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 S1.9 ("A Spy in the House of Love").
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.
A/n: Okay, so no spoilers for the next episode, just pure fanon and speculation and plot twists. Have fun with it. It's not as long as the past chapters, but longer than my usual 2000 limit. Still mourning, but better now. Vegas is doing wonders. So…30 this time, pretty please?
Happiness in Misery
Chapter Seven: Your Fingertips Across My Skin
Both Topher and Boyd were both called in to see Claire in the imprint room, Boyd interrupted in his morbid reminiscing of the past happenings and Topher's inner guilt trip. Both flinched at seeing Laurence still in the chair, eyes eerily blank and mouth slightly open. He was now wearing the standard outfit for the Dolls.
"He's prepped and ready to be taken to the Attic," Claire said cheerily, confusing both men.
"You're, uh, happy that Dom's gone blank and has to go to that creepy place?" Topher asked uncertainly.
"No. Of course not. Do you have his hard drive?" Claire frowned at him.
"Ah yeah…it's in my pocket. DeWitt told me to lose it in the Archives, but I was thinking of keeping it around, imagining Laurence yelling at me through it about how much of an idiot I am, and I would tell him that at least I'm taller than him," Topher rambled.
She rolled her eyes and Boyd cut in. "What's going on?"
"You two have sympathies I would agree with. At least, Boyd does. So I'll tell you now that Laurence wasn't the only spy."
Boyd whipped out his gun and pointed it at her, but she only smiled shrewdly at him.
"Boyd, to Topher," Claire ordered, and in a second Boyd was pointing it at the tech genius instead.
Topher held up his hands, "Okay, I am totally lost here."
"Boyd knows I'm a spy. He's here to know what Laurence and I had planned and to help me against you. You're here for several reasons, Topher. I think you might benefit us in our little operation a great deal. I know you have some slight misgivings about the Dollhouse, though you like to push them away. And if you cooperate, you're going to do me and Laurence a big favor. And if you don't cooperate, we'll make you," Claire ended, pulling out her own gun from her lab coat.
"O-okay. Uh, where'd you get that?"
She smirked, "Courtesy of Laurence Dominic. Now take out Laurence's hard drive."
When Topher held it up, she continued. "Put it in."
"What?" both Boyd and Topher asked at the same time.
"Laurence is settled nicely into the seat. Now, as per the plan, Boyd, help me make sure Topher reloads Laurence's mind back into his body."
"Woah, I'm all for that. I got it. No need to be so hostile," Topher immediately went to go do his job.
"Boyd, help him out by using one of the computers here to hack into the security feed and play a loop."
"I don't have that level of expertise in that area," he frowned.
"But Topher does. He can direct you while he starts to fix Laurence."
And while that was happening, she told them about the plan she and Laurence had made and implemented, leading to Laurence's mind-suck.
"After I warned you about Topher coming to me, you went straight to Laurence then," Boyd added.
"And that leads us to now."
Topher glared over his shoulder, "You could've just asked. I would've done this anyway."
"You're amoral. We can't fully trust you," Claire immediately replied, waiting and then Topher had set up the computer to the chair, and was getting ready to reload Laurence. "Let's see how good of an actor you really are," she murmured.
"3…2…1," Topher held out his fingers in a countdown, and when it reached one, the chair activated.
"Laurence, everything all there?" he asked tentatively once it was done. Everyone looked expectantly at the body on the chair, waiting for a reaction.
"I suppose I really can't doubt your tech skills now. But you're still an incompetent idiot," Laurence spoke, groaning as he slowly sat up.
"What's next?" Boyd asked, his mouth twitching upwards at Laurence, who returned the hint of a smile with a nod.
"Laurence, DeWitt usually doesn't check on patients in the Attic. You're going to have to pretend to be mindless when we send you up there, because she will check on you. Afterwards, if you can contact the NSA before they start looking for you, tell them to back off. That way, if they don't seem to be looking for you, DeWitt won't have an excuse to imprint you and make you call them. She'll leave you alone."
"And after that?" Laurence asked wearily.
"We're going to sneak you out. And then you have to contact Paul Ballard. He's found out about the vent camera, but he's missing one more. I want you to help him."
Laurence gritted his teeth in frustration, "And Echo?"
All three others turned silent, two of them staring at Claire as Laurence cradled his head in his hands.
