Disclaimer: I don't own Dollhouse, Echo, Laurence, or any of the characters. They are the property of Fox, Joss Whedon, Eliza Dushku, etc.
Story: Laurence Dominic was told the Dolls couldn't think. Well, he believes otherwise with the Active Doll Echo. Now he's playing cat and mouse games. The question is, who's the cat…and who's the mouse?
Set after episode S1.4 ("Gray Hour").
Spoilers: Maybe, if I can incorporate just right. I'll warn you beforehand.
Warnings: Violence, language, sexual situations, etc.
Pairings: Laurence/Echo, Topher/Claire, slight Paul/Mellie, slight Paul/Echo, and slight Boyd/Claire.
A/n: Damn straight, I'm writing about Laurence. Written because I love the bastard. Hah, take that! And because I'm oddly drawn to the pairing of Laurence/Echo. I don't know why, but I like Laurence –even, if he can be a jerk. I mean, I like Topher too, but that's more of a love/hate relationship. I like him overall, but I hate him for being so indifferent to what he does. At the same time, I like that he's indifferent. For some reason…eh, I'm weird. Too bad, I wanted to write the first Laurence fic, but I'll settle for writing the first L/E fic. At least, I hope I did…
Not really edited.
Happiness in Misery
Chapter One: Give a Girl a Loaded Gun
She unnerved him. Laurence Dominic wasn't a man easily flustered, troubled, or "unnerved". But that Active was different from the others. It had an awareness the others lacked.
They all disgusted him really. But this one…
Echo was one of a kind. They talk about that all the time. But he more than others noticed it especially because he watched her closely. Since the beginning, he's been aware of her.
He was watching her, walking around with a blank stare and an empty smile. He stiffened when she looked up and caught sight of him, a ghost of a calculating smile flitting across her face before disappearing. She continued walking her way, leaving him tense and scowling.
Oh, he was definitely watching that one.
Five hours later…
"Hey there, L-man!"
Laurence growled silently, already wishing the annoyance gone. Still, Topher persisted in invading his personal space, even daring to wrap a gangly arm around the blond's broad shoulders.
"I was thinking you take your job way too seriously. You should take a break; go out drinking, or something. Hell, you should hire one of the Actives! Now that's a good idea!"
He shrugged Topher's arm off of him and took two steps away.
"First of all, don't touch me. Second, I have to take my job seriously. The security of this establishment can't be compromised. Third, those things disgust me."
He stalked away, leaving a bemused science freak behind. He headed down to his personal sanctuary, the shooting range located in the defense department deep below the building, where most of the security personnel hung around. It was empty when he got there, so understandably he jerked around when he heard a noise from behind him.
Echo stood there, watching him curiously.
"What the hell are you doing here?! You're not supposed to be here," he snarled, trigger finger twitching on the handle of his gun that he'd quickly reached for.
She only gave him one of those void smiles, "I followed you."
He snorted, "And now go back."
She acted as if she didn't hear him, looking curiously at his gun and then tilting her head questioningly at the shooting range.
"Go away," he snarled.
He sneered and pushed past her, heading into the shooting range, and angrily aware of her following him. He set up in a few minutes, before he snapped again at her.
"Look, I'm busy. Why don't you go back and do some yoga?"
She ignored that question and asked one of her own, "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" he snapped back sarcastically.
Another blank stare.
He sighed, "I'm going to shoot at the targets."
"Can I try?"
He faltered, genuine surprise appearing at the request. His natural reaction was to say no, but he just frowned. He looked at her critically, studying her, before doing a jerk of his head in a yes.
"Come closer," Laurence ordered gruffly, not at all pleased that he'd agreed, but if he was going to do this he might as well do it properly.
Echo moved to his side, and he roughly tossed a bulletproof vest on her, adjusting it to her size. It was a little big, but it was the smallest there. Moving her into where he was supposed to be, he handed her his gun warily.
"Safety's on. In here, it's always on before aiming at the target," he explained, not quite believing he was.
She held up her arms, holding the gun with both hands, flicking the safety off capably. His eyes widened fractionally, wondering how she was able to seem at ease with it when she shouldn't be able to remember ever handling a gun. Not unless she remembered the assignment with that psychopath…
"Aim it at the target. Wait –" he grabbed two pairs of mufflers, actually fumbling to put them on her head before settling his on his head. He moved behind her, reaching around her and adjusted her grip a little, staying there and moving their synced hands to properly aim. He moved her mufflers a little bit to speak into her ear. "Prepare for the recoil. If you don't, aiming the gun is a moot point. The recoil will just throw you off balance."
She nodded, so he went ahead and curled his finger around hers and pulled the trigger.
They did this for awhile, and he never moved away. He didn't trust her alone with the gun.
He stopped them for a break, taking off their mufflers, when he heard clapping. He whirled around at the same time Echo smoothly turned, a vague smile on her face. Adelle and Boyd stood there, she with a smirk on her face and he with a disgruntled scowl. Adelle was the one clapping.
"I was just looking for you two. Echo, go with Boyd. It's time for your treatment, dear. Laurence, come with me."
They split up, Boyd gently taking Echo's arm and looking back at him suspiciously. It may have been Laurence's imagination, but he could've sworn Echo's eyes darted towards him quickly and her lips tilted up slightly before smoothing over.
She was definitely different from the others and it bothered him.
"She seems to like the shooting range," Adelle commented to Laurence the next day.
"She'd followed me there. I…offered to show her how to shoot a gun," not quite revealing how Echo seemed to refuse his orders to go back, or how seemingly aware she was becoming.
