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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Chapter 7-Epilogue

Chapter 7: Pleas

"Officer Miller," Elizabeth sat down in the seat of her office across from him, "so nice of you to come."

Officer Graham Miller shifted uncomfortably in his seat, refusing to look at her. "You made me come," he pointed out matter-of-factly. "And I don't see why. I'm not any kind of defense witness."

Elizabeth allowed no emotion to flicker across her face at that. "You were present when my client, Mister Albrook, was arrested, were you not?" she inquired, opening a file folder in front of her and searching through it as if she were anything less than certain on this point.

Graham sighed. "Yeah," he agreed.

"You and Detective Gates," Elizabeth pointed her finger to the appropriate lines in the police report. "Just the two of you."

"Detective Finn, too," Graham insisted.

"Well, see, that's not quite true," she retorted with a smile. "Detective Finn was waiting in line for coffee when the murder went down. He arrived on the scene well after Mister Worth's death."

Graham couldn't argue with that. "Yeah, that's how it happened," he agreed.

"So," Elizabeth went on, "the only witnesses who saw my client put the gun back in his car were Detective Gates and yourself, is that right?"

A momentary shift in Officer Miller's gaze. "Right," he agreed after only a second's hesitation.

Elizabeth picked up on it, though. This was definitely a cop that had been ordered to tow the party line. "So, why don't you describe for me the events of that night?" She pulled out the police report and pointedly set it down in front of her. "In your own words."

An exasperated sigh. "You've got Detective Gates' report," he protested. "I don't see why you need me to tell you all this again."

Elizabeth leaned forward on her elbows, exposing a bit of cleavage, and put on her most unassuming smile. "Humor me?" she requested with that sweet innocence that had always gotten her swift and easy cooperation from the police.

Graham was no less immune than the rest of the force. "We saw Albrook go up, then come back down with the gun. He left the gun in his car, and then went back up. Detective Gates and I went up after him, found him over Worth's body, and we arrested him. Finn showed up then and took over the crime scene. I stayed on guard over Albrook until back up arrived, then I was called down to the station for shift change. That's all I know."

Elizabeth nodded and flipped through the pages of her report. "That seems to all check out," she agreed. "Only. You saw my client put the gun in his car?" she asked, not reproaching in the slightest.

"I did, ma'am," Graham agreed with a nod.

Elizabeth bit her lip and affected a puzzled expression. "He was wearing gloves when he dropped it off then, wasn't he?" she concluded.

Graham frowned. "I. Yes, he was," he concluded.

"That's what I thought," she nodded slowly. "Because, see," she pushed the print photos over to him, "my client's prints are nowhere near the trigger. And he had no powder marks on his hands. So he must've been wearing gloves for the actual shooting, and then taken them off when he dropped the gun off in his car."

Graham nodded. "That's right," he confirmed.

Elizabeth sighed. "So, did he take the gloves back with him, then?" she asked curiously.

Graham frowned at that.

"Well, they weren't in his car," she provided sweetly. "So, he must've taken them back upstairs with him, right?"

"Right." Graham agreed hesitantly.

"But, then, they weren't on him when he was arrested. Where do you suppose he left them in the meantime?" She flashed him her brightest smile.

"Don't know," he grumbled sullenly.

"And why do you suppose he removed them in the first place?" She pretended to be thinking out loud. "I mean, he has the common sense to wear them while he shoots Worth, but then takes them off to get his prints on the gun anyway and leaves his weapon out in the car right where the police will find it? Does that make any sense to you?" She batted her eyelashes demurely.

"No," he muttered reluctantly.

"And.you were watching the apartment building for over four hours prior to my client's arrival?" she inquired, trying to sound unpresuming.

"Yeah," Graham agreed, breathing a bit of a sigh of relief now that they were on safer ground again.

"Did you notice a phone booth on the corner of 59th?" she pressed.

"Yeah," he agreed, "it was right out the window of my car."

Elizabeth nodded slowly. "Did anyone use that phone while you were watching the victim's apartment?"

He frowned. "I don't." He thought about it for a second. "No, I don't think so," he finally concluded.

"That's interesting," Elizabeth commented, seemingly to herself.

"What's interesting?" Graham demanded curiously.

"It's just that we ran all the LUDs, and it turns out that a call was made from that payphone at exactly 8:21 PM to the offices of Albrook, Harris, and Jenkins. The secretary, a Miss Harmony Kendall, took the call and got a tip to direct my client in the direction of Mister Worth's apartment. Don't you find that interesting? That whoever made that call had to have been right there while you were watching?"

Graham shifted uncomfortably. "I wasn't paid to watch the phone," he insisted sullenly.

"No, of course not," Elizabeth assured him lightly. "You couldn't possibly have known in advance that Mister Albrook would show up, could you?"

"Of course not," Graham insisted readily.

"So, let's move on to after you've made your arrest," she continued.

"All right." Graham was getting distinctly nervous now, as if realizing that this pretty young lawyer was a bit sharper than she at first seemed.

"You and Detective Gates collared my client. Who cuffed him, by the way?"

"Gates did," he informed her crisply. "I stayed out of range with my weapon pulled in case Albrook tried anything funny."

"Safety first," she agreed with a smile. "And Detective Finn showed up then."

"That's right."

"So, who went down to call in the ambulance?" she asked sweetly.

A fidget. "Detective Gates."

"And he went down alone?"

"That's right."

Elizabeth's lips set in a grim line. Officer Miller was obviously just your run-of-the-mill police officer. He did his job as best he could, and he followed orders. He didn't seem to be overly bright, or he'd have known that he was exhibiting all the signs of an unpracticed liar. But big interrogations were left to higher-ranking officers, so he'd probably never been given the training in what to avoid. However, the man wasn't stupid, and he had to know by now that she was on to him.

"Can I speak frankly with you?" she asked bluntly, dropping the false pretenses.

Graham almost looked relieved when she did so, as if he hadn't been quite certain what to make of her before. "Whatever you want, counselor," he replied matter-of-factly.

"This cover story - that Detective Gates composed, I suspect? - well, it's not holding. The cracks are just getting bigger all the time, and IAB's already investigating the department on the somewhat suspicious evidence in this case. We even figured out that trick about how to get prints on a gun while handcuffing a suspect." She looked him squarely in the eyes, pausing until she'd caught his gaze before she continued. "I know you want to do what's right," she informed him, "but I also know you want to stand by Detective Gates. He's a good cop, right?"

"The best," Graham insisted vehemently.

"But you've got to think about what's at stake here," Elizabeth insisted.

"You think I haven't?" Graham retorted defensively. "I've got a wife and three kids to worry about, a job, a reputation."

"An innocent man who could very well be put in jail for something he didn't do," Elizabeth retorted. "You swore to protect the innocent. And what about my client's friends and family? Are you really prepared to destroy all of those innocent lives? A-And William has a fiancée, you know, who loves him more than anything in this world and."