"You know she can't go with you, Laurence. She will be noticed if she's not here."
"Can I see her at least?" he glared at her.
"No –" Laurence's glare hardened and she looked apologetic. "Not yet at least. We need to get you by DeWitt first and then out of the House."
"I'll ask DeWitt if I could continue taking her to the library, and meet you there," Boyd further calmed him down.
"What about missions? Will you let me see her when she goes on missions?" he directed at Boyd.
"I'm…not Echo's handler anymore," Boyd unhappily replied.
Laurence stared at him. "What?"
"DeWitt promoted me to your job, even though I tried to stay with Echo. I…kept your photo safe, and locked under key. I haven't a chance to go to your apartment. But I can tell you where and who's she with, so you can watch from afar."
It was good enough for now.
"You won't be able to stay at your apartment. There's a chance it could be monitored. You're going to have to stay with Ballard," Claire told him.
"Whatever," he muttered. "Can Langton grab some of my things?"
"I think it would be okay. Boyd can use the excuse that he was looking for anything to point out you were a spy, so that he could avoid a similar thing happening in the future. It matches with his MO."
"So when do we do this?" Topher asked anxiously.
"Now. Boyd, you're Head of Security now, so you have to come with me to take him to the Attic. Topher, go back to working and act normal."
They split ways, and Laurence reluctantly was hauled onto the table that was supposed to wheel him to the Attic. He took a deep breath and began impersonating the Attic prisoners, clearing his mind in meditation and opening his mouth slightly. He struggled to keep his eyes open, only closing them mindlessly once every while. He hoped to hell his eyes looked glazed.
They left him there, with a reassuring look from both Boyd and Claire, and he sat in a corner slumped over. He was exhausted any way, and sore from the wiping procedure so that wasn't hard to fake. He prepared himself for a long wait.
After two days, in which Claire came in with several people and went to each Attic dweller to feed them and take care of them several times, Laurence finally saw Adelle. She icily looked over each mindless Doll left around, most on medbeds and hooked to IVs in the corner of the dark room, and then some walking or just sitting on the floor like Laurence. Plenty of them were rocking back and forth, and more were just sitting and drooling while staring off blankly. Rarely did any of them mutter.
Laurence prided himself on acting just like them realistically, a mixture of all of the Dolls. He'd expect Adelle to think he was one of the unusual ones.
"Mr. Dominic," she cocked her head to the side and examined him. "What a shame. I did admire you so. Now look at you. Mindless and moronic. It's a waste."
Her lip curled into a sneer. "Well, you'll be here for a long while, just wasting away. And you don't have Echo to soothe your cold heart. But don't worry. She's in…loving hands."
Laurence resisted the urge to just react and lunge at her.
"Looks like the NSA really have cut their losses. They don't seem to care about you, if they're not looking for you. Too bad, looks like you're stuck here after all. Good bye, Mr. Dominic. I won't be seeing you again."
She left and Laurence waited.
Boyd dropped him off at Ballard's and he had to sneer at the building. He had to be careful though. He didn't want to alert November and therefore alert the Dollhouse to his breakout. When he was absolutely sure that November was in her apartment, he knocked surely on Ballard's door.
Paul was surprised and confused when he saw him. "Who're you?"
Laurence took a deep breath, "My name is Laurence Dominic and I can tell you everything you want to know about the Dollhouse."
And then Paul lashed out and grabbed his collar, cocking back one hand to punch him. Laurence sneered, and dodged the punch, ducking and then doing an uppercut.
NSA trumps FBI.
"Look, asshole. I'm here to help you. If you don't want my help, you can go fuck yourself and fight the Dollhouse with nothing," Laurence growled, holding Paul in an arm hold.
"Who are you?" Paul bit out, trying to not get his arm broken.
"NSA agent, Laurence Dominic, former Head of Security of the LA Dollhouse," he said stoically.
Paul nodded and he let go, letting the FBI agent duck out and warily watch him from a short distance away.
"You used to work for them?" Paul asked cautiously.
"I'm NSA. My job was to infiltrate them and I did successfully."
Paul could guess what had happened since Laurence wasn't working for them anymore.
"Are you willing to listen now?" Laurence sighed.
"Yes. I'll listen."
"Do you know your neighbor is a sleeper agent? She's the Doll November."
