tightened his embrace around her nude form, pulling her closer so that her head was pillowed on his chest. "My love." he whispered huskily against her ear.

She sighed and smiled up softly at him. "I take it you like?" she inquired with a grin.

"God, luv," he agreed, eyes fluttering shut as a deep-seated weariness took over him, "you didn't tell me." A soft kiss to her brow. "It was heaven. You were heaven. I-I'm sorry I couldn't-"

She cut him off with a fingertip to his lips. "I'll teach you all about how to pleasure me later," she promised him. "We've got all the time in the world. Right now, you just need to sleep."

He opened his mouth to protest that he needed to show her right now just how wonderful she made him feel, but a lion-sized yawn escaped his lips, and instead he caved in to her wishes, curling up against her body as he drifted into a deep sleep.

Buffy sighed contentedly and stroked his hair gently. "I've got so much left to show you," she murmured against him. "We're going to be great together, baby." A yawn escaped her own lips, and within a minute she also had fallen asleep, curled up safely in his strong arms.

*

Elizabeth's reminiscing was interrupted by a familiar vibration against her hip. She quickly found the women's room and pulled out her cell phone before it vibrated its fourth ring. "Summers," she said crisply into the receiver.

"Buffy," Spike's voice sounded relieved and exhausted on the other end. "We.well, I've got a bit of a problem," he began.

Elizabeth's hand clenched the receiver more tightly. "What's happened?" she asked anxiously.

A snort of laughter at the other end. "Guess who decided to pay yours truly a visit?" he countered.

"Who?" she asked, confused.

"About fifty of our fair city's most irritatin' and nosy reporters," he answered. "Got an entire mob parked right outside my door. Causing a great ruckus, they are."

Elizabeth groaned. "Great," she sighed, "just what we need."

"We need?" he retorted. "You don't hafta try an' sleep with half the state chatting right outside your bedroom."

"Ugh. Sorry you have to put up with this," Elizabeth said apologetically. "I guess it was kind of inevitable with a murder trial."

"Yeah, well, don't really care how inevitable it was. Make 'em go away," he insisted stubbornly.

"I can't," she responded. "Freedom of the press and all that. Unless they're trespassing."

"No such luck," he scowled out the window where the agents of the press seemed to have set up a picket right outside the border of his apartment building's property.

Elizabeth groaned. "Okay, it's 'flee from the press' time," she decided. "You have anyplace else you can stay?"

"The office," he shrugged, giving the two-fingered salute to one of the cameramen as he tried to shoot Spike through the window. He quickly dropped the curtain closed on the scene outside.

"You're not sleeping in an office," Elizabeth scolded.

"Well, Xander an' Anya aren't gonna let me intrude on their love-nest," he retorted.

She let out a weary sigh. "Find, you can stay with me."

"What?!" he exclaimed in surprise.

What?! Her mind was shrieking at her. Oh, shut up, it's the most obvious solution, another voice countered. "Oh, shut up, it's the most obvious solution," she repeated to Spike aloud. "Meet me at the courthouse, and we'll make sure the bail agents know where you are. And be sure to pack bags with whatever you'll need, including formal clothes for the trial."

A brief pause on the other end of the line. "You're serious? You want me to move in with you?"

It sounded frighteningly like the thoughts running through Elizabeth's own mind. "Yeah," she insisted, shutting down all the naysayers.

A sigh. "All right then. Be at the courthouse in about an hour." Another sigh. "Thanks, luv."

"Not a problem," she agreed softly just before she heard him hang up. She hit the off button before leaning back against the restroom counter and taking a deep breath.

Okay, Buffy, her inner voice demanded, what the hell are you thinking? 'Cause not even you are clueless enough to think that you don't still want him. This is a murder case, way too important to get sidetracked by gooey, lusty feelings. William's life is on the line here.

She took another breath and turned on the cold water in the sink, splashing it over her face to clear her head. She couldn't deny that, despite her own personal feelings for her ex, her plan did make some sense. If nothing else, it would facilitate their planning of his defense more smoothly.

Calm and collected once more, she checked her watch. Shit. She'd have to hurry if she wanted to meet Spike at the courthouse on time. She hadn't realized she'd spent all of twenty minutes debating her position in the bathroom.

She drove with a speed that really probably could have gotten her arrested for reckless endangerment but managed to arrive with exactly one minute to spare. A quick search found Spike sitting in the hallway, looking half-asleep as he leaned against the armrest of the bench.

"Life not been treating you well?" she inquired softly as she approached him.

He started awake. "Took you long enough," he grumbled under his breath.

She rolled her eyes. "I'm on time," she pointed out.

He checked his watch and muttered under his breath but didn't contradict her.

"The car's out back," she instructed him. "I'll go make sure they don't accidentally arrest you for jumping bail, and you move your stuff in." She handed him her key ring. "The black beamer with the stuffed cat on the dashboard."

He nodded gruffly and ran a finger through his chaotic platinum curls. "Right. Be waitin' then."

She gave his shoulder a soft squeeze and managed a wan smile before attending to the necessary paperwork. When she finally arrived back at the car, his bags had all been stuffed in the back and he sat in the passenger's seat, snoring softly. He started when she entered the vehicle beside him and yawned.

"Just how long has this been going on?" Elizabeth asked pointedly, noting the dark circles beneath his eyes.

He shrugged. "Dunno. Been at the office the past two days, and-"

"You need sleep, William," she cut him off pointedly, pulling out of the parking lot and heading home.

