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Authors Chapter Notes:
I love to read spuffy fics (thank you all you wonderful authors) and this storyline has been kicking around in my mind for a while so I finally thought why not and have been giving it a go. Please read the first chapter all the way through to decide if you think it's worth your while? This is pretty much my first attempt at creative writing, so if you have advice or suggestions about how to improve any aspect of my writing I’d be SO appreciative. I don’t have a “beta” reader so if you have any interest in doing that for me please do let me know!

William Pratt was frustrated. Exiting a courtroom in LA Superior with his new paralegal, Andrew Wells, trailing after him, he cursed his bad luck under his breath. Not only did he have a stack of unfamiliar cases to deal with waiting for him back in his office, but now he also had to figure out a way to not let the judge’s decision to suppress a witness’s testimony destroy the Papazian case completely. He felt like his mental powers were really being pushed to the breaking point.

After his colleague, Lindsey McDonald, had recently suffered a debilitating accident and gone on extended sick leave, the district attorney had directed William to take over the majority of his cases. Holland Manners suggested that he had been chosen because of his exceptional legal abilities, but William suspected that it had more to do with the fact that his winning record was the lowest among the assistant DAs. This was hardly surprising given his specialization, but Holland liked to play politics and insulate himself from controversy. A few of the cases Lindsey had been working on were quite high-profile, but William didn’t care about taking down drug dealers. He couldn’t wait to get back to the white collar crime division, where he had spent the first and last eight years of his career, futile as the endeavor of successfully prosecuting wealthy and powerful men often seemed.

At least Andrew had very usefully brought himself up to speed on the ins and outs of all the cases that William would be overseeing. If he weren’t so terrified of William that he found it impossible to take the smallest initiative without consulting his boss first and thus eating up precious time from both of their schedules, he would have made a great assistant. At the moment, he was asking William in what order he should prepare legal drafts for the Levinson and Mears cases that afternoon.

Out of the corner of his eye, William suddenly became aware of a woman walking towards them from down the long hallway. She moved with confidence and a sense of purpose, although she seemed out of place amidst the sea of suited professionals like himself in a casual pair of bootleg jeans and gauzy white scoop-neck. Her shoulder-length blonde hair seemed to have an impossible shine and bounce. He turned a little to get a better view of her, pretending to listen to Andrew as he chattered on, and was pleased to note that she seemed to be making a beeline for him. Perhaps his day was looking up.

As she approached, it became difficult for him to keep pretending he wasn’t looking at her. Her features were both delicate and soft, from her upturned nose to her petite chin. But most striking were her eyes—an elusive green gold that seemed to draw him in. “Mr. Pratt? Are you…William Pratt, the new ADA?” the woman asked, looking directly at him with those eyes.

“At your service,” he said smoothly. “Although I’m hardly new. And you are—?” He began to extend his hand, but just at that moment she turned away to pull a folder out of the messenger bag she carried over her shoulder.

“I’m Buffy Summers, from juvenile justice advocacy. I’m so glad I caught you here,” she said, letting out a relieved little sigh, before barreling on ahead. “I need to talk to you about Dashawn Richards’s case. The probation officer told me that you’re handling the prosecution?” She opened the folder and drew out a piece of paper.

“Er, yes?” He tried to remember the key points of the criminal profile. He had been briefed on Dashawn Richards because of his tangential connection to a big narcotics case involving high-level suppliers, but as far as he understood the boy had already turned over evidence on the dealer that he worked for and was ready for sentencing.

“Our agency needs a chance to evaluate him to see if he can avoid being put in a secure facility. You’ll have to reschedule his disposition hearing.” She looked at the paper she had retrieved. “Right now it’s set for tomorrow—Tuesday, but we’ll need till next Monday at least,” she informed him, looking at him expectantly.

William couldn’t quite square her appearance with the information that she was relating to him. She looked to be barely out of college and was dressed quite unprofessionally and yet here she was acting as though it was the most natural thing in the world for her to assume the DA’s office would follow the directions of some sort of representative of an independent, non-state agency. Though he was still a little confused by the processes for juvenile court cases, he was pretty sure that she was flouting them. He admired her nerve but was also a little annoyed that it was so misplaced. Plus, being told what to do was his pet peeve.

“This seems a little unorthodox,” he said dubiously. “Andrew?” he asked, turning to the small blond man standing next to him.

“Andrew Wells, senior paralegal. Pleased to meet you, Miss Summers. I’m based in narcotics but I also have some training in juvenile justice,” he offered, stepping forward to shake her hand. Off William’s glare, he hurriedly continued. “The thing is that those interviews are supposed to take place before the DA’s office is ready to present to the judge. It’s not our policy to delay disposition hearings unless new material evidence arises,” he concluded apologetically.

