Summary: In an alternate version of the events in "Consequences", the Council of Watchers sends a tribunal to deal with Faith and also must confront the question of Giles' status.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for violence, language, and general intensity

Time Frame: "Consequences" (alternate timeline)

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Author's Note: A while back, I wrote a small piece entitled "Short Cuts", which featured changes in the familiar plotlines of BTVS episodes that simplified life for our heroes. In one part, I had Xander bluntly confront Faith about what she had done and reassure her that everyone in the group had screwed up in the past, and that they would support her against the Council. Faith agreed to cooperate. This story continues that timeline. . .


XANDER: Faith, you may not think so, but I sort of know you. And I've
seen you post-battle. And I know firsthand that you're, um... like a
wild thing. And half the time, you don't know what you're doing.

FAITH: (snidely) And you're living proof of that, aren't you?

XANDER: See, you're trying to hurt me. But right now, you need someone
on your side. What happened wasn't your fault. And I'm willing to
testify to that in court if you need me.

FAITH: You'd dig that, wouldn't you? (gives him a sexy look) To get up
in front of all your geek pals and go on record about how I made you my
boy toy for a night.
-- from "Consequences"

COMBAT, TRIAL BY, method of adjudicating legal disputes by personal combat between the litigants or by their appointed champions. The practice apparently originated among primitive German tribes about the 1st Century AD and spread to many countries of Europe, notably to France, where trial by combat was a recognized legal procedure after the 10th Century. The last judicial duel in France was fought in 1547.

Trial by combat was one of the French customs imported to England in the 11th Century by King William I of England. From 1133 to 1189, under King Henry II, no other legal means was recognized for the settlement of a suit involving recovery of land. By the end of the 16th Century, the custom was virtually obsolete.
-- Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99.

The Sunnydale chapter of the Elks' Club had a large meeting room that was available to be rented for private events: over the years, it had played host to bridge tournaments, public debates, and hundreds of other rather mundane events. Tonight would be a little different: the sign out front announced a meeting of the Anglo-American Rare Birdwatching Society, but the tweed-clad men who walked into the room past the sign which read "By Invitation Only" had little interest in birds. The Judicial Branch of the Council of Watchers had come to Sunnydale to deal with the matter of Faith Stevenson, Slayer, who had caused the death of another human being less than a week before. The Council, which rarely acted with such dispatch, had acted quickly when it heard the news. Traditionally, Faith would have been taken back to England for questioning, then the appropriate actions would have been taken; however, Buffy Summers had effectively changed the rules for this event, also, as she had in many other areas during her time as the Slayer. When Wesley Wyndham-Pryce and his group of "helpers" had come to apprehend Faith, they had been met by Buffy, Giles, Xander, and Willow. Buffy calmly informed them that any procedure that the Council wished to hold would be held in Sunnydale, where she could keep an eye on it. Noting the forces arrayed against him, Wesley placed a call to England, where the Council agreed to send its Judicial Branch to examine the matter on site. None of the leaders of the Council were thrilled at being dictated to, but they recognized that stepping incautiously could cost the Council both Slayers at a time where apocalyptic activity seemed to center around Sunnydale.

When the last Watcher entered the hall and sat behind the large oak table that had been brought in for the occasion, the doors were closed and locked. Five Watchers sat behind the desk, their faces grim. Quentin Travers sat at a smaller desk on the right side of the room: he would handle the prosecutorial duties, and the cold expression on his face strongly suggested that he would greatly love to do more to make the "misfits" from Sunnydale even more uncomfortable than his visit the last month had. Faith sat at a similar table on the left side of the room, and Willow-acting as her counsel-sat beside the visibly uncomfortable Slayer, giving her hand a squeeze now and again.

Faith had not been thrilled with the thought of Willow being her legal representative. "Why can't Giles do it? He's got to know the rules better than Willow, no matter how smart she is." Giles had explained that since he was a material witness, he could not serve in the capacity of her counsel, and that Willow had carefully read up on procedures and received extensive coaching from Giles: she was the best available person to do the job. Faith still looked uneasy, and Willow decided to lay it on the line: "Look, Faith, we've never been particularly close, and I wasn't too happy to find out in the same afternoon that you'd tried to frame Buffy and slept with Xander. But three of my best friends in the world have asked me to do this for you. . .and I don't think you meant to kill Mr. Finch either. I'll do my absolute best for you, I promise." She had extended her hand, and after a moment Faith had clasped it and met Willow's gaze, seeing the resolve there and visibly taking comfort from it.

The Watcher sitting at the center of the desk banged a gavel three times and announced, "This session of the Judicial Branch of the Council of Watchers is hereby called to order. The matter before us concerns charges that have been issued against Faith Stevenson. Mr. Travers, will you please read the charges."

Travers got to his feet and began reading from the sheet of paper in front of him: "Count One, that Faith Stevenson did cause the death of Alan Finch, a human being. Count Two, that Faith Stevenson did attempt to frame Buffy Summers for the actions of Count One. Count Three, that Faith Stevenson did deceive and attempt to deceive her Watcher in relation to these matters. The prosecution will prove that Faith Stevenson is indeed guilty of all of these offenses, and will bow to the wisdom of this body in setting sentence." Travers looked at Faith coldly, then sat down.

The presiding watcher, whom Giles had identified as Daniel Masters in their pre-trial briefings, nodded and commented, "All right then, Miss Rosenburg? Do you have any opening comments?"

Willow rose and replied, "Yes, your Honor. At this time, the defense moves for dismissal of counts two and three on the grounds that the prosecution cannot meet its burden of proof."