* * *

The night before.
 

"I'm going to have to meet with Officer Miller tomorrow," Elizabeth whispered softly against the curve of Spike's throat.

"Mmm." he sighed, stroking her hair rhythmically. "Don't go."

"Hafta," she countered with an apologetic smile, venturing to lean in and press her lips to his.

It was a bit odd, being like this, not quite together but definitely in love. Some professionalism was necessary to maintain their composure in the courtroom, and they'd fought to maintain a friendly distance over the past few days just so that they wouldn't be distracted by the other's proximity during the trial. At night after they came home, though, they inevitably moved ever closer until they reluctantly had to break their embrace to get some sleep for the next day.

Tonight, though, Elizabeth had an irrational fear that he was slipping between her fingers, and she clung tightly to him in response. The trial had become even more stressful to her now that she stood to lose everything all over again. But she wouldn't give up these few moments they had together for the world.

"S'pose I can't go with you, either, without my bail bein' revoked." He let out a weary sigh.

"Best not to risk it," she agreed, fingers finding one flat male nipple through the material in his shirt and flicking her thumb over it teasingly.

A slight gasp escaped his lips, and he squeezed his eyes shut tight, jaw clenching. "You know what that does to me, pet," he protested in a husky voice.

A sly smile lit up her face. "Yeah," she agreed mock-innocently, "I do." Her other hand slipped down to his thigh to trace archaic patterns on his jeans.

"'Lizabeth." he began.

"Buffy," she insisted. "Always Buffy to you."

"Buffy," he agreed with another sharp intake of breath, "'m quite sure you're violatin' the bar code of ethics in about a dozen ways right now."

"How?" she countered with a wistful sigh of her own. "Husbands and wives represent each other all the time. I seriously doubt they put up a wall between them in the meantime."

"S'pose it's a bit different than the big bad lawyer seducing her poor defenseless client," he teased lightly. "Making him pay his legal fees in sexual favors."

She laughed at that. "Mmm, good idea," she decided. "Could use a few sexual favors."

He tisked good-naturedly. "Gonna have to report you, then. Can't have you sullying my virtue, now can I?"

She gave him a coy smile. "I think I've already sullied your virtue," she countered.

"No arguin' with that." He leaned forward to steal another quick kiss. "Still," he broke off with a reluctant sigh, "'s not like we're married."

She cocked her head to one side, studying him intently and finding him as breathtaking as she had when their eyes had first met back in law school. A deep ache settled through her bones at the thought of her life without this man. Oh, she'd compensated for her loss, true, burying herself deep in her work. But that one piece had always been missing since they'd split apart, and now for the first time she realized just how important he was to her.

"What?" He squirmed slightly under her gaze, almost afraid of the powerful emotions he saw there. God, he loved her, but to see her look at him like that again. He hoped he wasn't making a fool of himself in thinking that she still-

"Marry me," she finally concluded.

Wide-eyed silence for a minute. Then, "B-Buffy, you don't mean.?" he stammered out, sounding more like the shy, unsure William she'd first met.

"Sure, I do," she agreed, brushing his hair back from his forehead. "Since we never broke up, technically, we should still be engaged, right? So I'm all for making it official again. Marry me," she repeated her request, brushing her lips across the edge of one cheekbone.

His eyes fluttered shut, and his arms tightened around her before he captured her mouth in a sweet, lingering kiss.

"Is that a 'yes'?" she demanded pointedly, pulling away breathlessly.

"Could end up goin' to jail," he pointed out softly.

"I don't care. I'll be married to a convict, then," she decided.

"But I care," he countered. "If I go away-"

An angry finger to his lips cut him off. "I'm getting you off," she insisted. "Don't you dare think otherwise."

He sighed. "You know how fickle juries are, luv. Half the time they assume that if you're arrested, you must be guilty."

"Then this won't even go to jury," she concluded. "I'll drag the truth out of the good old boy cop system if it kills me."

"Buffy."

"Please, William," she whispered softly. "I just want it back. All of it. I need you."

A reluctant smile and a gentle kiss. "Consider yourself engaged, my love."

A bright smile lit up her face, and she curled deeper into his arms. "I love you, too," she whispered softly against his neck. "Always have, always will. You and only you."

A hack sounded across the living room.

Spike's eyes narrowed to where Angel seemed to be so innocently grooming. The cat merely stared back at him through intent, yellow eyes as if daring the human to try to call him on the insightful commentary.

"Thinking maybe we should move this away from prying eyes," he informed Elizabeth softly.

She blinked up at him at that. "Naughty boy," she scolded teasingly. "I have to go tomorrow to-"

A very naughty hand found its way between her thighs and stroked the wet spot it found there.

Elizabeth's words faltered, and she let out a heady moan.

"You were saying?" Spike whispered huskily into her ear.

"You don't think," gasp, "we're moving a little fast?" Elizabeth inquired in response.

"Fast was you proposin' to me. This.we've both been waiting for this for far too long." he retorted matter-of-factly.

One small hand trailed down the center of his shirt, savoring the feel of the strong muscles beneath. She outlined each of his six abdominal muscles before her thumb hooked lazily in the front of his jeans, halting its descent for the moment. "Too long," she agreed in a voice deep with desire. Then, she frowned. "And, wait a minute, you proposed to me." She pulled back slightly to fix him with a scowl.

He gasped in disbelief. "You just proposed to me all of five minutes ago!" he retorted.

"But that was just a follow-up to your proposal to me," she countered. "Remember, I even made you draw up that affidavit saying that you were the one who proposed so that we could have one moment in our relationship that wasn't ambiguous?"

"Yeah, back then," he agreed. "But 's a whole different ballgame now, and you, most definitely, proposed this time."

A little giggle escaped her lips.

"What?" he demanded, mock-offended.

"You're not going to let this drop, are you?" she inquired.

"Are you?" he retorted.

"Nope," she assured him, feeling unusually giddy and light-headed. Free. It felt good to just joke around like this, and she hadn't done it in far too long.

"Then," he announced, suddenly rising to his feet and causing her to squeal and cling onto him as he lifted her up into his arms, "'m just gonna have to.persuade you." An evil leer crept upon his features.

"Maybe I'll persuade you," she shot back, feet dangling casually in mid-air as he carried her up the stairs to her bedroom. "Although apparently it'll be my sheets we're trashing." she commented wryly.

"Been staring down the hall at this door for weeks now, wishing I was invited back in," he retorted, nudging the door open with his hip. He sent a scowl back in the direction of where Angel had followed them up the stairs and slammed the door in the cat's face.

Angel remained nonplussed by this turn of events. Really, one day that human was going to have to learn that closed doors weren't a hindrance to him in the slightest. But for now, he'd leave the pair be.

With an 'oof', Spike let Elizabeth fall back onto the bed, his own body quickly moving to cover hers. Her hands wrapped deep into the fabric of his shirt, pulling him close as their tongues met and mated. Without even the need for simple words, they began moving together, hands flitting over needy flesh, unsteady and fumbling over buttons and zippers, each overly eager in their pursuits.

