In the interest of equal rights the trial took place after dark the next day. The room was packed with barely an empty seat in the place. A great deal of those seats were now occupied by vampires. Vampires from H.U. but still, vampires. Spike didn’t think this was a good thing. It was Buffy’s first day on the actual “stand” so to speak – hence the large turnout.
Everyone wanted a look at the accused.
She stood and walked slowly to the chair placed at the front of the room. Buffy’s movements were unhurried as she sat and turned to face Heaton. He spoke but Spike didn’t listen. His gaze was fixed on the Slayer. His body still ached from their battle the day before. She bore no bruising on her face and didn’t visibly appear damaged at all. If Spike were a lesser vampire he might feel a bit insulted. As it was, he was content to just look at her.
She sat in front of a room full of judging faces and she didn’t falter. Since she had decided to take this thing seriously, to invest in winning this trial, Buffy had shown grace and poise under great odds. It just remained to be seen whether she’d be able convince them she wasn’t a cold blooded killer.
She looked anything but that tonight. Spike guessed that was the point. Put a beautiful blonde girl in front of a court and, had there been an actual jury, she may have gotten through it on wholesome looks alone.
Buffy sat with her hands resting on the arms of the chair, eyes gliding over Norman and Lucy, over her friends, alighting briefly on him before she returned her attention to Heaton.
Spike was incredibly confused about her. That was nothing new, of course, but it grated on him a little. That so much time could pass, that he could grow as a man in so many ways and yet when it came back to Buffy Summers he was still an indecisive fool.
He wanted her but he didn’t want to be hurt by her again. And he didn’t want to hurt her, either, which he knew he was fully capable of. He had the niggling doubt that the only reason she was interested in him was because he was a tie to her past. It made sense that she’d want to latch onto the person who had – in appearance at least – changed the least in thirty years. It was better for him to just be cautious, not to rush.
Spike didn’t want to take advantage or be taken advantage of.
And yet. And yet there was a little part of him that whispered so what.
Faith cleared her throat in a very unsubtle way to let him know he was staring. He blinked and looked at the vampire beside him. Why she had shown up was a mystery to him. As far as he knew the woman tolerated Buffy and vice versa, nothing more and nothing less. Faith turning up at the courthouse could be down to one of two things – either she was here to support Buffy or she was just bored. He didn’t like to judge but he figured it to be the latter.
Having said that, he’d noticed the two women had been getting on better of late. They’d both deny it but he sensed some sincere affection for each other ran beneath the surface of all their snipes and scowls. They had, after all, been close in the beginning. Or so he had heard.
Spike had always gotten the feeling that Faith admired Buffy; put her on a pedestal of everything she could have been and wanted to be. Over the years they hadn’t spoken much about the blonde Slayer, mostly to spare his feelings he was sure, but what had been said had never contained any real malice. Faith had always spoken of Buffy with slight nostalgia, fondness even.
In a way, Buffy’s connection with Faith was the most complex and profound relationship she had ever had. Spike smiled as he imagined her face were he to speak this thought aloud.
“Buffy, the last recorded sighting of you was over thirty years ago. Can you tell us where you’ve been during that time?” Norman asked as he rose from his seat.
Spike’s attention snapped back to the matter at hand instantly.
Buffy shifted in her seat. “I don’t know exactly. I went through a portal, landed in a desert…kind of pre-anything, if you know what I mean.”
“Not really,” he frowned. “Can you describe it?”
“Lotta sand, couple of trees, some big rocks. Whole lotta sand,” she shrugged and then took a moment. “And there were men there.”
“Men? What did they say?”
Buffy smiled slightly. “They spoke a different language but I understood. They told me they had watched over the First Slayer.”
Norman tilted his head, rubbed his chin. “So it’s possible you went back through time?”
A few people in the room laughed lightly and Spike felt his fist clench.
“I guess so,” Buffy said, ignoring them. “To me it seemed like only an hour had passed but here it was…a lot longer.”
“Time moved slower there?”
“I guess so.”
Norman nodded. “Comparing recent samples of your DNA with samples taken by the Council thirty seven years ago, you are undoubtedly the same Buffy Summers and yet you most certainly do not resemble a fifty two year old woman. This, alone, proves that something…out of the ordinary happened to you.”
Buffy almost smiled. “It often does.”
“Coming back after so much time had passed must have been disconcerting.”
