Too Many Cooks
Summary: Buffy learns about the Dollhouse in a very up close and personal way. One shot.
Pairing: FFA pairing Buffy/Alpha
Disclaimer: BtVS, AtS, and Dollhouse all belong to Joss Whedon.
Spoilers: Buffy up through Season 7; Angel Season 5; Dollhouse Season 1.
Warnings: AU-ish; Sadly, Angel and Spike do not make it through the final fight in LA at the end of Season 5, though they do manage to win the battle and keep LA from getting sent to Hell. Don’t ask me how, they just do. :)
Buffy trudged up the front steps of the hotel, wanting nothing more than food and a hot shower. She gingerly touched her hair. Yep, gooey blue demon blood still there and probably ruining all the fabulous work Antonio had done during her last salon visit.
“The Council is so
gonna cover any retouching required,” she muttered under her breath.
Luckily, it was extremely late, so only the front desk clerk was in the lobby. She suppressed a smirk as he stared at her and her slime-covered hair. Then he caught himself and suddenly became engrossed in his computer screen. You just didn’t gape at the current tenant of the penthouse suite, even if she danced naked in the lobby and bayed at the moon. What was a little weird blue hair gel?
If only he could see what’s under my jacket, she thought wryly.
She inwardly winced as she realized how that sounded, not that it mattered. At this point, she could show him that her shirt was actually saturated with Bal-whatever’s blood while performing a strip tease, and he would just smile and nod politely as if she were talking about the weather.
The rich really did live differently.
And so did she, especially now that the Hellmouth had been closed for almost five years. In fact, she was in semi-retirement, enjoying the good life except for the occasional instances when the reformed Watcher’s Council needed her help, like this time.
And when they called on her, they treated her well, giving her an unlimited expense account and the penthouse suite in five-star hotels. It didn’t hurt that Giles was still the head of the Council.
She stepped into the elevator, immediately noticing the way the operator’s eyes widened at the sight of her. Apparently he wasn’t as good at ignoring the eccentricities of the hotel’s clientele, because he continued to give her flustered looks every now and then.
“Thanks!” she smiled as the elevator opened at her floor.
Just because she was in the penthouse didn’t mean she had to be rude. And it was nice not having to make any lame excuses for suspicious blue goo. Besides, it was fun to see the operator blush.
Her Pretty Woman moment almost made her forget that the aforementioned blue goo was now hardening in her hair. Almost.
She let herself into her room and made a beeline for the hotel phone. First room service and then some quality time with the loofah while she waited for the food to arrive.
Memories of bringing home Doublemeat Palace leftovers flashed through her mind as she ordered the mind-boggling $18 chicken wrap. $18? For chicken in a pita? She squinted at the menu’s description of the sandwich, almost as if expecting to see that it came with a side of gold dust. Nope, not even fries.
Then she mentally shrugged. She was starving, and it was on the Council’s dime, so what did she care what it cost?
Buffy was about to head into the bathroom when her cell phone began ringing. She rolled her eyes, wondering - not for the first time - why she ever let Dawn pick her ring tones for her.
Then again, the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ did fit pretty well for her former Watcher turned head honcho of all things Slayer.
She contemplated ignoring it, but she knew Giles wouldn’t call this late unless it was important. With a look of longing at the bathroom, she picked up her phone while softly singing ‘kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit’ to the music. Damn little sister. Looney Tunes, too.
“Hey Giles,” she said, happy to hear his voice after such a long night.
“Hello Buffy,” Giles greeted warmly. She could hear the slight anxiety in his voice, however. Not a good sign. “I’m sorry to bother you at such a late hour, but…”
“World endage waits for no one,” she finished wryly.
He chuckled, but it sounded tense. “It’s not quite as dire as that, but it is serious,” he admitted. She could almost see him pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Out with it, Giles,” Buffy demanded. “I’ve got demon blood congealing on me and a hot date with a ridiculously expensive meal, courtesy of you.”
“It’s about… Angel.”
Buffy froze. What could this possibly have to do with Angel? Both he and Spike had been gone for 4 years now. They had stopped an apocalypse in L.A., but at the cost of their lives. It still hurt to think about them, and Giles knew that. Crap.
She forced herself to speak in a calm voice. “What about him?”
There was a long pause. “As you know, we have been observing Wolfram & Hart’s activities ever since they… regrouped,” he said hastily, not wanting to dwell on the circumstances that led to the change of management. “Recently, we have discovered that they invested quite a large sum of money in a secret organization called the Dollhouse.”
