by indie
Chapter 15

"Something Pure and True"

I would die for you I would die for you
I've been dying just to feel you by my side, to know that you're mine
I would cry for you I would cry for you
I will wash away your pain with all my tears, I'm drowning on fear
I will pray for you I will pray for you,
I will sell my soul for something pure and true, someone like you
See your face every place that I walk in
Hear your voice every time that I'm talkin'
You will believe in me, and I will never be ignored
I will burn for you Feel pain for you
I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart, and tear it apart
I will lie for you Beg and steal for you
I will crawl on hands and knees until you see, you're just like me
Violate all the love that I'm missin'
Throw away all the pain that I'm livin'
You will believe in me, and I can never be ignored
I would die for you I would kill for you
I will steal for you I'd do time for you
I will wait for you
I'd make room for you I'd sink ships for you,
Take the cross for you Make me a part of you
Because I believe in you
I believe in you I would die for you
-"#1 Crush" by Garbage

"Wake up," the voice said impatiently.  "You can go inside now."

Buffy slowly woke and groaned aloud as she blinked rapidly to clear her vision.  She fell asleep in a rather uncomfortable chair while waiting for her turn before the Council's Executive Committee.  Standing over her was Anya, looking none too pleased at having to be in attendance.  Buffy really couldn't blame the half-demon.  She knew that it had to be uncomfortable for Anya to be in Council Headquarters.

Blinking, Buffy looked at her watch.  It was shortly after three in the afternoon.  She took a deep breath and held it for several long seconds.  Her second dream or message or whatever from another Slayer since she had known Angel still clung to her.  Justine found peace and love and acceptance.  And she also found death.  But the memories weren't of Justine's execution, they were of her loneliness and then of her happiness.  Was that Justine's way of saying it had been worth it?  Buffy pushed away the other Slayer's memories.

"Now?" she mumbled, rubbing her eyes.  Beside her, Riley did much the same thing.

"You better hurry," Anya replied.  "They're waiting on you specifically."

Buffy made a rather unfriendly face.  She and Riley had hurried to get to the damn meeting and then had been stuck in the waiting room for hours while the Council debated the fate of Walsh's former DHSTs.  At least she managed to catch up on some sleep, but she just wished it was over.  She wanted to go home.  She wanted to see Angel.  She wanted to curl up in bed with him as Justine had done with Francis Doyle, DHST Subject number H19.

As she and Riley walked down the hallway towards the boardroom, Buffy could hear shouts.  The Watchers' Council was notorious for heated debates and she had seen enough of them to know that this wasn't going to be pleasant.  Two armed Council soldiers automatically opened the doors as they approached the Executive Chambers.  As Buffy stepped into the room, all conversation died.

A cursory glance informed her that there were about a hundred people in attendance though only twenty of them, the Council's Executive Committee and a few other notables, had the right to speak.  The Executive Committee members were seated around a large U shaped table.  Wesley stood behind a podium in the middle of the U as was traditional of those standing before the Committee.  He did not look pleased.

"Miss Summers, Agent Finn," Quentin Travers drawled, "so nice of you to join us."

Buffy nodded curtly towards Travers and the rest of the Executive Committee.  Holtz and Giles were both seated around the table despite the fact that they were not Committee members.  They looked as discontented as Wesley.  Travers on the other hand, looked very happy.  That alone made Buffy nervous.  The Executive Committee consisted of fifteen Watchers.  Alone, the Watchers were not particularly influential, but the Executive Committee en mass was a force to rival Holtz's position, a sort of built-in system of checks and balances.  Travers resented Holtz's power as Head of the Watchers' Council and consequently he turned the Executive Committee into his own private soapbox.  He ruled over it with flourish.

"You wanted to see me," Buffy said, careful to keep her face and voice neutral.

Travers smiled cordially, too cordially.  It made Buffy shiver.  "Yes," he said.  "We were hoping that you could clear up a few ... misunderstandings for us."

"If I can," Buffy said cautiously.  The Executive Committee was not known for its interest in a Slayer's opinions.

"Enough of this absurdity," Holtz growled.  "The Slayer has no bearing on the issue before the Committee.  Her presence and opinions are irrelevant.  I, for one, will not be a party to Travers' grandstanding."