“Well, it appears you’re too late, love,” William said with a small sense of satisfaction. “Get your ducks in a row next time, eh?” he said lightly, feeling generous in refraining from imparting a harsher lesson to her.

Buffy blinked at his cavalier dismissal. “That’s not acceptable, Mr. Pratt.”

William balked at her refusal to accept his decision. “Excuse me?”

“There’s no reason why your office can’t wait a few more days. We may uncover—“

“I’m sorry, but you seem to be confused about who calls the shots in this legal matter,” he said severely, putting special emphasis on the word that referenced his own position.

Andrew watched the back-and-forth between his boss and this unexpectedly obstinate adversary with wide eyes and a mixed sense of fear and excitement.

Buffy couldn’t help but roll her eyes at William before forcing herself to say in a pseudo-accommodating manner, “Got it, Mr. ADA. But I still need that time to review Dashawn’s case.”

By this time, William was entirely fed up. “Look, instead of expecting me to make special allowances for you, why don’t you just run along and work on explaining to your boss why you were too busy to do your job properly?” he cut her off sharply.

Buffy couldn’t believe her ears. Here she was, trying to follow up a late tip on the off chance that a repeat juvenile offender might have crucial information that would help his case and she was getting nothing but pushback from this condescending man. She wasn’t accustomed to people either disagreeing with or simply not going along with her plans. Plus, not being taken seriously was her pet peeve.

I’m in charge of the agency. Unless you want to explain to your boss why the media will be demanding to know why he has rejected community alternatives to incarceration when he pledged in his election campaign to support them, I’d suggest you ask for that postponement, pronto,” Buffy warned, barely able to contain her anger. “We’ll expect to hear back from your office. Good day, Mr. Pratt, Mr. Wells,” she bit out before turning on her heel and storming away, leaving one fuming man and one awed man in her wake.

Pacing about the front office with Andrew on his trail half an hour later, William was still ranting about insufferable special interest types who wanted to make his life more difficult.

“And how’d a young chit like that get to be in charge of an entire agency anyway?” William demanded of his paralegal.

“I don’t know,” Andrew answered helplessly for perhaps the tenth time.

“Maybe it’s because of her family,” the office secretary, Harmony, who had been listening in on their conversation from her perch at the front desk since they had returned, piped in.

“Come again?” William asked, head swiveling towards her.

“You said Buffy Summers, right? Her family is, like, Fortune 500? They’re old money too. Maybe her daddy pulled some strings.”

“Do you know her?” William gaped at her.

“Not really but I was at UCLA with her before she dropped out freshman year.” Harmony didn’t add that she herself had transferred to Cal-State Northridge a semester afterwards because her grades were so low that her parents had forced her to attend a cheaper college.

William practically seethed at this new information about the maddening little blonde. “Oh, this is rich! So I have to deal with an under-educated, spoiled little girl with a trust fund because she’s bored and looking for something meaningful to do with her life before she becomes a trophy wife?”

“What did you want me to do about the case, boss?” Andrew asked, hoping to distract him before he was completely lost in another one of his tirades. “It didn’t seem like she was bluffing about calling the media,” he said nervously.

“Oh, she doesn’t scare me,” William growled. But his sense of duty to his work managed to get the better of his temper. “Check with Holland just in case,” he said to Andrew, relenting. “But whatever he says, let her stew for a few days,” he instructed, a self-satisfied smile slowly forming on his face.

Two days later, William was sitting at his desk determinedly working his way through mountains of paperwork when the phone rang. Seeing the light for the external line blinking, he crossly wondered where Harmony had wandered off to that she wasn’t fielding his calls.

“Hello?” he barked.

“William Pratt?” a female voice asked.

“Yes, who is this?” he asked as he leaned back in his chair, a mad grin spreading across his face.

“This is Buffy Summers, from juvenile justice. We—spoke—earlier this week,” she replied, sounding like she might be clenching her teeth.

“Ah, yes, how could I forget? And exactly what is it that I can do for you today, Miss Summers?” he asked, his voice dripping with honeyed sarcasm.

“You can tell me when Dashawn’s hearing will take place. I haven’t heard anything from Andrew yet,” she said testily.

“Well, that must have been an oversight. The hearing is rescheduled for next Monday, per your specific request.”

“Next Monday?

“That’s right.”