"Yeah," he yawned again, "kinda noticed that. Need to stay outta jail, too, though."

"I thought your partners were working on that," Elizabeth scolded him lightly. "From what I'd gathered, Anya's doing most of the undercover work, and Xander-"

"Yeah, yeah," he shook her off. "I know. Promise to be a good boy from now on. Mother."

She rolled her eyes at him, but she couldn't help the smile that was starting to creep onto her face. "You're so hopeless," she declared.

"Completely," he agreed readily enough. He sat back and closed his eyes after that, leaving her to drive the rest of the way in silence.

Carrying his luggage together, they managed to get everything into her two-story townhouse in one trip. Elizabeth unlocked the door for them, and they dumped all his stuff in the entranceway before closing the door on the chilly October evening.

Spike glanced around at the spacious living room, complete with oak paneling, a large fireplace, and a fine set of leather furniture. "Nice place," he commented off-handedly, wandering into the kitchen and poking his head in. He whistled. "Big. You live here all alone?"

"Well, with Angel," she amended, watching him from the hallway.

"That monster hasn't bitten the dust yet?" he scowled.

Elizabeth shook her head at him. Even back in his William days, he and her cat had been at constant war with each other. It was half the reason they'd always retreated to his place to fool around; that, and he didn't have a roommate to disturb. "I'm starting to think Angel's gonna live forever," she agreed with a small smile. She gestured to the couch. "Make yourself comfortable. I'll just get the guestroom ready upstairs."

"Right," he agreed, flopping down onto the furniture and sending several pillows bouncing with his weight.

With one backward glance at her houseguest, Elizabeth climbed the stairs and fetched a fresh set of sheets from the closet. Flannel ones. He liked sleeping on flannel sheets, she recalled. She carefully made the bed, forcing her mind onto the simple task instead of screaming out that she had Spike staying at her home.

She hurriedly went back downstairs to help take up his luggage and order take-out for dinner, but when she returned to the living room, she found him fast asleep on the couch, a dangerous predator hovering over him from the couch back. "Angel," she scolded lightly, picking up the huge twenty-eight-toed cat and setting him back down on the floor, "none of your silly rivalry tonight."

The black tomcat raised his nose haughtily, as if even the suggestion that he might do something inappropriate were absurd, and promptly began cleaning his claws.

Elizabeth groaned inwardly and went to use the kitchen phone, dialing the local Chinese take-out place. She hoped Spike still had a fetish for Peking duck because that's what she was ordering for him. No sooner had she finished making her order, however, than the phone rang again.

"Summers residence," she said, immediately picking up the receiver.

"Uh, yeah, hi, Buffy," a male voice said at the other end. "This is Xander Harris, Spike's partner?"

"Right," Elizabeth agreed. For some reason, Xander had to introduce himself every time they talked, as if he thought that she constantly forgot who he was or something. "What's up?"

"Well, I got a call from Spike this afternoon, saying he was staying with you while the press flocked to his place," Xander went on.

"Um, yeah, he's here," Elizabeth agreed, "but he's asleep right now."

"All right, then, I'll just have to tell you," Xander agreed with a chuckle. "Anya put some pressure on all our sources that know anything about the Wilkins mob."

"And?" Elizabeth asked curiously.

"They say the hit on Worth was typical mob payback stuff, for squealing on Trick and all," Xander verified their suspicions. "Nothing that will hold up in court, though. Just vague rumors."

Elizabeth sighed. "Figures. Any word on whether they're the ones who set up William?"

"I can't be sure," Xander began hesitantly. "I mean, Anya's got all sorts of friends in weird places, but none of them are anywhere high up in the syndicate."

"I understand," Elizabeth agreed. "Tell me what she did get."

"Well, rumor has it that Alan Fitch was surprised at Spike's arrest," Xander stated. "Maybe."

Elizabeth frowned. "Which would mean that Wilkins didn't order the set-up," she provided.

"Which means I'm gonna start looking into the police department," Xander agreed. "It's looking like the best bet right now."

Elizabeth groaned. "I'll have a talk with the Internal Affairs Bureau, see if I can shake anything loose that way."

"Right, then," Xander agreed. "I'll call back if anything else comes up."

"Yeah, thanks," Elizabeth said before hanging up.

She rolled her neck around on her shoulders, trying to get the tension out before returning to the living room. The sight before her brought her oddly happy mood back, though. Spike still lay across the dark leather, snoring softly, only now Angel had decided to join him. The cat had somehow managed to slither his way under an arm and was currently resting on Spike's chest, eyes narrowed to contented slits at the warmth of the pillow he had found.

"Is this a truce, then?" she asked Angel pointedly, a smile lighting up her face at the sight of the two men in her life getting along so well. For the moment at least. She had no doubt that the instant Spike woke up, Angel would sink his claws in, and many a feline hiss and "Bloody hell!" would follow.

She reached over to scratch Angel's ears before unfolding the throw blanket on the armchair. "Whattaya say?" she asked Angel pointedly as she draped the blanket over Spike's sleeping form. "How about this time we keep him?"

Angel's only response was to shut his eyes and purr.

Elizabeth tucked in the final corner of the blanket under Spike's shoulder before venturing to brush one lock of white hair off of his forehead. "This time I'm sticking by you," she promised softly before heading off to the TV lounge to see just how bad a public relations disaster he had created this afternoon.

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