Author: SigmaTheta PM
The Dollhouse is changing, and Topher could be coping a little better. Implied Claire/Topher. Written after Vows.Rated: Fiction T - English - Topher B. - Words: 1,293 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 1 - Published: 10-10-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5433699
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ivy jumps in surprise, and she and the handler she was talking to turn around to stare in the direction of the angry yell. The blurry form of Topher can be seen moving around beyond the doors to the imprint room. There is a noise that sounds suspiciously like something heavy and expensive being kicked, followed by another shouted curse.
Ivy turns slowly back around. "Um, unless you needed anything else, I think I should go…check on that," she says. The handler nods, takes the file she is holding out to him, and walks away with a vaguely curious look on his face.
Ivy opens the door in time to see Topher ripping a wedge out of the imprint chair with more force than she's ever seen him use on a piece of technology. Bravo is sitting patiently in the chair, watching all of this with a tilted head and a mildly puzzled expression. Topher absently flails a hand in the Active's direction and says, "That's a bad word. Don't go around saying it to anyone." He pauses in his inspection of the wedge, gives a dramatic shrug and adds, "Then again, who cares? You'll just go on your little engagement and then get wiped. If you somehow manage to remember and say something later, I'll just blame it on the client! Who really cares about one more glitch?" With a final sweeping gesture, he lets his hands fall to his sides. "Fuck it."
Ivy hovers awkwardly at the door. "Okay, what did I miss?"
He looks up to see her and walks quickly in her direction, holding up the wedge and shaking it aggressively. "Do you know what this is?" he demands.
She takes half a step back out of the room and raises an eyebrow. "A wedge?"
"No, it's a blank wedge!" he corrects. He walks past her out of the imprint room and turns on his heel to face her again. "I spent three hours meticulously creating the imprint for Bravo's engagement, and I forgot to save it to the wedge. I tried to give a blank Doll a blank imprint." He laughs humorlessly and taps the wedge against the side of his head.
"Seriously," Ivy says, "what's wrong with you lately?"
Topher gives a smile so wide and forced it appears painful. "Why would anything be wrong?" he asks, ducking to open the refrigerator and pull out a can. "It's all happy fun times in the Dollhouse. There's no glitching Actives, no former FBI agents lurking around, no rogue Dolls who tried twice to kill us all still at large, and of course our resident doctor didn't decide to up and leave with just a cryptic note to explain!" If he realizes his voice cracked on the word 'doctor', he doesn't show it. "Nope. Everything's fine."
"You need to get more sleep," Ivy observes, watching him down half of the energy drink he's holding in one gulp, "and have you eaten anything today that wasn't made for hungover college students?"
Topher shakes his head. "Can't sleep. I'm thinking too much. And my sheets still smell like…" He cuts himself off and gives another laugh. "Maybe I should just crawl into a pod with one of the Dolls. That'll knock me out for a while."
Ivy gives him a concerned look. "I'm going to the store," she says, leaving the office.
She gets about halfway to the exit when she is stopped by DeWitt. "It's a bit early in the day for you to be leaving," the older woman remarks.
Ivy shrinks back a little and gestures behind her. "I'm running out to get some food for Topher. I think he's existing solely on Red Bull, Rockstar energy drinks, and those Starbucks frappachinos that come in the bottles."
DeWitt looks up toward Topher's office, where he is pacing slowly back and forth. As she watches, he trips over his trashcan, deliberately kicks it over in frustration, and then slumps down to pick it back up again. She frowns. "Yes, well. Do make it something substantial."
Ivy ducks her head and hurries past, and DeWitt continues on her way upstairs. By the time she reaches Topher's office, he has stopped taking his emotions out on pieces of furniture and is back to the more typical act of staring intently at a computer screen. "Has Bravo been sent out on his engagement, yet?" she asks loudly, even though Bravo's handler sitting off to the side and idly playing with a Rubik's cube should really be answer enough to that question.
Topher jumps, even more twitchy than usual, and waves a placating hand in her direction. "Nearly!" he insists. "Very, very nearly. Just had a small setback. Tiny delay, but now we're golden." He turns quickly back to his computer, pressing a key with flourish and watching as the machine does its work.
DeWitt's jaw tightens. "Quite frankly, Mr. Brink, the number of these 'small setbacks' and 'tiny delays' has increased dramatically over the past few months and alarmingly so over the past few days." She allows a moment for the warning in her tone to set in. "Now, I'm certain you don't need to be told this, but let me make it clear that this is unacceptable."
"I know!" Topher snaps, and then he instantly holds up his hands in defense and gapes for a few seconds as though just remembering who he is talking to. When DeWitt does nothing more than arch an eyebrow, Topher sighs and lets his arms drop. "I know," he repeats in a quieter voice. He runs a hand through his hair, mussing it up and making himself look even worse, an accomplishment considering the state he started in. "There have been, um, recent changes to my work environment that I'm not entirely comfortable with."
"I'm well aware that you and Dr. Saunders have had more than a few unpleasant altercations recently," DeWitt replies impatiently, "but as she has decided to leave her post that can hardly be considered an excuse for your behavior today."
"That's the thing," Topher protests. "I thought I wouldn't be able to work anymore with her around, but then she left, and now I clearly can't work without her around!" He walks over to his desk and sits down heavily, rubbing at his temple. "I'm afraid I'm gonna mess something up and no one will be around to catch it," he says softly.
DeWitt's anger fades as that damned hint of fondness creeps up against her will. She sighs in a long-suffering way. "Bravo's engagement is the last for the day. Once you've finished with his imprint, I suggest you eat a decent meal and try to get a few hours' sleep. You look dreadful."
Topher snorts. "Thanks."
"Following that, I expect you to be fully on task and performing admirably again tomorrow morning." She takes a few steps closer and places a hand on his desk. "We are all still in this together, Mr. Brink," she says quietly, leaning forward to emphasize her point. "You and I, and Dr. Saunders as well. I will not allow my House to be torn apart from the inside." She straightens, gives a curt nod, and strides briskly out of the office.
Topher lets his head fall until his chin hits the desk and closes his eyes. He inhales deeply, lets the breath out, and gets up to finish Bravo's imprint. "Time to pile up the sandbags again," he mumbles.