“But that only leaves two days. I asked you for four. What if we need to follow up a claim? What if we need to screen a new place for him?” A frustrated Buffy bombarded him with rhetorical questions. “Do you have any idea how much work is involved in prepping a juvenile case?“

“Yeah, well, just because you paid for your job doesn’t mean you get to get out of doing it.”

“What does that even mean? This may be a joke to you but I’ll have to get my staff to cram to put this together.”

“And yet it was perfectly reasonable for you to expect my office to adjust to your schedule?”

Deciding to cut her losses, Buffy ignored his question and plowed ahead. “Fine, then. Monday it is. But I may need to talk to you about our findings. You may not take our work seriously, but—“

“On the contrary, the DA is very serious about what was it—oh yeah—alternatives to incarceration for juveniles,” William replied breezily. “Although I have to say Mr. Richards hardly seems the right candidate for your office to devote so much time to. I’ve been told he has been in and out of detention a few times already. Were you aware of that fact?” he asked skeptically.

“I am aware of that. And that’s our concern, Mr. Pratt, not yours.”

“‘Cept you’ve made it mine too, haven’t you? By strong-arming me into delaying a hearing that’s essentially a foregone conclusion?”

“If you’re looking for an apology here you’re gonna be waiting till it snows in L.A.,” she said blithely. “When will you need our assessment by?”

“If you want to make a recommendation to me you’d better do it before noon,” he warned. “Here. In my office,” he added in a tone that brooked no opposition.

“Fine,” she replied curtly.

Before he had a chance to say anything else, she hung up the phone.


If he didn’t come up with a plan soon, it looked to William like he would end the night a loser. Xander was down to ten dollars in chips and William himself only had about fifteen, far behind both Wesley and Gunn. On an extended break in between rounds, William stared at the figured walnut table and contemplated a comeback strategy as Wesley assembled his chips into neat piles, Xander polished off the jalapeno poppers, and Gunn popped open a new beer.

With their busy schedules, it was reassuring to each of the four friends that they maintained a regular time when they could see each other. They had enjoyed a bi-monthly game for the last two years, ever since Xander had moved out of the two-bedroom he shared with Gunn and into a condo in Mar Vista with his girlfriend Anya. Having a larger and more hospitable space than the untended bachelor apartments of the others, he always hosted poker night.

Outside of his friend Wesley, with whom he shared a cultural as well as educational background, William was closest to Xander, whose good humor and openness he appreciated despite his own more cynical style. A partner in a contracting firm, Xander was the only one who was not in law as well as the only one who had not attended college. He never felt left out, however, as the three former classmates rarely engaged in arcane shop talk, partly because they had pursued such different avenues of the profession. William had gone into the DA’s office to specialize in white collar crime after a successful summer internship experience, Gunn had taken the corporate route, joining the behemoth entertainment law firm of Wolfram and Hart immediately upon graduation, and Wesley the academic one as a law professor at USC after finishing his joint JD/PhD degree.

Tonight the men had discussed the latest brush fires in Los Angeles, the planned closure of the 405, and football, the latter only at cross purposes, however. To the puzzlement of William and Wesley, Xander and Gunn had debated the politics of the NFL lockout and William and Wesley had commiserated over Manchester United’s loss in the Champions League to the disinterest of Xander and Gunn. William attributed his latest setback—a disastrous attempt to bluff Gunn, who was holding a flush, with nothing more than a straight draw—to his refreshed sense of disappointment with the performance of his Red Devils.

“Shall we continue, gentlemen?” Wesley asked the others after having finished re-calculating his stack.

“No doubt, I’m on fire tonight,” Gunn enthused.

“Sorry, Charlie, it ain’t over yet,” William reminded him.

Their different approaches to the game kept it interesting for all of them. Wesley meticulously weighed the odds, Gunn was expert at intimidating other players when he gained the lead, Xander tended to be an emotional gut player, and William liked to bluff and take risks. From week to week, no man tended to hold the winner’s crown for long, but that didn’t mean that any of them liked to lose, especially when it came to being the dreaded first to be ejected out of the game. Still, they always managed to retain an atmosphere of sociability.

“I don’t see Anya tonight, Xander. Is she out?” Wesley asked their host as he shuffled the deck.

“Yeah, she’s doing a special accounting seminar for music industry executives tonight,” he said of his CPA girlfriend. Xander surveyed the living room filled with modern Italian furniture and the glossy open kitchen featuring a beautiful set of copper cookware from Crate and Barrel that they never used. “She says a few more of these things and she’ll be able to upgrade her Audi. That is, unless her clients find out she’s taking their money in exchange for tips that she found on the internet,” he said with an uneasy laugh.

