Summary: Minions of a dark power seek to visit an intolerable indignity on Faith. Justice is served.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Mid-sixth season BTVS/mid-third season Angel. Hefty serving of spoilers, with a side order of meta.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


Footsteps echoed through the dimly lit corridor as the three men walked toward the large set of double doors at its end. The two men in front were both slim, blond, and of nondescript height and weight, while the one walking behind them was taller, more muscular, and bald: all were wearing immaculately tailored business suits. None of them spoke until they went through the doors, entering a well-lighted room with several other exits and a few comfortable looking chairs in the middle. The men walked in and sat down, noting that a crimson light burned brightly over one of the doorways. After a few more seconds of silence, one of the smaller men sighed and commented, "I can't help but think we've pushed things too far, Dan. We had to pull a lot of strings to get her out of prison, and kidnapping is not a practice that our superiors would approve of, particularly given the means we used to do it."

Dan sighed and replied, "Eggs, omelets, and all that jazz, Ray. The payoff will be worth it, and she just wasn't being reasonable. We offered her parole, money, fame; hell, we even offered to give her a shot at upstaging her rival Miss Summers, and she threw it back in our faces." The bald man snorted in derision at the mention of Buffy, and Dan paused a moment before pointedly ignoring the interruption and adding, "We did what we had to do, and success makes up for a lot of sins."

"But, to poison her. . .to deal with that nasty little Travers person: she may come after us. She scares the crap out of me." Ray shuddered, then turned to the bald man and asked plaintively, "Do you think we handled it right?"

The bald man snorted again, then growled, "I'm just here as an observer to see how you jokers handle this situation. If I like what I see, I'll let my higher-ups know and we'll kick back a thank you package your way. If I don't, I laugh in your face and leave you to get your asses kicked by that pissed-off Slayer. She may not be in Buffy's class, but she can stomp you into the next time zone if you mess this up."

Dan rolled his eyes and responded, "She's doped up to the gills: by the time she snaps out of it, we'll be long gone and the deed will be done. She can take her frustrations out on whoever is dumb enough to be close by when she's at full strength." The crimson light went out, and the door clicked and swung open. Dan stood and invited, "Shall we, gentlemen?"

The three men walked into the next room, which was lit in the manner of an operating theater. Faith was strapped to an operating table with heavy leather straps: her eyes were open, but darting about in an unfocused manner that suggested primal terror. All three men smiled, then walked over to one side of the room to observe the helpless Slayer. Dan looked over and saw a tall, well-proportioned woman in green scrubs standing next to the table, her mouth obscured by an operating mask and her hair concealed by the outfit except for a single blonde strand peeking out from beneath the cap. Dan smiled and called out, "Nurse, has the specialist arrived yet?"

"She'll be here in a few minutes, sir." The woman spoke in a monotone, watching the men with dark eyes that expressed no visible emotion. She leaned over and began to inspect the gleaming metal instruments lying on the small platform next to the dazed Slayer.

"She?" Ray raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly at Dan as he commented, "I was under the impression that the foremost experts in this field were all men."

Dan gave his associate a disgusted look and retorted, "Don't be narrow-minded, Ray. There's absolutely no reason a woman can't do this job as well as a man." He inclined his head at Faith, then added, "Besides, one can't overlook the benefits of insights gained through identification and personal experience here. Did you make the arrangements for the proper materials?"

Ray, still skeptical, nodded and elaborated, "Only the best. Faith may not like the results, but she won't have cause to complain about the expense we've gone to in the effort." The sound of footsteps came from the doorway, and Ray turned, calling out, "We're glad you've arrived, M-" Three jaws dropped simultaneously, and Ray whispered in bemusement, "You!"

Anya raised an eyebrow, and responded, "You were expecting maybe Paul Mitchell?" She looked over at the table, shook her head and tsked, then added, "She's not going to be very happy with you when she gets out of there."

The bald man glared at Anya and snarled, "You aren't supposed to be here: you've got a wedding to plan for, and this place is strictly off limits to you and your associates, as you well know. What in the hell made you think--?"

"Oh, that. I had a vision." Three heads snapped around to look at the "nurse," who pulled off her surgical cap and mask to reveal the pissed-off face of Cordelia Chase, along with her now thoroughly blonde-streaked hair. She glared at the three men and elaborated, "I saw what was going to happen, and-amazingly enough-I had a really strong urge to stop it from happening. A phone call or two, switching some weird Watcher goo for tap water, and-"

"Surprise!" Faith sat up abruptly, ripping through the leather restraints like tissue paper, and looked over at the three men. The smile on her face terrified them far more than a glare or a threat would have, and they began edging toward the doorway. The sound of a woman clearing her throat made them freeze, and they looked over to see who the new arrival was.