“I didn’t realise at first. I didn’t think I’d been gone long. It was only after I was told thirty years had passed that I realised I really wasn’t in the same Sunnydale I’d left,” the Slayer looked down at her hands. “I always was kind of slow on the uptake.”
Norman sat on his desk, arms folded. “That must have been a shock. More than that, a frightening situation to be in.”
“And in regards to the killing of Joseph Dawson – you don’t dispute that it happened?”
Buffy shook her head, eyes level with his. “I admit it. I slayed him.”
“I thought he was going to hurt a little girl.”
He paused. “What gave you that impression?”
“He had changed into game face.”
“You mean his canines were elongated and his pupils altered?”
Buffy inclined her head. “Yeah, if you wanna get technical. Plus, he was a vampire and in my experience they feed and they kill, nothing in between.”
Spike winced at that comment as the vampires in the crowd scowled and hissed. Faith arched an eyebrow at him and he turned back to the proceedings.
“And what is your experience with Humanoids?” Norman recovered quickly.
“I’ve been a Slayer for seven years. I’ve seen hundreds of people killed, injured and drained dry for food. I’ve been attacked, I’ve been hunted and I’ve had people I loved murdered,” Buffy looked out over the crowd. “I’ve seen too much death at the hands of vampires to apologise for trying to prevent another.”
Spike looked around the courtroom at the other vampires. To his surprise, there were varying degrees of emotions – anger, resentment, confusion and even perhaps some understanding. Older vampires, vampires who were around before the Big Change, were probably partially accepting of her stance. They remembered times past, how things were, how things easily could be again, and how the Slayer was just doing her job. Even if she did always ruin their fun.
Norman was starting to look a little nervous. “You’re obviously referring to a time before the blood substitute was developed and Humanoids became productive members of society.”
“That is true,” Buffy folded her legs and looked contemplative as she scanned the vampires in the crowd. “And I’m curious to see how things have changed. If it’s all true, if I never see a rogue vampire again then that’s great. Big vacation for me. I’ll hang up my stake.”
Norman took a breath and let it out. “Right. Obviously you had no idea the rules had changed. Had you known that Joseph Dawson had never harmed anyone, would you have taken the same action?”
“Maybe not,” she acquiesced. “But maybe I would have. If I thought for one split second he was going to hurt that little girl I would have done what was necessary to stop him.”
The lawyer took a step closer. “You feel inclined to protect people.”
“It’s kind of my thing,” Buffy agreed.
Norman smiled at the glib remark. “You feel, though, that given the opportunity you could live by the rules and laws that govern society today?”
“I think I could.”
“You could live alongside Humanoids without resentment?”
Buffy pulled a face. “Well, I’m living with one at the moment and we haven’t fought once.”
He glanced over his shoulder and then gestured towards Faith who, as many eyes turned to her, seemed almost to blush. The brunette sank down into her seat and seemed very interested in the toes of her boots which were perched up against the poor sod in front’s seat.
“That would be Faith Lehane, Council Operative and fellow Slayer?” Norman asked, turning back to Buffy.
She nodded. “That would be her.”
“And we’ve heard that you’ve had relations with Humanoids previously.”
Buffy paused and carefully controlled the look that passed over her face. Spike knew that she had been leery of discussing her relationships with a group of judgemental strangers but he also knew that if it came to that or prison, she’d just have to lose the inhibitions.
“Were these relationships serious?”
She bit her lip. “Yes.”
“Did you love these men?”
Spike gave a reassuring look as her eyes flicked to his. He hoped she understood that he would pass no criticism on what her reply would be. Buffy looked back at Norman as she spoke.
“I did,” she said softly. “I still do.”
Spike was very aware of Faith turning to gage his reaction but he did not care. He sat rigidly still, eyes fixed on the woman and the lawyer at the centre of the room. He tried, really tried, not to think too much about it. He didn’t need to overanalyse things and there was no point in blowing such a simple remark out of proportion.
But, Christ, it was anything but simple.
“You’re still in contact with both of your previous partners?”
“I am, yes,” she said not looking at him.
Norman nodded to himself. “And also to Riley Finn, it would appear…?”
“No, not really. I’ve spoken to him once.”
“Were you aware he was a member of an Anti-Humanoid terrorist group?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, not until he told me.”
“What did you discuss at the meeting in which Miss. Porter so graciously caught on camera?”
