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 S1.5 ("True Believer").
Spoilers: Definitely, all vague now but there's specific mentions of things that happened in episodes. Major spoilers coming up.
Warnings: Violence, language, sexual situations, etc.
Pairings: Laurence/Echo, Topher/Claire, slight Paul/Mellie, slight Paul/Echo, and slight Boyd/Claire.

Happiness in Misery
Chapter Two: Even the Best of Us

The next night and she was just a blank slate again. Didn't even remember them doing just the same the night before. But at least he had answers to his questions as well. She remembered. She quickly and efficiently loaded the gun, even as she exclaimed in surprise at how easy it was for her.

"Echo, move over."

When she'd done as he'd ask, Laurence laid several firearms in sequence on the table in front of her. He sighed heavily.

'This is a lot more specific than just loading a gun. If she remembers this next time, then she really is retaining skills.'

"Okay, under each gun is a manual detailing how to dismantle and assemble them. I want to see you understand the manuals, and then follow the directions. Dismantle the guns and then put them back together, Echo."

Laurence watched Echo struggle through his instructions, taking the better part of the hour. Last time, he had been able to split the time between target shooting and loading the gun. Unfortunately, the task he'd set for her was taking her longer than he'd expected. But it was hard to do, so maybe he'd been expecting too much on the first try…

He looked on as she finished up the third gun in the sequence of six. She looked up at him, frustrated, but he said nothing and continued watching, passively standing there. He folded his arms across his chest, and kept watching. He idly wondered why she was frustrated...didn't that dolt Topher say the Dolls were incapable of feeling? But then, when she was accidently wiped on the art job, she was quite capable of feeling fear and confusion. And she'd been confused that one time he'd callously confronted her after the mission with "Richard."

He sighed and walked over, placing a hand over hers. "It's alright. You've done well so far, Echo. We'll continue next time."

"I'll do better next time. I promise," she blinked back tears of frustration that shouldn't be there.

He awkwardly ruffled her hair, "You did well for your first time. Better than I expected."

Which wasn't entirely true, considering he had expected more. And again, his expectations were over the top.

Going back to being standoffish, he jerked his chin towards the door. "Come on, we need to get you to the showers before curfew."

With the days passing by and he teaching Echo, he was surprised when his lesson with the Active was cancelled because she had an overnight engagement with a client. Laurence was rather surprised that Echo had gone on for so long without any overnight missions, considering she was probably the most popular and most asked for Doll.

He went and did some errands for Adelle, checked in with Topher about Echo, called Boyd several times on her condition, checked on Echo's client's profile again, and sat at his desk morosely. He hadn't noticed how quickly his lessons with Echo had become ingrained into his life.

His phone rang and he slowly reached over to pick it up. "Yes?"

"Laurence, we have a situation."

He sat up quickly, alarmed. It couldn't have been the client. He made sure to double check his background and even checked several more times after that. He hung up and ran to Adelle's office.

"What's going on?" he made sure he was straightened up before he entered.

Adelle's worried face greeted him, making him shiver inside. "Apparently, Echo and the client had an unexpected run in with some thugs. The client ran away and Echo was left alone with them. Judging by her stats, she seems to be running away, but they must be chasing her. Unfortunately, she's reporting blood loss so she must've been shot. I need you to gather your men and head straight there. Retrieve Echo ASAP so she can receive medical treatment."

He nodded and hurried to do his job.

He had his team spread out immediately, coldly sending a pair after the client. The MP5 submachine gun was held steady in his hands as he trekked alone through the area, searching for the wayward Active. He spotted her soon, limping backwards, away from one of the thugs. There was no one there but him and those two…

Laurence scanned her from his location, noting her bleeding side and the exhaustion lining her body. The thug raised his gun, yelling something to which she yelled back. In his corner, he lined the eye scope to his right eye and focused in, shooting the man in the head just as he was about to shoot Echo. He relaxed and started to walk towards her, watching as she scrambled towards the gun and held it to her chest. He noticed one of her wrists looked sprained by the way she was holding it against her chest, her right hand holding the gun tightly and the other was weakly hiding behind it.

She raised the gun, keeping her sprained hand close, and aimed it at him. His eyes widened and he took a step back, fear entering him. Oh, he knew it. He absolutely knew the Doll would snap just like Alpha…

He raised his own gun, but he was a second late as she shot first and he flinched, closing his eyes. When he didn't feel the bullet enter him, he assumed she missed and opened his eyes. She was staring passed him. Looking behind him, he noticed a second thug and he stared on in disbelief.

"Huh," and noticed that to handle the recoil with one hand, she aimed lower. "Good girl," he murmured.

Laurence heard the thump of her body hit the ground and he whirled around to see her curled up on the floor. Cursing in his head, he ran over to her and checked her vitals.

"Echo, can you hear me?" he demanded harshly. She didn't shoot him, but he really thought she was going to. While she hadn't, he was still feeling conflicted towards her because he was so sure she had been aiming for him, and was going to pull an Alpha. He called in for backup and kneeled next to her, pulling her closer to cushion her against him.