Buffy Summers stood there, her eyes dancing with amused malice. She raised an eyebrow and asked quietly, "Going somewhere, guys?"

Ray and Dan turned to their larger companion, desperately seeking some useful assistance in what had just become a really bad situation. The bald man sighed and refrained from mopping the sweat now beading on his brow as he coaxed in an inviting tone, "Come now, Miss Summers. This matter doesn't really concern you now, does it? You and Anya can go on back to Sunnydale and let this matter be dealt with by the appropriate authorities. After all, you've got enough on your mind, don't you?"

Buffy pursed her lips, and the three men relaxed somewhat for a few seconds, only to feel a shock of terror as Buffy directed the A version of the Glare of Death at them before replying, "You know, I thought about that, but you people are getting out of hand. It'd only be a matter of time before you'd have Xander and Willow strapped down in this room, then Angel and Wesley; hell, you'd probably do it to Gunn if he wasn't bald. No, I think it's time to stop you, and besides-it'll really be fun." She inclined her head at the other women in the room and concluded, "Ladies: the supplies?"

Three pairs of eyes widened in terror, while four other pairs of eyes narrowed in glee as the gleaming metal instruments and chemicals were brought to bear. Screams that would have sent the damned scurrying for cover echoed through the halls for long moments, then stopped.

* * * * *

"This is not good."

Dan, Ray, and their bald companion looked in dismay at the mangled remains of their limo. The chauffeur had been tied up nearby, and was staring at them from behind his gag.

The three men had been stripped down to their underwear, revealing the dozens of razor nicks caused by having had every hair shaved from their bodies, except for a few regions vetoed by Cordelia, who had commented, "We're not the ones being punished here." Dan and Ray had been shaved bald except for a few straggly patches randomly distributed on their scalps, dyed maroon, cobalt blue, and other horrifying hues. The larger man-lacking hair to be desecrated-had become the proud recipient of a prison quality tattoo that covered most of his back: it depicted a bottle of bleach, partially obscured by the international "red slash" symbol of negation. Faith had taken two hours to complete it, and had received a standing ovation from the other women when she finished; mercifully, her subject had passed out from the pain long before it was finished.

Dan shook his head, leaned back against the useless hulk that would be completely useless for covering the ten miles to the nearest town, then looked at the others and asked plaintively, "OK, is it me, or did they really over react to this whole thing?"

Ray started to reply, then noted movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned, and his eyes widened as he saw a large mob of angry looking men and women, all wearing T-shirts captioned, "CC Fan Club", along with pictures of that individual. Significantly, the picture depicted her as a brunette. Ray turned back to the others, who were taking in the new threat, and concluded simply: "Run."

A large cloud of dust quickly arose, which took a few minutes to settle. When it did, the limo and the bound chauffeur were left alone in the hot sun, with only the receding sound of the angry mob and their terrified quarry to keep them company.

* * * * *

"That was more fun than I've had in a really long time." Faith stretched like a cat, then looked gratefully at the other women in the room as she added, "Thanks."

"Don't knock me unconscious for a while, and we'll call it even," Cordelia replied, pouring the last of the blonde hair dye down the sink. She turned back to Anya and Buffy and smiled softly, adding, "Thanks for coming, you two: I know you've been busy."

Faith brightened, and interjected, "Yeah! Now that those suits have gotten me my get out of jail free card, I can actually come to the wedding! Thanks for the invite, Anya."

Cordelia and Buffy blinked, and turned to Anya, who was busily inspecting the wallpaper. The older Slayer cleared her throat, and Anya turned back with a somewhat embarrassed expression on her face. Buffy stared at the former demon and asked pointedly, "You invited Faith to your wedding?"

"And more importantly, didn't invite me?" Cordelia added, glaring at Anya, ignoring the amused expression on Faith's face.

"It's not like I thought she was going to come: I mean, hello? In prison!" Anya replied defensively, visibly twitching under the hostile attention, and noticing the younger Slayer giving her a dirty look at the candid comment. She flushed, then added, "Besides, she slept with Xander, and I figured that some thanks were in order, you know, for the dividends."

Faith brightened, and Cordelia screeched, "Xander slept with Faith? I always knew he had lousy taste in women!"

The younger Slayer snorted, and retorted, "I knew that all along: consider who his ex was when we did it."

Buffy saw the three women glaring at each other, intoned "Leaving now," and slipped out of the room. Suddenly, being hung up on a bleached blonde vampire didn't seem so disturbing.

As before, comments are welcome and desired.