“Because we are, in a sense, substituting our judgment for that of whatever supernatural agency or process operates in the selection of Slayers,” Giles went on, “I prefer that we exercise utmost caution, both in activating those Potentials who declined the Slayer call or had it pass them by, and in assessing those active Slayers who might need to be … deactivated.” He looked around the room. “My thought is that, for such instances, we form an established, er, Committee for Decision, a council within the Council, of a composition very like that of this gathering.” He indicated himself. “A senior Watcher, if not always its current titular head.” A nod to Buffy: “A senior Slayer; no verdict should ever be rendered upon one of your number without there being a Slayer’s voice in that verdict.” A second nod toward Xander: “A senior member of the field support teams, those who have the deepest and most comprehensive experience in working side-by-side with Slayers.” A gesture that took in Willow and Salome: “Senior representatives of the traditional Coven — a voice outside the formal Council — and of the new-line enchanters directly affiliated with our organisation.” His gaze swung to Wendell Chu. “Wendell, I would most certainly wish you to be part of our initial organisation, but I’m not certain how I would describe your position, or if I would want it to become part of the formal arrangement. However much I value your individual judgment, I have reservations about establishing a permanent seat on this new group for, erm —”“For bureaucratic bean-counters?” Chu’s smile was gentle and amused. “In that, we are quite in agreement, sir. I appreciate your trust, and I share your reservations. We shall have to proceed with care in this matter … Set one seat on the new Decision Committee for a delegate-at-large, perhaps?”“A wild-card seat,” Salome mused. “That could be interesting. Maybe more than you reckoned with.”Giles laughed softly, but before he could reply further, Buffy abruptly asked, “So, would Faith be eligible as the Slayer representative?”He regarded her, one eyebrow raised. “I had presumed you would wish to hold that position.”“I do,” Buffy said. “But we’re already looking ahead, trying to plan how it’ll work even when it isn’t us. And besides, I just want to know.”“By right, she would be eligible,” Giles acknowledged. “On a practical basis, we would need to assess whether that would be a desirable approach.” He sighed. “Her past history …”Xander nodded. “Issues,” he said.“Gigantic issues,” Willow agreed. “So, what, you think she might go too easy on the bad girls?”“It’s possible,” Giles admitted. “Or equally possible that her continuing desire for redemption might move her to be excessively harsh. Or even that her judgment would be irreproachable, but the fact of passing judgment would exact a disproportionate toll from her. We simply don’t know at this point, and those are considerations that must be addressed.”“Okay,” Buffy said. Her eyes were downcast, and her hands moved restlessly on the arms of the chair. “Lots of things to work through, I get that.” She looked up, her mouth set. “But, basically, we’re doing this, right?”Giles nodded. “I don’t see how we can avoid it,” he said. “Nor should we attempt to do so.”“Genie’s out of the bottle,” Xander said, and stood up. “And we’re the ones who pulled the cork, so it’s on us to handle it.” He looked around at the others. “We have a responsibility: to the world, and to these girls. Whether we want it or not, it’s there, and I’m not about to turn it over to anybody else.”He would set himself to war with the entire Council, Giles mused, studying the man before him, if he believed we were victimising these young women.
The realisation was actually encouraging — he who had once been the Heart was now determined to serve as Conscience — but it would be best not to bring it to the attention of the current Council’s more bristly elements. “We do indeed bear a responsibility,” Giles said, “and I doubt any one of us is prepared to shirk it. So we have many things to consider, and guidelines to draw, and a proposal to be formed in such a manner as to persuade those in our consolidated organisation who cannot be directly commanded.”He looked to each of them in turn, and in each face he saw acceptance and resolution. “The task before us will be long, arduous, and complex,” he announced. “Tonight is only a beginning.” He took a sip from the near-forgotten brandy. “All the same … it has begun.”