"While I'm not so sure I approve of teaching an Active a form of violence, I think I'll make an exception for Echo. She seems to enjoy it and not realize its potential to harm others. I suppose she views it as another…yoga," her lips twitched upwards sardonically.
Adelle folded her arms across her chest, leaning back in her chair and observing him coolly. "Like I said. I think I'll allow Echo to proceed learning it. After all, she is…special."
"How do you mean?" he pushed further, wanting to know more on what she was implying, and even if she was knew how aware Echo was.
"She's like Alpha," Adelle stated bluntly, and he paled slightly. "Except not. You see, Alpha was exposed to all of his imprints at once, causing him to react violently and lash out. He's aware of us and what we do now, but the composite event has still addled his mind. Everyone can see Echo slowly assimilating her imprints, but she's doing so slowly. There won't be another composite event for her, because she is taking in all of her imprints one at a time now, rather than all at once like Alpha. She won't be going into shock and lashing out any time soon.
"However, because she's like Alpha, I'll think we'll be able to use that to our advantage. If we can control her, we'll be able to use her against Alpha. They would be a perfect match to pit against each other. And since she's only becoming aware of her imprinted skills and not of the reality she's in, all the best to us."
Laurence nodded, hiding his uncertainty. "I'm assuming you're relegating the task of teaching her how to shoot to me?"
"I'm not sure if I can, ma'am. I'll be busy maintaining our security and processing the clients."
"Make time. Put aside an hour a day just for her. Let's say, an hour just before curfew? Be sure to have her take a shower before she goes to sleep. We don't want her smelling like gunpowder, now do we? And in that case, you're permitted to use the showers also."
Laurence sighed inwardly, "Is that all, ma'am?"
Adelle nodded, dismissing him. He turned on his heel sharply, and strode away.
Later that night, he found Echo. She was staring at a piece of artwork in the main foyer of the Dollhouse, a vacant smile decorating her face. He scowled and tapped her shoulder, though again he wondered if this was influenced by that art their job.
"Oh. Hello. Isn't it lovely?"
"Yes," he answered shortly. "Now follow me."
He dragged her down to the shooting range, glad that it was deserted at that time of night. He took out another gun and handed it to her.
"While I doubt you'll remember any of this," –'Though I'm rather doubtful of that fact' – "this is a subcompact Glock 29 pistol. It uses a 10mm Auto cartridge. This is how you unload and load it. Copy me."
He handed it to her with the cartridge separate, making sure the safety was on. Her small hands awkwardly held the gun and cartridge in both of her hands, looking at them confusedly. He waited patiently, watching her with narrowed eyes. While she fumbled a bit, she was able to load the cartridge in correctly.
"Good. We'll work on you doing that faster and then we'll shoot at the targets a little."
Yes, an important part of handling a gun, aside from safety, was loading it correctly. But for him, the whole point was to see if she could remember it the next time they met, proving his theory that she was remembering. There was time enough later to see if Echo would prove Adelle DeWitt wrong about not being aware of the situation she was in. Echo handling a gun would also help, that is if she can pull it off as amateurishly good as last time, but it wasn't specific enough to confirm his thoughts.
They worked on loading the cartridge, with Echo pulling it off faster with each try. He stopped her when he thought it would be a good time to start shooting at the targets, setting them both up. Once he had their mufflers on, he took the same position behind her as last time, helping her shoot at the targets and aiming at certain areas. His grip on her helped against the recoil.
Keeping an eye on the time, he noticed it was almost curfew. If they hurried, he could get her through the shower and into her bed on the dot. Sliding one hand over hers and on top of the gun, he tilted it slightly downwards as a sign to stop. She loosed her grip and he let go and stepped back.
"We're done for tonight. You'll have to take a shower before going to sleep."
Once in the showers, Echo quickly stripped and Laurence jerked around to avoid her.
"What are you doing?!" he yelled in a panic.
"I'm going to take a shower," she said airily.
He twitched, "I know that. But you could wait until I turned around or left."
"But why? What would be the point?"
The Dolls have no modesty. They were programmed to be carefree, therefore they wouldn't worry about such a trivial thing as nudity.
"Are you going to shower as well?"
"No. I'll just wait until I feel like it later…" he muttered.
He was going to leave until a voice that suspiciously sounded like Adelle started talking in his head.
'Now, now, Laurence. She's the only one here. There's no one else to supervise her.'
His response to that would be to think, 'Fuck that, fuck Adelle, and fuck that Doll.'
He paused and backtracked, reddening slightly. 'No, not like that.'
Laurence looked over to Echo to see if she was done, before averting his head again and turning a darker shade of red. God, whatever possessed him to work in this place anyway?
Persistent, wasn't he…even after "Lubov" was employed, Agent Paul Ballard was still a nuisance. He just refused to give up on Dollhouse. Well, Laurence was never one to leave loose ends. If Lubov didn't work, and in consequence neither did the ambush…well, if he couldn't have his kill order he could always give Agent Ballard a scare.
Ah, there she was. Again, just roaming around the complex with an empty smile. He idly tapped his fingers against the railing he was leaning against, watching her smile at everyone. The Actives Sierra and Victor joined her, even more blank than she. He watched them join the yoga group, stretching and then starting on exercises.
He was about to turn and leave when he saw Echo give another one of her enigmatic smiles towards him, before turning her attention back to the instructor.
Unwillingly, his lips twitched into a smile. He froze and frowned to himself, deciding his mind was just getting tired.
Started 3/5/09 –Completed 3/7/09