BtVS - The College Years: Year One - Prologue by Philip S.

Summary: Buffy Summers and her friends have survived high school and are off to college. Apart from dorm problems and snotty professors, though, there are troubles of the more lethal kind. Rating: PG-13 for now Disclaimer: Buffy and associated characters belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Original characters appearing in this story are copyright Yours Truly.


London, England Summer of 1999

"This session of the Watchers Council will now come to order."

Wesley Windham-Pryce stood up straighter, looking at the assembled board in front of him. The seven highest-ranking members of the Council were assembled there, all dressed in immaculate gray suits and with stern looks on their faces.

The remaining members of the Council filled the rest of the room, though they were here mostly as observers. These were the Watchers who performed the more mundane tasks for the Council. Collection and analyzing information and lore, trying to make sense of prophecies, finding and training potential Slayers. Wesley had been one of them until about half a year ago. Then he had been given the greatest honor one could possibly bestow upon a Watcher. He had been made the Watcher of the Slayer.

Now he was here to face judgement for that all too short part of his life.

He let his eyes sweep across the seven members of the board. Quentin Travers presence was not a surprise. The older Watcher was the one most involved with the handling of the Slayer. He had been the one to select Wesley for the job. He was the second-highest ranking member of the Council and his expression did not bode all too well for the fate of one Wesley Windham-Pryce.

He gave but brief looks to five of the other board members. They were, respectively, the head of research, divination, training, special operations, and recruitment. Though all of them would hold a vote in his judgement he was not really concerned with them. No matter what the letter of the law said, he knew that his fate rested in the hands of Travers, his direct superior, and the final member of the board.

His eyes met those of Dame Henrietta Cleary, current leader of the Watchers Council, but was unable to read anything in her face.

"Wesley Windham-Pryce," Travers addressed him. "The following charges have been laid against you. Failure in your assignment of guiding and training the two Vampire Slayers, Buffy Summers and Faith Capriss. Said failure resulting in the former rejecting the leadership of the Council and the latter changing sides to work against our cause."

Wesley almost winced hearing the charges, but he had expected nothing less. Things had not gone the Council's way lately and someone had to pay for it. He had actually considered not returning to England after his dismissal from Sunnydale, knowing that his welcome would not be a warm one. His career as a Watcher was at an end, there was little doubt about that.

Still, maybe his time in Sunnydale actually had managed to change him a bit. The old Wesley would have accepted whatever judgement the Council decided on, thanked them for being so lenient (whether they actually were or not), and left the room with his tail between his legs.

Though he found his knees being a bit unsteady he fully intended not to do any of these things.

"Is there anything you want to say in your defense?" Travers asked. From the look on his face he did not expect Wesley to make use of that opportunity.

"Actually I do," he simply said, surprising almost everyone.

Travers hesitated a moment, then motioned for him to say his piece.

"I will be the first to admit," Wesley began, "that I made my share of mistakes in Sunnydale. And it is also true that I share part of the blame for the things that have happened. I do not, however, intend to burden all of it on my own shoulders."

He had practiced this speech quite a few times and hoped that he managed to sound as firm as he did on that video recording he had made of himself to see how it came across.

"It was Mr. Travers decision to remove Rupert Giles as Ms. Summers' Watcher for being too close to her. He removed the person that Ms. Summers' regarded as her mentor, maybe even a father-figure. If any of you expected her to just accept this and happily take orders from the new Watcher then thrust upon her I must believe that no one here ever read a single report that Mr. Giles wrote about this girl."

Wesley received quite a few angry stares and felt sweat break out on his brow, but he continued. His career was over anyway. The least he could do was make a good exit.

"Upon learning of Ms. Capriss' accidental killing of a human being it was the Council that decided that she should be brought in for punitive measures. In hindsight I believe that was the single worst thing we could have done at that moment. I regret that I did not see it then, for it pushed her into the arms of our enemy."

Quite a few murmurs went through the rows of the Watchers, but Wesley continued without paying attention to them. He had to force himself to slow down, as he wanted the words out as quickly as possible so he could be gone from here.

"Then, for what I believe was the first time ever, Ms. Summers asked this Council for help in curing the man she loved."

"A vampire," one of the Watchers hissed.

"A vampire, yes," Wesley nodded, "though I might want to add that this vampire has done more to further our cause then most of the people assembled in this room here today."