"God, I want you so much," Spike whispered against her hair, hands on her back beneath her blouse and fiddling erratically with the clasp of her bra.

"Want you, too," she agreed, finally getting his zipper down and cupping his hardness with an almost reverent touch. "I think we're going to need to." she began.

He let out a reluctant sigh and sat back up, hobbling on one foot to pull his jeans off. He kicked his boots off as well, sending one of them flying under the bed. A muffled curse-word before he turned his attention to pulling his shirt off.

Elizabeth watched him disrobe through lazy, catlike eyes. He was so beautiful to her, and she'd spent so many nights dreaming about having him with her like this again.

"You gonna help out here, luv?" he teased lightly, watching her watch him with undisguised desire.

"Oh, um, yeah." She blushed at being caught staring and pulled her blouse off, tossing it in the direction of the armchair. "I just." Another blush. Nope, talking no good. She turned her full effort to getting out of her skirt and nylons.

Spike lay back on the bed beside her, fully nude, fascinated by her sudden shyness around him. Before she had always taken the lead in their lovemaking, his instructor in the arts of pleasure. Now. Well, he'd just have to show her that she was still that goddess that had first made him into a man.

"You're so beautiful," he purred, sidling up against her and pressing a soft kiss to the back of her neck.

Her fingers slipped on the toe of her nylons, and it took her several tries to finally get them off. "You're the beautiful one," she insisted, turning slowly in his arms and letting their naked bodies press together for the first time in years. "I." She was struck speechless by the feel of the powerful muscles beneath her fingertips. A blush. "It's been a while," she confessed.

A little growl escaped his throat at her admission. "Time for you to lie back and enjoy the ride," he breathed sensuously into her ear, twining his fingers with hers and leading her to lie down beside him on the bed.

Elizabeth felt her body relaxing as he began to trail kisses down her throat, along her collarbone, and then down still further. She let out an excited little gasp when his warm mouth first engulfed her breast, feeling the wetness between her legs begin to pool until she practically ached for his touch. "Please, William," she sighed.

"Ready so soon?" He looked up at her quizzically, scarred eyebrow raised.

"Told you it's been too long," she agreed, reaching up with her free hand to cup his cheek.

He nuzzled gently into her touch before his free hand caught hers, guiding both her wrists so that they rested on either side of her head. He locked their hands tightly then as he moved over her, one knee pressing gently between her thighs, asking her to open herself to him.

For one moment, a pang of fear passed through her body. He was so much larger and stronger than her, and he had her effectively trapped. The shy boy she had once known was almost wholly replaced by a confident, sexual man now, and the notion was just a bit intimidating. But then he looked down at her with those same soft, soulful blue eyes that she had first fallen in love with, and the strange sensation passed. A soft smile curling her lips now, she spread her legs for him, allowing him to settle comfortably in the cradle of her hips, her ankles coming up to lock in the small of his back.

"Love you," he assured her softly, finding her opening with the velvet tip of his cock and lining himself up carefully.

"I know," she whispered back. "Love you, too."

Their lips met in a frantic kiss just as, with one smooth roll of his hips, he plunged into her searing depths.

Elizabeth gasped into his mouth as she felt her inner muscles expand to accommodate his girth, stretching her out to her very limits before they contracted once more, squeezing tight around him.

"Fuck," he whispered against her, eyes shut tight to keep himself from exploding right then. "F-Forgot how good you feel." In his head, a perpetual mantra was repeating over again: Wet, tight, hot, more! It didn't take him long to give in and begin long, deep thrusts in and out of her slick passage.

Elizabeth let out a little whimper of need every time he left her body, only to inhale with a strangled gasp when he filled her once more. He wasn't moving particularly fast, but every stroke was sure, hitting the pleasure spot deep within her. "So.deep!" she managed to cry out amidst her moans of ecstasy.

"You fit me so good," he murmured in response, voice ragged with the effort of controlling his hips slow motions. "Like I was made off your mold."

"Yes," she hissed in agreement, her fingers tightening around his until her grip was almost painful, her hips writhing sensuously up to meet his thrusts.

"You like that?" he whispered seductively against her ear, picking up his pace slightly. He could feel that she was getting close.

"M-More," she agreed.

"You like this?" He swirled his hips as he entered her this time, picking up the strength of his thrusts as he did so.

Elizabeth's eyes widened. Never, in all her life, had anything ever felt that good. She felt a momentary pang of jealous rage for whatever floozy had showed him that move, but then she banished the thought from her mind. God, she didn't care about anything else in the world as long as he kept doing that.

"William!" she screamed out on the third rotating pulse.

He felt her body clenching around him, knew that was climax number one, and picked up his pace, ready to give her the big finish now. His balls practically ached in relief as he finally allowed himself to break free of his control and ravish her body.

"God, Buffy," he gasped against her, stroking deep within her over and over again to accept her silken embrace. "God, I love you so much. My goddess, my first. I want you.always.love you." Even words failed him as he felt his entire body tighten with impending orgasm.

Elizabeth managed to blink up at him blearily, falling down fast from the pleasure only to be jerked right back up to the peak again. "My love," she breathed, "my William."

"Yours," he whispered back raggedly just as his balls clenched and his seed shot deep into her womb, overcome with ecstasy.

She clutched him to her as she came again, feeling like the two of them were crashing down together at breakneck speed, drowning in a sea of pleasure, and.

Blackness.

"Buffy?" A soft murmur in the dark that made her aware of her existence once more.

"Mmm?" she murmured contentedly. She felt his body shift off of hers, and she held onto him in objection, settling comfortably against his chest as he lay beside her.

"Love you," he whispered lazily into her hair, feeling an overwhelming weariness take over his limbs.

"Love you," she agreed, placing one soft kiss on his chest.

Already she could feel his breathing even out with sleep and, before she drifted off as well, the pestering thought stuck in her mind that she hadn't been on any kind of birth control. The surprising thing was that that realization only caused her lips to curl in a smile as she fell asleep in his arms.

* * *

It wasn't until the next morning that Elizabeth - still a bit sore-thighed - crept carefully out of bed, slipping free of Spike's warm embrace and padding softly down the stairs. Angel, who had somehow found his way to the foot of the bed in the middle of the night, followed after, aiding her in her tasks for the day. She put the coffee kettle on and rubbed the sleep lazily out of her eyes, picking up the phone and hitting number six on her speed-dial.

"Rosenberg speaking," a familiar voice informed her matter-of-factly.

"Hi, Willow," Elizabeth yawned and pulled out one of the yogurts from her refrigerator.

On the other end, Willow's eyes narrowed. "You," she accused, "supposed best friend who a) takes up William's case, b) according to rumors I heard - secondhand from Amanda at the DA's, mind you - now has William living in her house, and c) doesn't even call me to spread the gossip. What could you possibly want?"

