DISCLAIMER: Joss owns the canon. I own Laney.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I completely realize that relatively few of you are interested in these Laney fics (based on the drop off between 'Constitutional Braids' and 'Let's Get Physicsy,'), but the idea of this fic wouldn't leave me alone…

For those of you joining us for the first time, this is a standalone ficlet about Anya and Lindsey's four year old daughter. If you enjoy, you may also check out 'On the Grounds,' 'Constitutional Braids,' and 'Let's Get Physicsy.'

TRIAL BY FIRE

"Uncle Ensouled Vampire, did you or did you not realize that your very favorite niece in the world was watching television?" Four year old Menley Magdalane McDonald, called Laney, fired the questions at Angel, one after another. "And did you or did you not steal the remote and then proceed to change the channel?"

"Laney, I had to see if the news was reporting anything out of the ordinary. There's a Grinshlar demon on the loose, and…"

"Answer the question." Laney narrowed her dark brown eyes at her honorary uncle.

Angel sighed. "Yes, I took the TV control," he said.

"Well, ladies and gentleman of the jury," Laney said, turning to face the stuffed animals she had lined up against the far wall of her room. "You heard it from the perpetrator's mouth. Uncle Ensouled Vampire knew that I was watching Law and Order, and yet he willfully and cruelly…" Laney spit out the word with all the flair of a seasoned courtroom attorney. "…cruelly changed the channel to find out 'information' about some 'demon'."

"Aren't you a little young to be using air quotes?" Angel asked.

"Your diversionary tactics are of no use, pallid vampire," Laney said, still in a bad mood because she hadn't gotten to see the end of her show. "Now, there must be justice, and it is in the courtroom that justice can be sought."

Laney's closing argument was cut off by the sound of light throat clearing from the doorway. "Hi, Mommy. Hi, Daddy.' Laney waved.

"Playing court?" Lindsey asked, barely able to conceal his glee at the expertise with which his daughter was currently torturing Angel.

"Yes. Uncle Ensouled Vampire was just about to be found guilty by a jury of his peers," Laney informed her father.

"His peers?" Lindsey asked, eyeing the stuffed animal jury sitting against the opposite wall.

"Yes, his peers. Serena-Bear and the other synthetically stuffed animals," Laney clarified.

Lindsey, clearly enjoying himself, gave Angel a look. "Apparently you're in good company," he said. "I mean, not every teddy bear can wear a tutu as well as Serena-Bear can."

Angel glared at Lindsey.

"As I was saying," Laney said loudly, anxious to conclude the trial, "Uncle Ensouled Vampire has been tried by a jury of his peers and sentenced to no sex or ice cream or sex with ice cream for a full year."

"No sex?" Anya was clearly appalled at the very idea. "What kind of justice is that?"

Angel raised one eyebrow slightly.

"Wait a minute," Anya said, her voice bright as she remembered. "Angel doesn't have the sex."

"Oh," Laney said, clearly baffled by the idea. "Are you a eunuch?"

"A eunuch?" Angel was clearly appalled.

"How does she know what a Eunuch is?" Lindsey asked Anya under her breath.

"Bedtime story," Anya replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

"I am not a eunuch," Angel said emphatically.

"That has yet to be proven," Laney said in her best mysterious voice. "However, since you do not have the sex, you will have to be a compensatory fine."

"How does she know what a compensatory fine is?" Anya asked under her breath.

"Bedtime story," Lindsey replied.

"How about a quarter?" Angel asked, knowing that money or, for that matter, anything remotely capitalistic was the way to get Laney to be merciful. If only he'd thought of that before she'd referred to her stuffed ballerina bear as his peer and informed him that his non-eunuch status had yet to be confirmed.

"A dollar," Laney said promptly. She was a hard negotiator. "And a hug and a piggy back ride."

Angel felt his annoyance melting away, and as he looked at the little girl's eyes, the very image of her mother's, her found himself grinning. "Deal," he said.

Laney launched herself at him, promptly collecting on the hug. "The Case of the Eunuch," she informed her stuffed animals over her shoulder, "will have to wait for another day."

Lindsey choked on held-back laughter as he wrapped his arm around Anya and watched Laney climb onto Angel's back. Laney giggled delightedly. In her opinion, piggy back rides were almost as good as ice cream, and that was constitutionally orgasmic.

Lindsey hugged Anya close to his body and sighed contently. They'd been through a lot together, and somewhere along the way, life had become something worth living.

Fin

I think this concludes the Laney series. I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think. All comments and criticism welcomed.

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