Masters raised an eyebrow, and replied to Willow, "Miss Rosenburg, that generally is a motion made after the prosecution has finished its case in chief. Would you care to explain why you are making it now?"

Willow smiled and replied, "Of course, your Honor. According to Article V, section 6 of the Judicial Branch's Code of Laws, the charge of framing an individual for a crime cannot be sustained if the alleged victim declines to seek justice."

Masters frowned and commented, "In other words-"

"-I've decided to forgive and forget." Buffy's voice carried clearly from the back of the room, and all eyes were on her. Faith met her gaze with a look of mild discomfort, and she saw the expression in her fellow Slayer's eyes that said * Don't make me regret this. * Faith nodded slowly and turned around as Masters nodded and replied, "Very well. Unless the prosecution can state contrary law-" he looked at Travers, who turned back from glaring at Buffy and shook his head briefly before Masters continued, "-very well then, Count Two is hereby dismissed, subject to refiling if Miss Summers should change her mind. What of Count Three, Miss Rosenburg?"

Willow shifted her papers around, then replied, "You all have copies of the statement of Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Faith's Watcher at the time of the events in question. Could the members of the court please read the sections relating to Faith's conversations with him that concerned the event in question." Curious, the Watchers did so, and a few moments later, they looked up with a look of understanding on their faces. Willow nodded and elaborated, "I'm sure the honored members of the court are following my line of thought here. Article VI, section 8 of the Code requires that to sustain a charge of deception, the alleged deceit must constitute a direct lie to a question asked, or a lie told without being asked. All Faith did was agree to look for Finch's killer: she never was asked if she killed him, nor did she volunteer a lie."

Travers leapt to his feet and snarled, "What difference does that make? She came in and lied directly to Gi-" Buffy laughed sardonically from the audience, and Masters had to bang his gavel to restore order before looking at Travers and pointing out, "She's got you there too, Quentin. Giles was no longer her Watcher, therefore the charge of deceiving one's Watcher does not apply. Count Three is dismissed, although," and he gave Faith a stern look at this point as he continued, "Your conduct in both of these matters does not speak well of you, even though they are technically not crimes under our code." Faith nodded in understanding, and Masters looked over at Willow and asked, "You're not going to try to get a homicide charge thrown out in that manner, are you Miss Rosenburg?"

Willow shook her head, and replied, "No, your Honor. The defense will show that the death of Alan Finch was accidental, and that there were complicating and extenuating circumstances that caused her to mistakenly kill him. However, since the defense has stipulated to the fact that Faith did indeed strike the fatal blow and hid the body, we would ask that the prosecution be limited to presenting any evidence it has on Faith's state of mind when she killed Finch, since that is the sole issue before this body."

Masters considered this for a long moment, conferred with the others, and replied, "Your request seems reasonable, Miss Rosenburg. Quentin, do you have any evidence to present on state of mind?"

"Not other than the question of acts of concealment constituting consciousness of guilt, your Honor." In other words, whether Faith's actions in hiding the body and attempting to frame Buffy were proof of criminal intent in the murder.

Masters nodded and replied, "We're perfectly qualified to judge that without you dragging in a psychologist, Quentin. I'd say your case in chief has been handled by the depositions and stipulations. . .wouldn't you?"

Reluctantly, Travers nodded and announced, "The prosecution rests its case." He sat down, and Masters smiled at Willow and asked, "I assume you won't be making a motion to dismiss at this time?"

Willow smiled softly and replied, "No, your Honor. The defense calls as its first witness Buffy Summers."

Buffy walked up to the witness seat and was sworn in, then Willow began to question her gently about the events of the evening. Buffy described how the two women had fought their way through the alley, staking vampires, only to be surprised by Finch: ". . .and he popped out and grabbed my arm. I shoved him hard against the wall without even thinking about it, and Faith went in for the kill. At the last second, I recognized him and saw the pulse in his throat. I yelled, 'Faith, no!' but it was too late. Faith had stabbed him in the heart with her stake. . .I tried to save him, but the wound was too bad. He was dead in seconds." She looked haunted, but firm. Willow nodded and asked, "How did Faith look after Mr. Finch died?"

Buffy replied, "She looked shocked and horrified. . .she kept saying she didn't know. . ." Her voice trailed off, and Willow nodded and called out, "No further questions. Your witness, Mr. Travers."

Buffy looked up and glared at her former tormentor, waiting for a flood of hostile questions. However, Travers seemed calm and contemplative as he walked over to Buffy and asked, "Miss Summers, was Mr. Finch wearing clothing similar to the Eliminati vampires?"

Buffy frowned and replied, "No, he was wearing a suit. . .a modern one." Travers nodded and continued, "About how much time elapsed between the time you shouted 'Faith, no!' and the time the stake struck home?"

Buffy thought a moment, then replied, "Less than a second. . .probably a half second." Travers nodded again and asked, "Could you have stopped in that period of time?"

Buffy hesitated, not wanting to hurt Faith, before replying, "I think I might have been able to, but I'll never know. It was a frantic situation. . .things get messed up."

Travers nodded dismissively and called out, "No further questions." Willow stood up and announced, "No re-direct, Your Honor.", and sat down, as Masters ordered, "Thank you, Miss Summers. You are excused." Buffy got up, glaring at Quentin Travers, then went back to her seat and sat down.

Willow reviewed her notes, then looked up at Masters and called out, "The defense would now like to call Alexander Harris to the stand."

As always, comments are welcomed and desired