Elizabeth laughed at Willow's mock-sullen manner. "I'm sorry, Wills, really, but it's been a bit hectic lately what with-"

"You moving your ex back in with you?" Willow suggested.

"Yup," Elizabeth agreed matter-of-factly, "that."

"Oh," Willow sighed, "all right then." A sly smile lit up her face. "So, did you boink him yet?"

"Willow!" Elizabeth exclaimed, shocked. "I'm his attorney!"

"You did!" Willow squealed out her conclusion excitedly. "As good as you remember?"

Elizabeth's face flushed a deep red. "I didn't say." She let out a weary sigh. "I promise to gossip all about it in a minute," she changed the subject. "But I actually called you because I need some help."

Willow's brow furrowed at that. "How can I help your stud get off?" she asked curiously.

"You're friends with Faith Vlore, right?" Elizabeth inquired.

"Yeah."

"I need to borrow a stand-in attorney for the day," Elizabeth said apologetically. "I've got something important to do, and William's not qualified to stand by himself in court anymore."

"Sure," Willow agreed. "Faith's offices are right down the hall. Hang on, I'll check."

Elizabeth heard Willow set down the phone and snacked at her yogurt while she waited for her friend to return from the other law-firm that shared the lease on their building. She was - not surprisingly - finding it difficult to concentrate on such seemingly mundane matters after what she and Spike had shared last night. Fortunately, she'd gotten plenty of training back in law school at working out legal matters while a warm, sexy William waited in her bed. Still, she was grateful that Willow wasn't more than a minute.

"You're in luck," Willow announced brightly. "Faith's got a clean slate today."

Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief. "I would've called last night in advance but." she trailed off.

"Last night?" Willow pressed with a knowing grin.

"Let's just say that I was busy getting re-engaged," Elizabeth admitted, a satisfied smile creeping up on her face.

"Seriously?" Willow exclaimed in amazement. "You're actually going to get married this time?"

"That's the plan," Elizabeth agreed, practically beaming. "We're thinking small civil ceremony, just the two of us.like before."

"You're inviting me," Willow informed her matter-of-factly.

"Okay, fine. But only you," Elizabeth insisted.

"Kennedy will want to come with," she pointed out. "And then you can't leave Giles out, and."

Elizabeth mentally added the entire staff at Spike's office as well and grimaced. "Small," she insisted.

Willow agreed with a reluctant sigh. "So what's up today that you're leaving your future husband's side? I would've thought proving he was innocent - which I knew all the time, by the way, despite certain stuffy ADAs that will remain nameless and Faith says seriously need to get laid. by her - would be your top priority."

Elizabeth managed to work her way through Willow's typically effusive syntax, got past the start of surprise that Faith was interested in Robin, and found the point. Nervously, she fingered the phone cord between her fingers. "It is," she assured her friend.

"Then what's happening today?"

"My last, best chance at proving William's innocence," she answered simply.

* * *

The present again.
 

Elizabeth bit her lip and calmed herself, trying to force the emotion back out of her plea. She knew only too well that Graham was the only person likely to talk that could get these charges dropped early.

The officer merely studied her for a minute, surprised at how attached to her client she seemed. "This would get me kicked off the force," he finally informed her.

"I know that," she agreed, composed once more, "but it's not like your life will be over. There are other possibilities. If my client is convicted.that's pretty much it for the rest of his life."

Graham couldn't argue with that assessment. "You want me to turn on a friend," he accused.

"I just want you to do what you think is right," Elizabeth concluded. "Please."



Chapter 8: Verdicts

ADA Robin Wood sent a scathing look in Faith Vlore's direction. The defense attorney, not put off in the slightest, gave him a saucy smile and a little pat on the shoulder for his troubles. Not for the first time, Robin missed having Elizabeth in the chair beside him. Then, he could make some comment about juries never believing ballistic evidence again, and she would retort that everyone was too busy staring at Faith's ass to actually listen to the questions. It was the little things Elizabeth did to cheer him that he missed most. Plus, such a comment would undoubtedly guilt-trip him enough that he'd stop staring at Faith's ass himself. She gave him a coy wink as she sat down, and he gulped in response, refusing to fall for her usual bait.

"The prosecution calls Detective Forrest Gates," Wood announced, rising from his chair.

However, at that moment, the doors at the back of the courtroom slipped open. It was done in a quiet and polite manner, but Faith had been waiting for just such an event. She turned to see that Elizabeth had just entered, and the two exchanged a quick nod.

"The defense requests a moment of consultation before the next witness is called," Faith hastily announced.

Judge Greenberg raised an eyebrow at that. "Any objections?" he inquired of Wood.

Wood sighed. "Let them take all the time in the world," he shrugged, curiously watching the defense table now.

Faith turned to where a very sullen looking Spike was sitting in the chair beside her. "Cheer up, gorgeous," she encouraged him with a playful ruffle of his hair, "your sweetie's back. And if we're in luck, she brought evidence to clear up these charges." Faith leaned eagerly over the wooden barrier than separated the audience seats from the defense at Elizabeth's approach.

Despite his determination to sulk, Spike found himself rising as well, curious as to what Elizabeth had uncovered.

Elizabeth managed a shy, apologetic smile for leaving Spike to wake up alone that morning and inwardly promised to make it up to him later. Right now, lamentably, there were more important matters to take care of. "Object to the witness," Elizabeth instructed Faith.

"On what grounds?"

"Suborning perjury," Elizabeth instructed. "Try to get a counsel in chambers. We've got new evidence that makes this entire case moot."

"That wanker talked, did he?" Spike commented with feigned disinterest.

"Robin's reasonable," Elizabeth agreed. "He'll have to drop charges after he hears this."

Faith nodded and turned back to the judge. "The defense objects to the next witness," she announced bluntly.

Wood gave her a disbelieving look. "You want to try that with all the prosecution witnesses?" he countered. "Because that's one hell of a good way to make any case."

"Language, counselor," Judge Greenberg chided Wood. "And sarcasm."

"Apologies," Wood agreed hastily, "but the defense isn't allowed to object to witnesses-"

"-Unless we have good reason to believe that they will commit perjury," Faith finished.

"The defense doesn't even know-" Wood began.

Faith cut him off again. "We have evidence that-"

"Stop," Greenberg instructed, giving them both the evil eye, "before the jury's completely corrupted, if you please."

Wood and Faith both cut off their arguments.

"Now, how about we approach and discuss this in a civilized manner?" Greenberg suggested, gesturing for them both to come in.

"What's this all about?" Wood demanded in a soft voice, once the three of them were conferring together.

"Officer Graham Miller has a statement to make," Faith reported. "He will state that Detective Gates intentionally manufactured evidence against my client. In addition, he's willing to swear that Detective Gates lied on the official police reports."

Judge Greenberg sighed wearily. "I would hope the prosecution didn't have foreknowledge of these allegations," he said pointedly.

