The lights are flashing up in Topher's office. There's always something going on up there, but usually it's quiet, nothing you'd notice unless you were watching carefully. Today it's loud enough that Echo can hear it all the way downstairs. They're taking that man away, the one who was being mean to Topher earlier. Echo can't remember the specifics, but she thinks she helped. She remembers she wanted to help.

The lights and the noise have captured Sierra's attention too, although she's usually oblivious to what goes on in the room up there, just like all Echo's friends are. She stares up at the room with a blank look on her face. Fear, Echo thinks. The emotion Sierra is looking for is fear, but she's having trouble finding it. None of them are easily afraid anymore—everything is less vivid, Echo thinks, than it used to be in that time long ago, the time that always seems to be at the edge of her memory and always slips away. They can still be scared but not very easily. But that's still better than being afraid all the time.

"What's going on up there?" Sierra asks.

She asks Echo, of course. She tends to rely on Echo for answers like these, can tell that Echo tends to know more than she does. Which is true, though even Echo isn't sure why.

In this case she isn't sure why she knows either, but she does know who is making the noise up there. It is the bad man who hurt Topher and tried to hurt Echo. But that doesn't matter, and he never hurt Sierra anyway, and now he won't be able to hurt anyone anymore.

More importantly, Echo is worried about that woman…what is her name again? She rarely comes around to see Echo, but Echo is fairly certain her name is DeWitt. Yes, DeWitt is up there too with all the yelling and the flashing lights, and Echo remembers knowing once that she didn't want to be.

"She made a mistake," she tells Sierra. "Now she's sad."

Sierra nods and doesn't ask any more questions.


The woman (DeWitt, she tells herself, DeWitt, why is it so hard to remember?) has come over to watch Echo again. She's watching several of Echo's friends too, as they all practice yoga in synchrony, but Echo knows that she's mostly there to watch Echo. So she leaves the group and goes to talk to her.

DeWitt is startled when Echo comes over to her side. She steps back as Echo approaches, almost seems afraid. It is an odd thing for her to do when she's the one in control of this place, she's the one who tells Topher to change people and decides who goes where, who does what. She knows things and Echo doesn't, which means properly Echo should be afraid of her.

She isn't though.

"Do you need a hug?" she asks DeWitt.

DeWitt says, "I'm afraid that wouldn't be a good idea, Echo. I hurt myself the other day so I can't accept any hugs." She smiles thinly and presses a hand to her abdomen. Echo looks down at it, then back up.

"You got hurt."

"Yes, but I'll be fine."

"That man hurt you."

"What man?"

"The one who was mean to Topher and tried to hurt me," Echo said. "He wasn't nice." She wants to hug DeWitt again, but of course she can't. "I'm sorry he hurt you."

"I hurt him more."

Echo considers this statement and decides it is true, although it's not DeWitt's fault. When people tried to hurt you, you sometimes had to hurt them first. She isn't sure that she's ever done this herself but feels instinctively that she probably has.

But she knows none of that will help DeWitt feel better. "You miss him," she says.

"I do."

"He was a bad man."

DeWitt shrugs. "Sometimes even when you know people are bad you still like them."

"I don't understand."

"Maybe you should go back to your yoga, Echo."

Echo nods. "Yoga is relaxing."

The group has moved on to a more advanced position when Echo rejoins them, but she knows it even though she's missed the demonstration. She must have learned it once, at some point, even though she can't remember when.


People are talking.

Not Echo and her friends, of course—they only talk about things that don't really matter, applesauce and story books and swimming in the pool, which is good because if something were serious enough for Victor, for example, to notice, it would be something really bad. And nothing really bad has happened since the bad thing happened to Sierra, and Echo hopes nothing that bad will happen again.

But there are people talking who are not Echo's friends but Boyd's friends, and they are talking very loudly because they don't care if Echo and her friends hear them because they think Echo and her friends are stupid and don't understand anything, which is not true. Echo overhears them and she doesn't understand everything they say but she does understand this:

Adelle (and that, she remembers, means DeWitt, and DeWitt means the woman) is starting to "lose it."

She's shown up at work with red eyes lately. Drinking? Crying? They don't know. Most of them think drinking because she does have a stock of alcohol in her office and it's easier to imagine. Echo can't remember ever drinking so she isn't sure which, but she thinks it could easily be either.

They say Adelle is going off her rocker and is probably going to lose control of the Dollhouse and everything has been bad since the bad man left. They also say a lot of mean things about Boyd but Echo ignores those. Boyd left her a while ago (she can't remember why) and since then she sometimes forgets he exists. He doesn't really matter anymore, but Adelle does. She isn't sure why that is either.

But if Adelle is "losing it", that is very bad. Something has to be done and around here, the only one who really gets things done is Echo.


It's a bit difficult to sneak around security, which has gotten tighter since Boyd left Echo, but Echo manages it, and it's worth it for the look on Adelle's face when Echo arrives in her office unaccompanied, opening the door for herself.

"Echo," she says. She gets up from her chair at the desk and walks over. "Where's your handler?"

"Boyd left."

"No, Echo, I mean…Oh, never mind." Wearily, she steps back. "The programming will probably never take, and he's not the best handler anyhow. Have a seat."

Echo does, and she holds up the piece of paper she brought with her. "I brought you a picture."

"Oh, you did. How lovely."

It's a finger painting Echo made in class earlier and it's of Adelle and Echo and Victor and Sierra and Boyd and Topher and Ivy. Adelle's in the middle. Echo is hugging Adelle in the picture, because Echo wanted to do that a few days ago and didn't, and she can't remember why but it makes her sad.

"I'd hang it on my office wall but that wouldn't be professional," Adelle says. "Perhaps I will bring it home." She touches Victor in the picture and smiles. She's still sad. "Did you paint it just for me?"

"You miss him."

Adelle glances up with wide eyes. Recovering, she shakes her head and says, "I miss a lot of people."

Echo reaches out and takes her hand. Looking her in the eyes she says, "You still have me."

Adelle laughs bitterly. "How reassuring."

She's hurting, hurting, hurting and Echo doesn't know how to make it better. "Tell me how to help you," she says, because she doesn't think this is the kind of thing where Topher can put her in the chair and she can become someone who can help but she doesn't know what else to do. Adelle looks away. Echo squeezes her hand. "I want to help you."

"No, you don't," Adelle says.

"I do."

"You don't!" Adelle pulls her hand away and stands up. "You may not remember this, Echo, but I'm not one of the people you want to save. I'm one of the bad ones."

"Sometimes you know someone is bad and you still like them," Echo says.

Adelle frowns. "The things you bother to remember are a mystery to me."

"Tell me how to help you."

Adelle shakes her head. "You can't help me, Echo." She turns away. "I'm not sure anyone can help me anymore."

Echo can't go to Topher for this one, and she doesn't think her finger painting is good enough. She can only go away now, and let Adelle be alone the way she wants to be. But before she leaves she says, "I'll be here if you need me."

Adelle doesn't answer, but Echo knows she hears.




AN: I usually post slash and femslash on my other account here, Shiroimono, but I usually post my Dollhouse stuff here so. Here you go! I'm beginning to actually ship Adelle/Echo and I'm not sure how that happened, since I love Adelle but I'm not the biggest Echo fan. Ah well.

Reviews would be greatly appreciated.