“Sounds… not remotely scary at all,” Buffy admitted. Then she brightened. “Ooh, unless ‘Dollhouse’ is evil code for zombie lair, or maybe some demon that shrinks people to the size of dolls-”
She was babbling, but she was nervous. Badness plus Angel always raised the uneasy factor.
Giles cut in, not wanting to prolong this any longer than necessary. “From what we have been able to ascertain from a reliable informant, the Dollhouse has managed to develop technology that can erase someone’s personality and imprint them with one, or several, of their choosing, from memories to physical and mental abilities,” he explained. “They have advanced the field of Cognitive Neuroscience tremendously, using electromagnetic stimulation to alter brain waves-”
“Whoa, Giles,” she interrupted. “I don’t speak sci-fi. Please translate.”
Giles smiled despite the gravity of the situation. He missed his Slayer. “Essentially, they alter a person’s brain waves to make them into whomever the client desires for however long they wish. Then the ‘doll’ becomes a blank slate until the next customer.”
“Boy, they really took the Buffybot concept to a whole new and scary place,” she commented dryly.
“Buffy,” Giles admonished slightly.
“I know,” she sighed. “I’m all with the seriousness of the sitch. Human dolls, bad; Dollhouse, immoral and way creepy. But I don’t see how Angel fits into this, or why this needs our, er, services. They’re just human, right?”
Another long pause. “Yes, but… you know that Wolfram & Hart has always had a special interest in Angel,” Giles hedged.
Buffy began pacing, suddenly not liking where this was heading. She said nothing, though, and just waited for Giles to lower the proverbial boom.
Giles took a deep breath. “They had the Dollhouse imprint one of their dolls with Angel’s personality, and… most likely Angelus’ as well, seeing as Angel was shaped by his past as the demon,” he said grimly. “We think that it was perhaps a test run… to find ways to bring Angelus back.”
Buffy felt her breath catch. “But how?” she managed to get out. “I thought this was all connected to brain waves. And the undead? Not a lot of activity there.”
“We’re not entirely sure how,” he said slowly. “We can only assume that they were able to make an ‘imprint’ of Angel’s soul through a combination of magic and technology. And don’t forget, the Initiative was able to implant a cerebral microchip that curbed violent thoughts in vampires. This particular feat must have taken an enormous amount of time and resources, but then Wolfram & Hart was never lacking in either. Coupled with the Dollhouse’s technology, they can imprint Angel and Angelus in any doll, quickly and efficiently.”
“Oh, they are so going down for this,” Buffy growled. “Just point me in the direction of this ‘Dollhouse’.”
Giles sighed. “I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” he confessed.
She stopped pacing and looked at the phone incredulously. “Giles, please say this is rock bottom. Because from where I’m standing, it can’t get any rockier.”
The silence seemed to stretch for an eternity.
“I’m afraid it does get, ah, rockier,” he finally replied. “One doll has escaped from the Dollhouse. Intelligence is scarce at this point, but from what our informant can gather, there was an accident, and this particular doll was imprinted with a multitude of personalities at once, including Angel’s and Angelus’. His brain became deluged, and he… snapped.”
“Too many cooks in the kitchen,” she surmised humorlessly.
“Yes, indeed,” he agreed. “Now there is an extremely unstable human with vast amounts of knowledge and skills at his fingertips, which may include those of a sadistic vampire. And, if he has Angel’s and Angelus’ personalities…”
“He’ll come after me,” she said quietly.
Buffy sat down on the bed, trying to digest all the information. She knew she was getting demon blood on the bed, but she was too stunned to care. She absently thought that she would make sure to leave a big tip for housekeeping. Then she heard a knock on her door followed by a distinct “Room service.” It helped shake her out of her stupor.
“Okay, here’s the plan. First, I’ll need a picture of this doll,” she said briskly as she opened the door. “Can your informant-”
The words died on her lips; she blinked in confusion at the person in front of her. Was the elevator operator pulling double duty for room service tonight? Did a swanky place like this do that?
“Buffy,” the man said, saying her name in a reverent whisper.
Buffy’s eyes widened in shock. The man standing before her was blonde with blue eyes. He was a goofy kind of cute; the polar opposite of Angel’s tall, dark, and mysterious look.
It was all wrong. And yet there was no denying that achingly familiar soulful look he was giving her. It was a look only the first love of her life gave, one she never thought she’d see again. Even though she knew about the Dollhouse, it didn’t prepare her for this.
“Angel?” she asked, fear and hope warring inside her. She didn’t even feel the phone slip from her hand and land on the carpeted floor with a soft thud.
Then the man’s head twitched ever so slightly. The look of longing and love disappeared, his eyes becoming cold and cruel as his lips curled into a smirk.
“Hello, lover. Miss me?”