"Of course not-" Wood began in protest.

"Officer Miller's testimony was only secured this morning," Faith quickly intervened. "We didn't have time to notify the prosecution until now."

"Your Honor, I need to hear this new testimony before I can call Detective Gates," Wood insisted. "I'd like to request a recess."

"And I'd like it taken to chambers," Faith countered.

Judge Greenberg gave her a curious look. "Any particular reason you think this won't be a waste of the jury's time?" he inquired.

"Given the allegations in this witness' testimony, the defense cannot imagine that the prosecution will continue to pursue this case," Faith clarified.

"It's that good?" Wood asked skeptically.

"I don't know," Faith countered. "Elizabeth says so."

Judge Greenberg looked to where Elizabeth was still waiting just in front of the audience. "Fine, chambers," he agreed. "And get all the other players in there, too. I don't want people hanging in from the sidelines."

"Thank you," Faith agreed with a bright smile before turning back to Elizabeth to make arrangements.

She quickly ducked out to fetch Graham, while Faith led Spike - and the bailiff who necessarily accompanied him - back to Judge Greenberg's chambers. She quickly gestured for Spike to sit in one of the available chairs and smiled slyly at Wood when he pulled out a chair for her.

"This had better be good," was all he said in response, taking his own seat.

Elizabeth entered the chambers through the office door only a few seconds later, Graham Miller firmly in tow. "Sorry, I'm late," she said hastily, "but we had to come around back to avoid the crowds, and." She took the seat next to Spike gratefully, venturing a small smile in her lover's direction. Graham took the remaining seat.

"All right, Officer," Judge Greenberg turned his attention to Graham, "you've got me curious. What's this about an error in the police report?"

Graham's emotions from earlier had vanished from his façade now, leaving the impression of a disciplined police officer. "Detective Gates and I lied in that report, Your Honor," he answered in a firm voice. "Mister Albrook never had possession of the gun and arrived fifteen minutes after Mister Worth's death."

Spike raised an eyebrow at that, even though he had known it was the case all along. Whatever Elizabeth had said to make this bloke change his mind had obviously been quite effective.

"I see," Judge Greenberg said matter-of-factly. "Then, why don't you explain what did happen that night?"

Graham responded with a curt nod. "Detective Finn, Detective Gates, and myself were watching Mister Worth's apartment in anticipation of his testimony against mob hitman, Mister Trick, which he was supposed to give the following morning. Around 8:30, we were starting to get hungry and bored. Detective Finn offered to go grab us some food and coffee. After he left, Detective Gates and I decided we couldn't wait and headed off for the gas station just around the corner. We weren't gone more than five minutes."

"You left your post?" Faith demanded.

Graham's face reddened, but he answered nonetheless. "Yes, ma'am," he confessed. "Just as we were getting back." He sighed. "We saw a car speeding away. It hadn't been there before. Detective Gates was concerned so we went up to check on Mister Worth. He'd been shot dead, and the gun had been left beside him. Sometimes the hitmen do that, you know. Just to make sure that the gun is traced back to the Wilkins mob - sort of a warning to anyone else who might think about snitching."

Judge Greenberg fixed Graham with a solemn frown. "This was before Mister Albrook even arrived?" he demanded pointedly, obviously none too pleased with this story.

Graham nodded. "I'm getting there," he agreed. "Well, Forrest - that is, Detective Gates - and I both knew we'd blown it. We checked the gun for prints, and there were none. We guessed that the hitman silenced the gun because none of the neighbors had responded. So we're sitting there, and I'm talking about how our careers are dead after a mistake like this. I mean, we even let the guy get away. And Detective Gates mentions that since no one heard the shots, no one even knows Worth is dead yet except us. And I say, yeah, but the body's here and the murderer's gone. And Detective Gates, real casual, asks what if we call someone else in to take the fall and catch them in the act. We can't do anything about Worth, but if we at least catch this guy." He trailed off, embarrassed.

Up until this point, Wood had been listening to Officer Miller's story quietly. Now, however, he couldn't hold his disgust in any longer. "So you decided to make up some silly story?" he demanded harshly. "Jeopardize our entire investigation of the Wilkins mob and give every member we've convicted grounds for immediate appeal?"

"Forrest said this could never come out," Graham insisted hastily. "He said." A long sigh. "He said that Mister Albrook was as good as in Wilkins' pocket the way he'd testified in the Trick case. And it didn't really matter which of Wilkins' lackeys we got, as long as we got one of them, right?"

"I don't work for them!" Spike exclaimed in outrage.

Elizabeth quickly put a comforting hand on his arm, pulling him back down into his chair.

He calmed a bit at her touch, but kept his narrowed eyes focused on Graham, venom practically dripping from his gaze.

"Gates said it'd be like killing two birds with one stone. Albrook's testimony in the Trick case would be gone, and we'd get off the hook for blowing it with Worth. I. I wasn't sure, but Forrest said it was either him or us. He said he'd been trying to nail Trick for too long now to let that bastard get away. And I was scared and he was a superior officer, so. Yeah, he told me to call Albrook's office and get him down there. Say it was an emergency so we could do this quick, before Finn got back."

"You lured him there?" Faith repeated incredulously.

Graham intentionally stared at the surface of the desk, avoiding the accusing stares that surrounded him. "It wasn't my idea," he insisted. "Gates. He made it sound like it was the only option."

"What about the prints on the gun, then?" Wood demanded.

"Detective Gates rigged them while he was cuffing Albrook," Graham squirmed uncomfortably. "He dumped the gun in Albrook's car when he went out to call back up."

"And why exactly didn't you report all this before?" Judge Greenberg asked sourly.

Graham merely shrugged at that. The answer was obvious enough to everyone else, however. Police officers had often been known to defend their own over outsiders in the past.

Wood swore and covered his eyes with a weary hand.

"You're dropping the charges, right?" Elizabeth demanded, speaking up for the first time. After all, she'd heard all these revelations earlier this morning. Her left hand continued to grip Spike's forearm tightly, feeling the repressed rage shaking through his body and trying to quell its explosion long enough to get this all taken care of.

"This is going to have to go through IAB and." Wood sighed. "We're going to have to charge Gates with obstruction, lying to the police, dereliction of duty, not to mention." He trailed off again. "You're not coming out of this too well, either," he informed Graham pointedly.

"I suggested that maybe the DA's office would be willing to settle for taking his badge," Elizabeth informed Wood somewhat apologetically. "Given that he did eventually come forward and all."

Wood nodded. "And you're testifying against Gates, right?" he demanded.

Graham nodded reluctantly.

"Make sure you get yourself a good lawyer," Wood concluded before turning back to Elizabeth. "You do realize that I could pit Gates and Miller here against each other on the stand and let the jury sort it out."

"Only if you believed in good faith that Gates wouldn't perjure himself," Elizabeth countered pointedly.

Wood sighed. "Double jeopardy means that if I drop this I can't come back," he reminded her.