“Don’t worry, I’ll give her a discount rate when the lawsuit hits,” Gunn joked.

“Thanks, man. You’re a friend,” Xander said wryly.

“Speaking of ballsy women, I had a run-in with some chit at juvenile justice this week.” William volunteered, as he picked up the cards Wesley dealt. “She hasn’t a clue what’s going on but thinks the world revolves around her and she can make demands right and left,” he complained.

“Aren’t you supposed to play nice with those do-gooder agencies?” Gunn asked.

William shrugged.

“Yes, their mission may not always align with that of the prosecutor’s office, but they tend to be serious about wanting to address gaps in the system. You might do well to work with her,” Wesley suggested.

“Oh, please. The only gap is in their understanding of when to bother. And she’s only biding her time there until she marries some toff anyway,” he huffed.

William took a quick glance at his cards. He had an eight and queen of hearts. He mentally noted that he was in decent position for a straight or a flush. Feeling aggressive, he decided to push. “Two dollars,” he challenged, brandishing two chips to equal his ante.

Wesley acted immediately. “Dealer folds.”

“Hold the presses. Spike Pratt met another human being that he can’t stand?” Xander chortled. “It must be Thursday. Or maybe Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…”

William rolled his eyes. “You don’t understand. Bint’s aggravating beyond belief. She actually threatened me when I wouldn’t march to her tune. And quit stalling. You in or out? That’s three more to you.”

“I’m in, I’m in,” Xander replied, tossing in his chips.

“I’m out,” Gunn sighed, taking a sip of his beer.

“Two-handed round. Here we go.” Wesley drew three cards. “Queen of diamonds, eight of clubs, and queen of spades,” he read out.

William suppressed a smirk at his good fortune. He had drawn a full house on the flop. Trying hard to contain his internal glee, he decided to slow play Xander for a bigger pot. In a show of uncertainty, he ran his fingers through his hair and tapped his chips thoughtfully.

“Let’s cut to the chase now,” Gunn proposed, interrupting William’s charade. “Is she fine?”

“I didn’t notice,” he responded, without looking at him. “Raise two,” he informed Xander, tossing in his chips.

“Curious,” Wesley observed. “Usually it’s a resounding ‘no’ or at least a ruthless deconstruction of the lady in question’s more egregious flaws, such as her receding chin or close-set eyes, or, oh yes, excessive number of moles.”

Gunn laughed. “That’s harsh.”

Xander was preoccupied by the game. “I will raise you two more,” he declared to William, wearing an expression of mock shock at his own boldness.

William suppressed another smirk. Xander loved to re-raise just to assert his masculinity when he had a truly fantastic hand. So he likely had either a queen too or two nines and was probably convinced he had the round won easily. William decided to delay his reaction to the wager.

Gunn squinted at him, trying to get a read of his silent poker face as he continued to ignore Wesley’s remarks. “I’m thinking she’s fine,” Gunn said with a slow grin, stroking his chin.

“Whatever,” William said tersely. Struggling to come up with a suitable follow-up, he finally added irritably, “she has stupid hair.” Turning his attention back to the game, he said evenly, “you’re on, Harris,” meeting the raise and silently noting Xander’s surprise at his action.

“Let’s proceed,” Wesley said, drawing another card. “Jack of diamonds.”

William decided to raise a small amount again to try to maximize his win. “Another two?” he questioned Xander, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to resist.

Xander met the raise but didn’t push further, shoring up William’s confidence.

“And the river. Nine of spades,” Wesley announced, laying down the final card.

William knew Harris couldn’t walk away now and went in for the kill. “I’ll put you all in, Harris. Just four more,” he said cajolingly, pushing a short stack to the center pile. Then he decided a little goading never hurt either. “You got the stones?”

Xander took a deep breath before agreeing. “Chock full of ‘em, my man,” he said, throwing in the last of his chips.

“All right, gentlemen, time to reveal your hands.”

“Time to pay the piper. Full house. Queens and eights,” William declared, revealing his cards triumphantly.

“Queens and nines,” Xander crowed, turning over a queen of clubs and a nine of diamonds. He stood up to do a little victory dance.

“Oh, man. Bested!” Gunn laughed.

William was flabbergasted. “What? You—you made that on the river!

“An impressive duel,” Wesley commented. “Though there might have been a strategic error somewhere along the line.”

William watched, dumbfounded, as Xander collected his winnings, chattering on about how he had just had a hunch that his unremarkable off-suit pocket cards, which many might have considered unplayable before the flop, would pan out in the end.

“It just isn’t my week,” William muttered.

Chapter End Notes:
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