"Another lesson for tonight, Echo," he lowered his voice to a calmer tone, trying to soothe her and pull her away from thinking about the pain. "The firearm I was using is called a Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun, widely used by law enforcement, tactical teams, and military forces. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun and the cartridge of a pistol…"

"Laurence," she muttered under her breath.

He froze. She was not supposed to remember his name. How could she remember him?

Laurence couldn't think about it anymore as the backup arrived, and Echo was quickly taken to emergency medical. But when she was gone, his mind started working overtime.

Echo couldn't remember him. It just wasn't possible. When the Dolls were wiped, everything was wiped from their minds. They wouldn't remember anyone. He understood her remembering skills, but his name was way too specific and was more than remembering simple skills that probably were imprinted copies in her mind.

In fact, she seemed to remember him the most…

Those odd smiles she sent his way, how she seemed to become more aware after an encounter with him, and he had caught her staring at him intensely with an unreadable look every once and awhile.

It's different with Boyd –the man was her handler. She just seemed to remember Boyd even more clearly than was the usual because she genuinely liked and trusted the man in either her blank state or imprinted states. Before their lessons, Echo hardly spent any time with him, other than when Laurence taunted her in her doll state or the other encounters that's been growing ever since the Alpha incident.

It was something that should be subject to alarm, but he strangely felt none.

It was a very odd occurrence to see Laurence sitting stiffly next to the recuperating Active, and Claire didn't know what to make of it. Usually, the man sneered at them and didn't bother inquiring into their health, and Laurence was especially antagonistic towards Echo because of how alike she seemed to Alpha. This was not usual behavior for him.

"Laurence, if you could read off her stats to me?" Claire requested as she had her back turned to them, and was busy gathering vials.

He complied and she was surprised that he didn't put up more of a fight, though less surprised than seeing him actually there.

"Will she be okay?" he asked in the quiet.

She froze and turned to face him, with him staring back at her solemnly.

Claire took a deep breath, "I'll just sew up her gun wound after I disinfect it. As long as she doesn't move much and open the wound back up, it should heal on its own. She won't be able to go on any engagements until then either."

"Will you be able to write that up?"

She paused at the unexpected question, but continued on. "I'll have to. It's protocol."

"Can you make suggestions?"

The questions were just becoming more bizarre. "Yes, if I see fit."

"Anything really physical would harm her, so yoga and swimming are out of the question. That doesn't leave much for her to do, other than getting a massage. I'm sure she would like to do more things than that. If you could suggest giving her more time with me at the shooting range, or anywhere I deem fit to host her lessons?"

She sucked in a breath harshly, "So it's true then? You really are teaching Echo?"

His lips thinned into a stern line and his glare intensified. She held up her hands in surrender.

"That sounds fine. As long as you don't have her do anything strenuous."

Laurence nodded sharply, but still stayed where he was sitting. Hesitantly, she left him with Echo and went to check in with Topher. The "mad scientist" was still trying to work out the details of the remote wiping Echo had gone through as Taffy, miserably coming up with nothing.

"Hey there, Dr. Saunders. What do you have for me now?" he asked, still distracted with his work.

"Echo's condition, along with her paperwork and recommendations," she answered shortly, not in the mood to enter into a repartee with him.

He whirled around in his chair to face her, smirk clearly present. "Oh dear, I hear a little snark coming from my favorite doc."

She stared at him blandly, too stressed out to want to unwillingly banter back.

Topher snickered and spread his arms, "Well then, my lovely, have at it. Where's her stuff?"

Claire sighed inwardly while she handed over Echo's folder, avoiding touching Topher. He grinned at her, stood up and bowed, then turned his back on her to focus on his work, dropping the folder and its contents on his desk to his side.

She frowned at his back before turning on her heel and leaving in an annoyed fashion.

"Knock, knock," Topher's cheerful voice interrupted her thoughts.

Claire turned and frowned at him, "What do you want?"

She noticed then that his voice was cheerful, but the look on his face was not.

"Not that I don't like dear Laurence and all, but what's with the recommendations? You and I both know he hates Echo," he chastised her.

"He doesn't hate Echo…he dislikes her," she reluctantly disagreed.

Topher gave her a look that she ignored. He shrugged and invited himself into her office, plopping down on a chair beside her and figuring one of her keepsakes she left on her desk. She snatched it out of her hands and placed it back on the desk.

"Did he ask you to recommend that stuff?" he asked nonchalantly, taking one of her pens instead and fiddling with it.

"Of course not," she replied sternly, refusing to stiffen up. "Those suggestions are recommendations I made based on what I've observed of Echo's situation. There aren't many things she could do and I thought she'd like more time doing something she seems to enjoy."

Topher placed the pen smartly on the desk with a loud clack, standing up with a sarcastic grin. "Good idea. Just tell me when Echo's body turns up."

He left Claire feeling even more unsure.

Started 3/9/09 –Completed 3/19/09