Elizabeth merely raised one eyebrow.

"All right, fine, you've got your dismissal," Wood informed her, "and I hope you're ready to deal with all the hassles of trying a police detective compounded with keeping the Trick case from being thrown out."

A small smile curved the edges of Elizabeth's lips. "Gladly," she assured him.

"We're getting the rest of the day off?" Judge Greenberg inquired. "Good. It's so nice to see attorneys behaving in a remotely reasonable manner." He rose from his desk with a bit of a grunt. "Any objections to making this all formal right now?"

Head shakes all around.

"Then let's get this mess over with," Judge Greenberg concluded, "and," he turned his attention to Graham, "I have never heard of any officer of the court doing anything so reprehensible. You should be ashamed of yourself, and you're just lucky I'm not the one sentencing you." With an angry twirl of his robes, he returned to the courtroom. Three attorneys, an exceptionally pissed off defendant, and a penitent police officer followed.

Elizabeth took up the additional defense chair and sat down beside Spike, her hand never leaving his arm the entire time.

"I believe we have a motion?" Judge Greenberg inquired once seated in his chair once more.

"We have, Your Honor," Wood agreed, rising from his own seat. "Due to recent evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation into Howard Worth's death, the prosecution at this time is dropping all charges against William Albrook."

"Defense?" Judge Greenberg asked.

"No objections whatsoever," Elizabeth announced, taking the job that technically should have been Faith's for the day. No one minded, of course.

"Then, I am hereby dismissing all charges against the defendant, William Albrook, and releasing him from the custody of this court," Judge Greenberg announced, turning back to the jury. "The jury is dismissed from this case, and court is adjourned."

Elizabeth let out an audible sigh of relief as she and Spike rose from their seats. "Congrats," she informed him softly.

"You said you'd get me off," he replied matter-of-factly, jaw still ticking with anger. His eyes immediately set upon where Detective Gates was demanding Wood to explain what was going on. "'Scuse me a second, pet." He headed off pointedly in the direction of the detective.

Elizabeth quickly chased after him. The last thing she needed was to have to defend him from assaulting a police officer.

"You, ponce," Spike growled, coming to an angry stop only a few feet away from Detective Forrest Gates.

Gates turned to look at him in surprise.

"Next time wanna be more careful who your frame?" Spike added snidely. "Make sure they can't defend themselves, am I right?"

"What are you-?" Forrest demanded.

Wood put a cold hand on his shoulder. "Your little plot is out," he informed the detective tersely.

Forrest's eyes widened for a second before narrowing on Graham. "You little snitch," he accused. "You ratted out your own to protect this filth?" He gestured to Spike with a look of disgust in his eyes.

A low growl escaped Spike's throat at that.

"If he hadn't been boffing the DA, we would've had him," Forrest continued, giving Elizabeth a look that made her feel downright dirty.

At that last insult, Spike finally exploded and dove for Forrest. Elizabeth had been anticipating such a move, fortunately, and managed to grab him from behind, her arms wrapped around him and pinning his own arms at his sides.

"We'll get him," she whispered against his back. "We'll make him pay for what he did to you."

Wood, meanwhile, had restrained Forrest. Two of the bailiffs swiftly approached. "Arrest this man," Wood instructed them, "for obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence, to start."

Forrest shot him a nasty look. "So, you let the punk go, huh?" he spat nastily as the two bailiffs restrained him. "Botch the investigation of the Wilkins syndicate more? No wonder none of my collars ever held with DAs like the two of you." He saved an especially venomous look for Elizabeth. "You're worse than the criminals," were his parting words before he was dragged from the courtroom.

"There's one cop who's let his work drive him to the brink of insanity," Faith commented dryly, slinging her purse over her shoulder. "Thanks for dragging me into this," she commented to Elizabeth with a wry smile.

Elizabeth managed a tight one back from where she was still holding Spike back. "C'mon, let's get out of here," she encouraged him softly.

Some of the fight seemed to go out of him at that, and Elizabeth let him go. She almost regretted it when he abruptly turned on Graham, though. "'d be too ashamed to live with myself if I were you," he hissed angrily before storming out of the courtroom.

Elizabeth gave the rest of her colleagues an apologetic smile. "His bark's really worse than his bite," she assured them, glancing off to where her lover had gone.

"Go, chase down your man," Wood instructed with a little knowing smile. "I'm sure Faith can take care of the rest of this."

Elizabeth cast him a grateful - albeit embarrassed smile - and departed as well.

Wood let out a weary sigh. "We've just quadrupled the amount of work that needs to be done," he groaned.

Faith gave him a little pat on the small of his back, letting her hand linger there longer than was absolutely necessary. "How about I treat you to dinner, and we work out the final paperwork together?" she suggested, just a hint of seduction in her tones.

Wood managed a sly smile. "If you're buying, I know a great French place down on fifteenth."

"It's a date," Faith agreed, looping her arm through his as they left the courtroom together.

* * *

"Are you mad at me?" Elizabeth bit her lip as Spike shut the back door behind them. The entire drive back home he'd remained silent, never speaking a word to her.

He looked down at her curiously at that. "Why would I be mad at you, luv?" he asked softly, fixing her with a quizzical look.

She blushed slightly but felt a wave of relief rush through her nonetheless. "Because I left you alone this morning?" she suggested cautiously.

A soft smile lit up his face, and he caught her up in a loose embrace, brushing his lips against her forehead. "Not mad about that," he assured her. "I get that you've got important stuff to do. Although if you make a habit of it."

"I won't," she promised him, placing a short, sweet kiss on his lips.

"And just so long as you don't leave me in Faith's care again," he countered, twirling his fingers lazily in her hair. "Missed havin' you by my side today, y'know."

She graced him with a radiant smile. "A small sacrifice to keep you out of prison permanently," she assured him.

"Did a good job gettin' that cop to talk," he complimented her. "Care to share your secret?"

"No chance in hell," she countered. "Can't have you using my own tricks against me, now can I?"

He laughed at that. "Love you," he whispered, giving her a heartfelt squeeze.

"Love you, too," she agreed, one finger trailing up and down the strong lines of his chest. "You know, technically you probably don't have to live here anymore. I mean, now that you're no longer a suspect, the press are bound to leave you alone." She trailed off pointedly.

"Want me to move out?" he asked with a knowing smile.

"Want you to stay," she assured him.

"So you're askin' me to move in with you?" he demanded.

"Yup," she agreed with a bright smile.

"Can I have an affidavit signed to that fact, so that when you randomly claim that it was my idea to move in together, I can wave it in your face?" he teased.

Her eyes widened. "What are you talking about?" she joked back. "You just asked to move in with me!"

"God, you're infuriating," he informed her fondly, brushing an errant strand of blond hair back from her face.

"I know," she assured him. "So.you're moving in, right? Because, frankly, this house is way too big for just me and Angel."