Travers flushed hotly and glared at Holtz.  Several of the Committee members shifted uncomfortably in their seats.  Some of the other Watchers who were viewing the proceedings from rows of chairs behind the Committee snickered.  Travers twisted around in his chair and glared at the gallery.  All of the snickering stopped.

Turning back to face Holtz, Travers grinned.  It did not look friendly.  "I am very interested to find out Miss Summers' opinion on this matter," he said.

Holtz remained silent, but his gaze slipped to his adopted daughter.  As their eyes met, his glare softened.  "You do not have to do this, Buffy," he said softly.  "The Committee has no authority to compel you to speak on this matter."

Buffy looked at her adoptive father and then at Giles.  The latter's face was pale, tight with tension.  They were both afraid.  Afraid for her.  Buffy didn't know what was going on, but it was big.  She felt like she was flying blind.  She opened her mouth to speak and Travers held up his hand.

"Council Leader Holtz is correct," Travers said.  "Neither I nor this Committee have the power to compel you to speak.  However," he said, gesturing to guards at the door, "I wanted to know if you had any opinions to voice before we put this beast to death."

Buffy watched as two Council soldiers dragged a badly bruised and beaten Angel through the doors.  They dropped him onto the floor and he didn't attempt to rise, simply lying on the floor bleeding.  Only hours before, Buffy had marveled at the wholeness of his body and now his flesh was broken and battered once again.  It didn't escape her notice that the Council's torture of Angel had obviously been much harsher than Walsh's.  Buffy's initial reaction was to run to his side, but Riley grabbed her upper arm, holding her still.  She turned to push him away, but Holtz caught her eye and shook his head.

"This creature," Travers said, "was witnessed attacking Agent Finn.  As the Slayer, I am certain you know the penalty for this crime is death."

Buffy turned and looked at Riley.  She searched his face for answers that the soldier obviously held.  Reluctantly, Riley met her gaze.  "It's for the best, Buffy," he said quietly.

Buffy ripped her arm out of Riley's grasp, taking several steps away.  Her expression was one of betrayal and anger.  Swallowing her rage at Riley, she turned to Travers, her expression stony.  "What the hell is going on?" she demanded, fighting to remain calm and professional when all she wanted to do was launch herself over the table and rip Travers' expression off of his smug face.

"You are the Slayer," he said with a smile.  "It is your job to destroy vampires.  I would assume the rest is obvious."

"I protect The City," she said through clenched teeth.

"Indeed," Travers mused.  "One of the greatest threats to The City is the threat from within, the threat that our DHSTs will lash out against us.  Subject V73 did just that.  He attacked a Council soldier, we have a hundred witnesses who will testify to that."

"Under penalty of death," Wesley raged, no longer able to remain silent.  "You tortured those defenseless beings until they told you what you wanted to hear.  And even now, you will give merit to their words so that they may condemn one of their brethren, but as soon as he is dead, they will cease to mean anything to you!"

Travers turned haughtily towards Wesley and said, "Such is our right."

Buffy was shaking with rage as she looked at Holtz and Giles.  Their faces were masks, but she could still sense their fear for her.  She smiled at the Committee, but it was simply a way to bare her teeth.  How wrong she had been to think that Walsh and Varkesh were the threat.  The real threat had been with her the entire time.  Prejudice.  Hatred.  Jealousy.  And Travers had used them all to perfection.  A lifetime of hatred and he finally found a chink in Holtz's armor, the Slayer.

"Recess," Holtz bellowed, rising to his feet.

"I don't believe that is necessary," Travers said, his amusement was fading.

"I *will* speak with my daughter," Holtz said, his voice so low it was almost a growl.

For a moment it appeared that Travers would oppose him, but suddenly he smiled and nodded his head.  "As you wish," he said.

Holtz was in a rage by the time he slammed the door on to his private office within Council Headquarters.  It was several doors down from the small auditorium in which they had spoken before Travers and his supporters.  "You will not speak before the Committee!" Holtz roared, turning to face Buffy.

She stood in the middle of the room, pale, almost wan, exhibiting the classic signs of shock.  Her face was utterly blank.

"Buffy," Giles said gently, laying a hand on her arm.  She took no notice.

