Disclaimer: Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel and all related concepts and characters are the exclusive property of Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt and Mutant Enemy.

However, all original characters in this fic and the fic itself belongs to me, so no copying/"borrowing" parts of it please.

Author's Note: This fic is set after the events of Chosen, Not Fade Away and (partially) Queen Of The Slayers (the Buffyverse novel by Nancy Holder).

So, in this universe: After having spent almost a year in Rome, Buffy and the Scoobies have relocated to San Diego; Angel, Spike, Gunn and Illyria all survived the final battle, although they didn't escape unharmed or unchanged; and Giles has become the head of the new Watchers Council.

Main Characters: Buffy, Angel, Spike, Xander, Faith, Willow, Kennedy, Dawn, Oz, Giles, Gunn, Illyria, Connor.

Chapter I: Madness

The Watchers' Council was in uproar.

"It cannot be allowed to happen!" Raymond Ainsley, Earl of Warwickshire, slammed his fist on the polished surface of the almost impossibly heavy carved oak conference table, his voice a muted roar, his face florid.

The table was magickally enabled to accommodate the five hundred men and women who made up the latest reincarnation of the Council – around one hundred of which were present at the current meeting - and his fist did not even manage to smudge the polish.

It did, however, create an awkward hush in a room with an already markedly uncomfortable atmosphere.

Edmund Croft tutted softly, peering at Ainsley over the steeple of his frail, slender fingers. "There's no need for violence, Ainsley. Do get a hold of yourself."

Lord Simon Cavendish looked equally disapproving, although his was the disapproval of a man not opposed to violence, but to unnecessary displays of emotion. His voice was scathing. "Quite. Blustering in that manner will get us nowhere. Our only choice is to reason with him."

"And if he won't listen?" Ainsley managed, with difficulty, to keep his voice calm; but his face was still flushed and the other Council members shot him faintly apprehensive glances.

"He will listen," Maria Toscano, one of the Council's sole nine female members, spoke softly but clearly in a faded Southern Italian accent. Her eyes became twinkling slivers of brown among benign wrinkles as she smiled. "He always listens."

Croft nodded vaguely in her direction. "Exactly. We must simply depend on the fact that he will take our advice seriously."

Henry Paulson III, who had not said a single word since the meeting began, leaned forward intently, his eyes fixed on the silver-haired Croft. "I wonder, Edmund," he said softly, "whether you quite realize what is at stake here?"

Croft bristled visibly. "Do you, now?"

"Yes. Obviously, you think this is some sort of … passing difficulty … which it may well be," Paulson paused to shrug, briefly but eloquently. "But if it is not, two hundred Watchers may well be out of work very soon."

"Two hundred and fifteen, in fact."

Nobody had heard Rupert Giles enter the room, and all eyes fixed on him as he took his customary seat at the circular table and set a sheaf of papers down in front of him. He adjusted his glasses, skimmed through the papers one last time, looked up - and smiled. "But I don't imagine they'll have much difficulty in finding ways to occupy their time."

"Rupert," Maria Toscano began, gently, "this idea of yours… it is madness. Abandon it."

"It isn't my idea; it's hers," Giles said simply. "And I have no intention of abandoning it."

"That girl is a renegade," Ainsley sputtered, eyes narrowing. "And she wants to be an example to others? She should have been disciplined long ago – now look at the result! The entire Council is to bend and sway to her every whim, is it? Is that what we have become? The servants of Slayers! Well I, for one, will not stand for this."

Giles watched Ainsley mildly for a long, silent moment. "I would advise you to give a little more thought to your words before you speak, Raymond. It would be unfortunate to have to lose a member of the Council so soon after its re-formation."

Ainsley glared at him, but chose wisely to keep quiet, and Giles continued in the same mild tone. "You were right in one respect – we are the servants of Slayers. It's all we ever have been. It's why this Council exists."

He sighed and let his eyes roam over the faces of the other Council members present – some young, more old and nearly all of them male. "I know that many of you oppose Buffy's plan. It is the natural instinct of this Council, apparently, to oppose any changes in anything at all." He paused to curb his rising irritation. "But lest we all forget – less than a year ago, she saved this entire world." He tried hard not to glare at them. "Again. And if not for her, not a single human being - let alone the Council - would exist. We owe her our gratitude and our respect. And this plan…" he tapped the papers in front of him, "is not one I can find fault with. Yes, she is young, and yes, it will be a great responsibility for her to handle, but she will not handle it alone. And in all honesty…"

This time, he did pause to glare at them. "She will do a better job of this than any of us ever could."

Author's Note: I've started it off slow, but things will pick up in the next chapter. Reviews welcome.