"Surprised DAs get high enough salaries for a place like this," Spike glanced around the high rafters of the living room.

"We don't," she assured him. "Mom left it to me after she."

"'m sorry, pet," he immediately laid a gentle kiss on her hair. Buffy's mother had been the only other member of her family that he'd ever really liked, and vice-versa.

"It's okay," she assured him. "It's just. I wanted to keep the house. A little piece of her, and maybe a place I could start my own family some day." She kept her eyes lowered at that part.

A cocky smile spread across his lips at that, and one hand came to rest possessively on her stomach as if claiming his place within her. "Just going to hafta stick around then and help you with that," he concluded. His lips brushed her ear seductively. "Wanna work on it right now?"

She felt an excited little tingle run down her spine. "You gonna carry me up to bed again?" she teased lightly.

"And break my back?" He let her go long enough to take her hand and guide her upstairs.

She mock-pouted. "I'm not that heavy," she retorted.

"No," he assured her, "you're perfect."

Their lips met for a deep, sensual kiss right outside the door to Elizabeth's room. Elizabeth's fingers found their way into his dark locks, and she briefly fantasized that they were the platinum he favored now. "Get your hair back to normal, and you'll be perfect, too," she concluded.

An evil smirk curled his lips. "Want me to go off and bleach it now?" he teased.

She pulled him back into her room. "Need you now," she insisted, falling back onto the bed. "Need to show you how much I love you."

He kicked off his shoes and joined her on the mattress, lying on his side so that they could share kisses and caresses as they moved together beneath the sheets.

With a contented sigh, Elizabeth nuzzled her head into the crook of his neck, squeezing her eyes shut tight and breathing in his distinctive scent. One hand lazily trailed up and down his spine, and she pressed herself to him, enjoying the feeling of his strong arm around her waist and his gentle fingers in her hair.

"Buffy?" Spike ventured to ask softly when she hadn't altered her strokes for some time.

He got a soft snore in response.

"Poor little angel's been wearing herself out takin' care of me," he whispered against her hair. "Don't worry, pet. 'S time I returned the favor." With a contented smile of his own, he hugged her closer and prepared to enjoy an afternoon napping in her arms.

And then one eye cracked open.

"I know you're there, and you're not interruptin' anything, so you might as well show your ugly face," Spike announced.

Angel leapt up onto the bed, tail twitching at being called 'ugly'.

"Yeah, yeah," Spike rolled his eyes, waiting for Angel's approach. "Well, don't just sit there brooding," he finally exclaimed in annoyance.

Angel paused for a moment, debating the joys of sinking all twenty-eight claws into the aggravating human. However, that would undoubtedly disturb the warm, comfy bed. Giving in to the foolish creature this time, he stalked haughtily up the bed until he'd found a comfortable, warm place between the humans' bodies and settled himself down for a good nap.

Spike, in a moment of uncharacteristic affection, patted the great beast on the head. His family. The thought wasn't at all unappealing. And, with a yawn as wide as Angel's, he too settled down to sleep contentedly.

* * *

"I now pronounce you husband and wife."

The happy couple met in an enthusiastic kiss, and the audience cheered as the marriage vows were completed.

In the first row, Elizabeth gave Spike a shy smile, and he returned it with a squeeze to her hand. They both knew how big this was. Now that Anya was finally happily married, she would no longer oppose their own wedding on grounds that they were "trying to steal my spotlight." A small, private ceremony had already been scheduled that Saturday. Elizabeth and Spike were both counting the days.

Soft musical strains filled the lodge, and Elizabeth leaned over to rest her head on Spike's shoulder, savoring the moment. Her contented introspections were almost immediately interrupted by the loud sobbing behind her.

"It's so sad!" Harmony wailed into her tissues, watching Xander and Anya dancing. "An agency with two attractive, single men, and now they're both going to be married! To someone other than me!" She burst out bawling again and collapsed onto the nearest male body in tears.

Unfortunately, said body happened to belong to Giles, and the older man fumbled nervously with the young secretary, sending a pleading look Spike and Elizabeth's way.

The pair exchanged a look and a snicker. "Next dance is comin' up, luv," Spike informed Elizabeth, giving Giles a shameless wave as he led her off.

Elizabeth managed to laugh into her hand as she followed her fiancé's lead over to the dance floor.

Left alone, Giles looked at the crying blond beside him in despair. "There, there?" he ventured hesitantly.

Harmony's sniffles abated slightly. "You have a law firm, right?" she asked, voice still ragged.

"Um.yes," Giles agreed, gratefully returning her fully to her seat.

"So, I bet you've got all sorts of attractive lawyer bachelors working for you." Harmony added thoughtfully.

Giles scanned around frantically for an escape route.

"I don't suppose you need a secretary?" Harmony inquired, batting her eyelashes now.

Spike chuckled into Elizabeth's hair as he watched Giles flee faster than he ever would had thought the older man capable of running. "Looks like we're gonna need to find a new secretary.if all the bad press doesn't completely put me out of business, that is," he added ruefully.

"Are you kidding?" Elizabeth countered. "You're famous now. I'm willing to bet you double your fees."

He sighed. "Great, just what I need: morbid clients."

"Aren't they all?" Elizabeth countered.

"Nasty business sometimes," he conceded, "though I can't imagine yours is much better."

"I get the baddies at the end of the day," she countered. "Or, I will as soon as I go back to work."

"And you're sure that ponce of a boss isn't gonna put you on shit detail once you go back?" Spike countered teasingly.

"Robin's been too busy drooling over Faith of late to hold a vendetta," she assured him. "Besides, I can take anything he'll throw at me. I have a feeling two weeks of honeymoon will have me nice and.relaxed." She practically purred into his ear.

"Get me all nervous goin' on like that," he teased. "Already about as giddy as I was when you first asked me out."

Elizabeth scowled at him. "I'm quite sure we finally established that you first asked me out," she countered.

"We did establish it," he retorted, "only the other way around."

"No, we didn't," she countered, wide-eyed at the gratuitous lie.

"Yes, we did," Spike retorted.

"Didn't."

"Did."

"Didn't."

Their bodies had inched closer with each denial until they stood nose to nose, both their faces flushed with enjoyment at the argument.

Spike shifted uncomfortably in his suit. "Wanna get out of here?" he inquired pointedly. "Head back home and-"

"It's your best friend's wedding," she chided him lightly.

He sighed. "Right. So, Saturday, right?" he asked eagerly.

"Saturday," she agreed with a soft smile, resting her head on his shoulder as she watched Xander and Anya dance across the floor. For one instant, the crazy notion to have a big wedding of her own flashed through her mind, but then she wisely remembered Anya's five-hour description of the necessary planning and shook the notion off. All she wanted was William as quickly as she could have him, with no fuss.

"Can hardly believe 's finally going to happen," he whispered softly against her hair, watching the newlyweds as well. "Seems like 've been waiting forever."

"No, I've been waiting forever," Elizabeth teased.