She blinked slowly and her eyes met Holtz's.  "I love him," she said with a wry smile.  "I'm a Slayer and he's a vampire and I love him."

"You're just a child," Holtz sneered.  "You know nothing."

"I know I won't let him die," she said quietly, but firmly.  "Especially not like this.  Not tortured to death by one of Travers' thugs.  I won't stand here and watch in silence while he protects me."

"Protects you?" Holtz asked incredulously.  "This is all his fault.  If that goddamned animal would have kept his mind on business, none of this would have happened.  He's the one that put you in danger."

"No," Buffy clarified, "he didn't.  Angel would never hurt me.  This isn't even about him.  None of this is about him.  It's about you and Travers and me and the Council and our policies towards these beings.  Angel is just a ploy to bring things to a head.  His life means nothing to anyone save me."

Holtz looked at Buffy, his jaw tight, but he didn't say anything.

"They will kill him regardless, Buffy," Giles said sadly.  "A sacrifice on your part would serve no purpose except to give Travers more power."

"I know," she said, her bottom lip quivering with emotion, "but I can't just stand idly by.  I love him and I won't let him die thinking that I'm ashamed of him, that I'm ashamed of what we have."

"Please," Holtz said, his voice gentle and pleading, "do not do this."

"I have to," she said.  "This is wrong.  The Council is wrong.  What Wesley is trying to do is right.  The DHSTs working in The City have souls.  They deserve more.  They deserve respect and protection."

"At the cost of your life?" Holtz demanded, his voice loud in the quiet space.

Buffy nodded sadly.  "If necessary," she replied without pretense.  "Do you honestly think that I could watch them murder the man I love and then go about business as usual?"

Giles and Holtz were both silent as they contemplated her words.

"I'm finished," Buffy said plainly.  "I am through with the Council as it stands now.  I am finished serving a government that exploits those in need.  I cannot perform my duties in good conscience and I'm not naive enough to think that the Council will let me walk away.  They need a Slayer.  If I refuse to work for them, the only way they get a replacement is if I die.  Either way, the result is the same."

"No, Buffy, it is not the same," Holtz said harshly.  "Have no illusions, they will burn you to death.  There is nothing noble or proud in choking on the stench of your own burning body."

Buffy swallowed harshly, but held Holtz's gaze firmly.  "I know what they will do to me," she said quietly.  "But I love him and I would rather die knowing that I never betrayed him than live to serve a corrupt system that I neither agree with nor respect."

Angel was conscious, broken and bleeding on the floor when Buffy resumed her earlier position before the Executive Committee.  Riley, thankfully, was nowhere to be seen.  Angel moved his mouth, trying to speak, but his jaw was broken in his earlier beating.  Buffy blinked quickly and turned away, unable to watch him in so much pain.  No doubt, he would heal in a matter of hours, but it didn't make the pain any less real.  Looking at Holtz and Giles wasn't much better, so Buffy settled for fixing her gaze on Travers.

Travers smiled like a cat in cream and said, "I see no reason to prolong this.  If someone would be so kind as to provide Miss Summers with a stake, we can be done with this."

Buffy blinked slowly, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out little by little.  She opened her eyes.  A Council soldier stood close, offering her a stake.  She ignored him, all of her attention focused on Travers.

"I will not do it," she said clearly, her voice echoing in the stillness of the room.

Travers nodded.  He'd known all along how she would react.  "You have no choice," he said.  "As Slayer, it is your duty."

"I will not do it," Buffy repeated.  She took a deep breath and said, "I will not murder my lover for your enjoyment."

There were several gasps from around the room.  Buffy blushed in spite of herself, but did not let her gaze wander from Travers.  She loved Angel.  She was in love with Angel.  Whether or not they had consummated their relationship was moot.  They were lovers in intent if not in actuality and the Council would see no difference between the two.

No surprise was exhibited on Travers' face.  "You admit to having relations with this animal?" Travers asked.

"I do," Buffy said.

Travers smiled in self satisfaction as his carefully plotted plan unfolded perfectly.  "You realize the punishment for your admission is death?" he asked.

"Yes," Buffy replied, her voice oddly vacant of emotion.

"And you also realize that your death will in no way grant this beast reprieve?"

Buffy nodded.  "But he will not die alone," she said with quiet resolve.

[End Chapter 15]

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