“He wanted me to join his cause,” she said matter-of-fact.
“I said no,” Buffy gestured to her friends. “I have more important things in my life than being a vigilante.”
Norman seemed to like this answer. Spike’s gaze turned to Heaton and how he was receiving this. The man kept his face expressionless, his eyes trained on the Slayer with interest but still the picture of neutral. He was clearly very good at his job and while neutral wasn’t the best outcome they could hope for, at least he wasn’t placing the noose around Buffy’s neck quite yet. Spike shuddered at the picture his own mind had conjured up.
The lawyer picked a book up from his desk, it was old and worn. Spike recognised it as the Watcher’s Diary Lucy had used earlier to evil effect. He sat forward in his chair, eager to hear how Norman might turn it around.
“As we all know by now, Buffy’s Watcher was Rupert Giles. His crimes against the Humanoid populace is well known and not remotely disputed by myself, however I think it only right to note that many of the passages read by Miss. Porter were taken entirely out of context,” Norman turned to Heaton. “And therefore ultimately useless in ascertaining a true picture of my client.”
Heaton arched an eyebrow. “Please, do enlighten us.”
Norman adjusted his tie nervously. “Yes. Previously, Miss. Porter read aloud this passage; ‘The end of days approaches. Buffy doesn’t trust her friends, her family, even me. She accused us today of not watching her back. Instead she chooses to align herself with a vampire! A dangerous and unpredictable one at that. I don’t know how it has come to this.’ Now, to me…insinuating that my client trusts and relies upon a Humanoid does not reflect negatively on her character.”
The man turned to the court. “What Miss Porter failed to mention, also, is that the Humanoid mentioned in this passage is none other than William Pratt – A very respectable and upstanding member of the community. To imply that this is a damaging relationship reflects badly upon Mr. Giles, not Buffy Summers.”
“I should also like to read aloud an earlier paragraph from Mr. Giles’ diaries, one that Miss Porter neglected. ‘It is early in my relationship with Buffy and we are both still adjusting to our roles but I have never met a Slayer like her. She is so unfocused. Being the Chosen One seems to be a heavy burden upon her shoulders. She would prefer to date and to dance and even to study than patrol and slay vampires! Repeatedly she has stated to me her desire to be ‘a normal girl’, whatever that may be. This is a young woman who believes she belongs in the shopping mall or at the prom, not in a graveyard slaying demons.’”
Spike watched Buffy’s face throughout all this. He knew she had never wanted to be the Slayer, had resented it upon many occasions in fact, but he had never really understood why. After all, having strength and agility above most creatures had always appealed to him greatly, and he loved the Slayer part of her unconditionally. Normality, to him, had always seemed so boring, so mundane…but to Buffy it was what she had always wanted.
Norman paused for effect. “Buffy, this seems to indicate that you never wanted to be the Slayer.”
“I had no choice,” she concurred. “Back when I was first called all I wanted was to be the girl I was before. Popular, cute, a little ditzy…but it was what I wanted.”
He placed the book back down. “And now?”
“Now…I’m kind of…at peace with it,” Buffy said honestly. “There’s no ‘cure’ for being a Slayer, so I’ll be one till I die. I can’t help that and I’m okay with it now. I resented the hell out of it at the beginning. Now I choose to accept that that’s who I am and who I’ll always be.”
Norman turned to the court. “And, as we all know, Slayers are still very valuable to us. They are superior law enforcers, peacekeepers – important members of our society. It’s likely Miss. Summers, now fully informed of the current laws, would continue to be an asset to us all.”
Spike knew that to be true but he also knew that right about now Buffy was questioning the validity in the statement. Even after all the lives saved and the apocalypses averted, she didn’t have a lot of self worth. Not in these matters, anyway.
“That is all,” Norman inclined his head towards Heaton and crossed the room back to his seat.
Heaton waited a moment before he spoke. “This session is adjourned until this time tomorrow night. Then the prosecution will cross examine the defendant.”
Heaton left swiftly as the crowd stood and before the door had even closed behind him the onlookers began whispering and murmuring. Spike remained the only person not on his feet. Except for Buffy.
They locked eyes and he offered what he hoped was a reassuring smile. She held his gaze for a moment before she visibly wilted, all the fight gone out of her. She’d been putting on quite the show.
Spike stood and went to her.
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