He laughed at that. "God, I love you, Buffy," he said with a wistful sigh.

She smiled as the music changed. "Love you, too," she agreed. "Now, c'mon, they're playing our song."

"We have a song?" he demanded skeptically.

She rolled her eyes. "Just c'mon," she instructed him, a seductive smile on her lips. "You know you wanna dance with me."

He took her offered hand and pulled her body up tight against his. "Always," he agreed in a husky whisper.



Epilogue

"The people request remand without bail, Your Honor," Elizabeth announced in a crisp voice, sorting through the papers before her. "The defendant is a mob boss in the Wilkins crime syndicate. I'm sure I don't need to remind the court that the last nine members of this organization who were granted bail promptly fled the country."

"There's no official evidence that such a syndicate even exists!" the defense attorney protested. "The prosecution can't use criminal conspiracy theories and the behavior patterns of other individuals my client has never even met to-"

"I wasn't born yesterday, Mister Carter," Judge Weisman retorted, staring down at him under the rims of her glasses. "Ms. Albrook is right. The defendant is to be held without bail. Next docket."

The corners of Elizabeth's lips twitched upwards. Even after six months, the last name still sent a little tingle down her spine.

"Don't smile yet, Elizabeth," Carter informed her, dropping several papers in front of her. "Mister Fitch denies having even heard of Mister Trick. That, and all the evidence against him was obtained through an illegal search."

"Warrants are illegal now, are they?" Elizabeth retorted sarcastically with a falsely cheerful smile.

"We're contesting the validity of the warrant," Carter instructed her, watching as his client was led off to the holding facility. "There's no way you're going to hold this indictment. Have a nice day." He gave her an equally false smile before stalking off.

Elizabeth moved aside to allow the next docket to be called, arranging everything neatly before putting it all into her briefcase. The persistent smile that had threatened to overcome her all day finally broke, and she walked from the courtroom with a little swagger.

Robin Wood and Detective Finn met her outside. "Bail?" Wood asked anxiously.

"Remand," Elizabeth assured him, handing over the motion she'd just received. "Carter wants to question the search warrant."

"Typical," Wood commented with a roll of his eyes.

"Everything's clean on this one," Riley assured them both. "All 'I's dotted and 'T's crossed." He ventured a pleasant smile in Elizabeth's direction. The fact that she'd broken the case against his partner had strained their friendship, but their working relationship was cordial again now, and perhaps all hard feelings would disappear with time. After all, not even loyal Riley Finn could deny that his partner had done some pretty nasty stuff.

"Good," Wood agreed. "We'll want to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb again just to make sure. You available Tuesday morning?"

"I'll fit it in," Riley answered.

"Have we gotten Trick to make a statement yet?" Elizabeth demanded information on the other end of the investigation.

"Sooner or later he's bound to realize that Wilkins is slowly cutting him off," Wood assured her. "It's only a matter of time before he cracks on something."

"All right, then," Elizabeth concluded with a smile. "You don't need me this afternoon?"

"So you can sleep with the enemy?" Wood teased.

"I'm not the one having the steamy affair with a certain brunette defense counsel," Elizabeth shot right back.

Riley gave Wood a speculative look at that. "You're sleeping with the enemy?" he joked.

Wood huffed. "None of your business, detective," he countered.

"So I'm off?" Elizabeth persisted hopefully.

"You've got your half-day off," Wood assured her. "I'm presuming it's worth it?" He fixed her with a curious look.

"I'll let you know tomorrow," Elizabeth refused to let the cat out of the bag.

"We can't push our luck?" Riley teased lightly, a bit of their old camaraderie coming through in his tone.

"You're both lucky I convinced William not to indict you for malicious prosecution," she joked right back.

"There's no grounds-" Wood began automatically.

"He's convinced that the fact that the two of you check out my butt is grounds enough," Elizabeth retorted with a wink.

Riley blushed and looked pointedly away, while Wood chuckled. "You can tell your husband that my appreciation of your figure is completely respectful," Wood shot back with a smile.

Elizabeth laughed as well and gave them a final wave before exiting the courthouse. It was a warm spring day outside, and Elizabeth wound her way slowly through the park, enjoying the feel of the sunshine upon her skin. She caught sight of a familiar platinum head and walked over to the park bench, sudden giddiness threatening to overtake her.

"Happy to see me, luv?" Spike asked in a husky voice, admiring her approach and rising to his feet to meet her.

She caught him in a passionate embrace and pressed her lips to his, her tongue sliding sensuously along the lines of his mouth, urging him to open up to her. He did so willingly, and soon their tongues were joined in a fierce dance, making love the only way they could in such a public setting.

Spike finally pulled back to gasp for air, resting his head atop hers as they remained locked in their embrace. "'ll take that as a 'yes', then?" he said lightly, closing his eyes at the wonderful feel of her fingers twining through his hair.

"Very much yes," she assured him, holding him tight. "I've got something I have to tell you, William."

The seriousness of her tone caught him by surprise, and he pulled away slightly to look at her. "What?" he asked, somewhat anxiously.

"Well, I snuck in an appointment at the doctor's this morning." she began.

His hand instantly went to her forehead, concerned about some of the strange symptoms she'd been exhibiting lately. "'S nothing, right?" he asked, worried.

Her face flushed. "Not exactly," she corrected, taking hold of the hand at her forehead and guiding it to her still-flat stomach.

He blinked at her blankly a couple of times. "'S not serious, is it?" he demanded, not catching the hint.

She rolled her eyes. "Remember how we've been trying?" she hinted, pressing his hand more firmly against her belly.

One really slow blink. And then his eyes widened. "You're-" he managed to gasp out.

"William!" Elizabeth called out in alarm, catching him up against her for balance as he swayed on his feet.

He shook his head, getting over the momentary giddy dizziness. "You're." he said again, a grin slowly splitting his face as well. The hand on her stomach rubbed in an affectionate circle.

"Carrying a little William," she agreed with a laugh.

"You mean a little Buffy," he corrected automatically before leaning in and capturing her lips in another molten kiss, effectively preventing any further argument on the subject.

She melted into his embrace as they laughed between kisses, and even as the clouds burst into another of the day's sporadic showers above them, a sense of completion settled over her like nothing she'd ever felt before.

"Better get you inside," Spike insisted, sheltering her from the rain with his coat. "Don't want you catchin' cold in your condition."

Elizabeth chose to remain charmed by the concern for the moment. She'd wait until he went overboard before bitching him out for over-protectiveness. And, given all her husband's other tendencies, she had no doubt that he'd go Neanderthal with the best of them. For now, though, it was sweet.

"Let's go home," she agreed, lips whispering against his throat. "I've got the entire afternoon off, and I think the two of us deserve some time together to celebrate."

"'S only fair," he agreed, pressing a tender kiss into the hair of the woman he loved and marveling that, after all that gone wrong in his life over the past years, everything was finally right.


The End.

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