The room was vast, no walls visible past the Persian rug hangings, just a filtered light dispersing into what seemed like eternity. It may, in fact, have been eternity.
The floor was inlaid mosaic and Buffy followed the storyline laid out on it just as she followed Angel in his trek towards one of the big, dark wood tables. She would have rather held his hand but he shrugged her off, rigid and stoic in a way that was familiar and always painful.
The other side was already present, just a middle-aged woman in a voluminous black robe and a young looking man in a suit that probably cost as much as Buffy's entire wardrobe. He was the lawyer.
She knew that because he delivered the supernatural summons personally.
She really didn't like him.
Really didn't like him.
She reached out and hesitantly touched Angel's elbow. He didn't react.
With a sigh, she returned to looking around. Behind the big tables, the roped off seating area was beginning to fill up and she saw a mishmash of human and demonic faces displaying a myriad of expressions. Some were hopeful, other gleeful and... then Angel's lawyer appeared through a gateway.
"Buffy," she said as she walked up, her red heels clicking against the mosaic, and her smile lit her blue eyes. "Don't look so glum. I've got this."
Buffy nodded. Riana came highly recommended.
Riana patted Angel's shoulder, dumped a big pile of papers on their table and yanked a pen out of her hair, undoing the knot it was in.
Then the diffuse light went supernova for the briefest moment and, when it receded, the judges' podium was filled.
Buffy had barely recovered from the intense assault on her eyes when a gong sounded, reverberating through the room and completely filling her ears. She may have owwed but she couldn't hear herself.
Finally there was silence.
"Court is now in session. Case number A286547B12, The Hell Realm versus Angel O'Connor," a voice came from nowhere. As it began to name them, the judges inclined their heads. "Honorable Judges Eunomia, Eirene, Dike," triplet dark haired, white clad women, "Forseti," a blond man in leathers, "Anbay, Haukim, " two tan-skinned men in black, one slim and one built strong and solid, "and Ma'at," a raven haired woman with a golden headdress.
"Seven's good," Riana whispered to Angel and Buffy. "Good mystical number."
"Appearances!" the voice called out.
"Josiah Westchester for the plaintiff," the other lawyer said calmly.
"Riana Masters for the defendant." She flashed a smile at the judges. "And I move to dismiss."
Pandemonium broke out behind them then died as Ma'at raised her hand palm-out. "Explain, counselor," she said, her voice low and melodious, tinged with an odd accent Buffy didn't recognize.
"There's been a case of mistaken identity. The suit is filed against my client in name however this suit regards matters for which my client was not present."
"Objection," Josiah said.
Buffy held her breath.
"Objection noted," Ma'at replied, "continue, Ms. Masters."
Buffy exhaled violently. She thought she might like this Ma'at.
"It's simple, Your Honor. My client was not in possession and control of his body through the entirety of its term of existence on the Earth plane." Riana bent down and checked her papers. "He denies responsibility from 1753 to 1898, for five months in 1998 and briefly in 2003. In Earth time, of course. The periods in question, his body was being controlled by the demon Angelus. The acts alleged in the suit concern those periods of time, solely. Therefore, this suit is baseless."
Buffy clamped her hands together, restraining the urge to applaud.
"Objection," Josiah said again. "Irrelevant. He implicitly consented to becoming a vampire and his body was present. Thus the consent transfers and he is responsible."
"I'm afraid not," Riana replied. "My client will testify that he did not give informed consent as not only did he not understand the nature of a vampire but he gave no consent at all to be Turned. Furthermore, even if we accept the consent theory, which we don't, there is a little matter we like to call mens rea."
Buffy smiled when Angel's head whipped up and smiled again when Josiah glared at Riana.
"Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea," Riana recited. "He had no intent to commit the acts and as such is not criminally liable."
The judges seemed to confer silently and Ma'at smiled. "Well done, little one. This case is dismissed."
And this was when Buffy's patience snapped.
"I told you, I told you, I told you SO!" she yelled at Angel who sat still and stunned. "I told you it wasn't your fault and you weren't to blame but nooooo you had to sit around and feel guilty and bad for yourself. You left me when we defeated the Mayor because you're so unworthy and evil. And you sulked and sulked and I know cause Cordy told me. And I was right! It's not your fault. You're just..." she paused and reached for a word she heard from Dawn, "EMO!"
Angel shook his head as if to clear the cobwebs. "I'm... not guilty."
"DUH! That's what I've been trying to tell you for years!" Buffy retorted hotly.
"I'm not guilty," he said it, this time firmly. And then he grinned.
Buffy started to roll her eyes but got distracted. It was kind of hard not to, to be fair, since a big, sexy vampire was kissing her like he was human and she was oxygen.
When the kiss was over, quite possibly a few centuries later, she found herself alone with her Angel in the middle of what looked to be a fairytale meadow, complete with bunnies and butterflies and sunshine beaming on them gently.
As Angel looked around in wonder, his hand never releasing hers, she smiled.
Now, it was really forever.