Had he really just said that? Was he insane? He had promised himself not to bring up the topic of Angel any more than absolutely necessary, knowing how the Council regarded Buffy's relationship with the creature. Somehow the disdain he had heard in that single Watcher's voice, a man who had probably never faced any vampire or demon in the flesh, had overridden his common sense for a moment.

"However distasteful the Council might find the Slayer's bond with that vampire," Wesley quickly went on, hoping to silence most of the angry voices before he was completely cut off, "the fact of the matter is that this bond exists and that it is quite strong. Considering the low opinion Ms. Summers had of this Council at that point it is a testament to her devotion towards Angel that she asked for our assistance in the first place."

He looked at Travers, the man who had called him back that day to tell him that the Council had no intention of helping Angel.

"We slapped her in the face that day," Wesley concluded. "We told her that her personal feelings did not matter to us in the slightest. That we considered the man she loved nothing but a worthless animal beneath our notice. Actually I am quite surprised that she simply informed me of her quitting the Council instead of slugging me."

His palms were wet and he felt a drop of sweat rolling down his forehead, but Wesley kept himself rigid. He would get this over with.

"As I said, I share part of the blame for the things that occurred. It is my belief, though, that the largest part of it lies with this Council, our outdated views on how the Slayer should be guided, and the frightening lack of compassion I have come to recognize among our ranks."

Having said that Wesley took a deep breath and walked back to his chair, dropping into it with great relief.

"I now await your judgement," he added as an afterthought.


Several hours later Quentin Travers and James Howell, head of research, sat in the study of Dame Cleary, each of them nursing a cup of tea.

"He might have had a point," Dame Cleary said completely out of the blue.

Both Travers and Howell looked up, startled. Wesley Windham-Pryce had been fired from the Council shortly after delivering his preposterous speech. The three senior members were here now to discuss what to do about Buffy Summers and Faith Capriss.

"I beg your pardon?" Howell said, not sure he had understood her correctly.

"I said he might have had a point, James," Dame Cleary repeated. "Maybe we have become set in our ways."

"Surely that young fool's words did not bespell you, Henrietta. Our troubles have started with that girl, Buffy Summers, and will end once another Slayer is called in her stead."

Dame Cleary gave Travers a stare that sent a shiver down his spine.

"I do not like where you seem to be going with this, Quentin, so I would ask you to abandon that train of thoughts right this moment."

Taking a sip from her tea cup, she continued, "Our troubles may have started with her, I agree, but that does not necessarily mean that she is the cause of them. There is also the oft-ignored fact that Ms. Summers has the most impressive track record of any Slayer within the last thousand years."

"Imagine how great she could be if only she would obey our orders," James said wistfully.

"Or maybe she has become what she is precisely because of her independent nature."

Howell and Travers both gasped.

"You can't honestly mean ..."

"Let us finish this discussion at another time, gentlemen," Dame Cleary interrupted them. "For the moment it is enough to know that Ms. Summers will undoubtedly continue in her duties, even without our guidance. The most pressing questions at this moment are what to do about Ms. Capriss and the Council's current lack of a supernatural agent."

"You know my views on what to do about Capriss," Travers said darkly.

"Yes, I know them. And I will remind you again that this is not our way, Quentin. We serve the light and evil done with good intent is still evil."

"Our two problems are tied together, though, are they not?" Howell asked. "The Council is without a Slayer and as long as Faith Capriss lives there will not be a new Slayer called. Ms. Summers has died once already, her replacement has already served and perished. Capriss' demise is the only option for us."

Dame Cleary sighed deeply, feeling her age. "I am very aware of this, James, and it is an option we will bear in mind. You should also consider the fact, though, that any new Slayer called after Capriss' death will take years until she is anywhere near the level that Summers currently is. And you know better than anyone, James, that those are years we might not have."

Howell nodded. It had been him who had presented the prophecies to Dame Cleary, after all.

"We know that something big is going to happen, gentlemen, and it is going to happen soon. We have maybe a year or two, but no more."

"All the more reason to act now," Travers mumbled.

"And act we shall, Quentin. But not in a way that will lead us down the path to darkness. No, there is another alternative."

Puzzled frowns appeared on both men's faces.

"I am talking about the Huntsman."

And even Quentin Travers, who firmly believed that, in the war of light against dark, the ends justified the means, paled when he heard Dame Cleary mention that name.