Paul tiredly nodded. "Yes. Someone who's a spy in your Dollhouse reprogrammed her to give me a message. I…just recently found out."
Laurence could almost pity the man. If it weren't for the fact, he was obsessed with Laurence's girl and all the other problems the man gave him when Laurence was still working as Head of Security.
"Claire," Laurence muttered under his breath.
"Nothing. Sit down. This is going to be a long talk."
Paul carefully sat at his couch, gesturing for him to sit opposite him on the armchair. Laurence strode confidently to it and sat down with an arrogant air, wishing he was anywhere but there. More preferably, he wished he was with Echo.
"You found the camera in your vent and I've already disabled the other camera outside your apartment. I have a surveillance neutralizer that will cancel out any bugs."
Paul's jaw slightly dropped, "There's more of them? I suspected and was paranoid about my apartment, but now here's proof. And you actually have the tech to neutralize all of them?"
Laurence resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Yes. I worked for the organization that made those cameras. Of course, we would have something to counteract it."
Paul stood up abruptly and went to grab a folder, taking out a picture and practically shoving it into Laurence's face.
"Her. Do you know her?"
Laurence clenched his jaw as he stared down at a picture of Echo before she had become a Doll.
"Where did you get this picture?" he stared Paul down harshly, slightly intimidating and confusing the other man.
It had to have come from Alpha.
"I don't know. It was sent to me anonymously, along with a tape of her later on."
Alpha. It couldn't have been Claire because she was focused on the entire operation. Alpha was focused on Echo.
"So…do you know her?" Paul cut into his thoughts.
"Her name used to be Caroline Farrell. She used to be a student at Freemont College, where she tried to stop animal experimentation in the Rossum lab. While videotaping caged animals and evidence of human experimentation with her boyfriend, they were caught by security and her boyfriend was killed in the attempt to escape. That led to a woman named Adelle DeWitt, who is the head of the LA Dollhouse, finding Caroline and offering her a position as a Doll. Right now, as a Doll, her name is Echo.
"Echo is considered one of the best Actives in the Dollhouse's possession, and is very popular with the clients. However, unlike ordinary Dolls, Echo has proven to be becoming aware, able to move outside the parameters we give her and do better, defy imprinting, and to retain residual memories from imprints into her inactive state," he finished off with a hint of pride in his voice.
Paul looked determined so Laurence resigned himself to a long night.
After convincing Paul to let him stay at his apartment for awhile (read: threatened), Laurence slept grumpily on the couch. The next day when it was nearing dusk, after Paul went to go shopping, he had a phone call. Seeing Boyd's number, he immediately picked up.
"Langton," he greeted.
"We're all on first names basis, thanks to Claire hijacking all of us into her plans. You can call me Boyd."
"You're really adhering to that? You're usually more comfortable on last name basis and titles," Laurence commented.
"...I've called you Laurence since your reawakening."
"Point taken. So what's wrong? Is Echo alright?"
"She's fine. In fact, I'm taking her to the library now. I was wondering if you wanted to see her?"
"I'll be there," Laurence tensed up in anticipation, almost giddy but refraining from too much emotion.
He saw a parked car nearby, broke into it, and hotwired it to work without a key. He drove to the library like the Devil was chasing him.
He met Boyd outside, who informed him Echo was already at their spot. Laurence didn't even bat an eye at the fact Boyd already knew where Echo's reading sessions were held at, without even being informed by him.
"I'm going to your apartment now. Is there anything specific you want me to get?" Boyd asked him.
"An old Metallica shirt. It's probably crumpled up on my bed," he immediately asked for.
After that, Laurence trudged into the library, suddenly aware that things might be different. Who knew if Echo had any semblance of memory of him? What if she remembered their fight that he'd basically maneuvered and didn't want to see him because she didn't know it was faked? Did she even remember him saying he loved her?
A body hurled into him, and he almost threw them off when he realized exactly who it was and calmed down instantly.
"Y-you're okay. Something happened before and you weren't okay, but now you are," Echo murmured.
"I'm fine. Echo, I'm just fine," he clutched her closer to him.
"Are you going to read to me?" Echo looked up wide-eyed at him.
"No. I have something special in mind. We have an hour, right?"
"Three," she said surprisingly.
"We have plenty of time," he told her, resolving to text Boyd later so as to not worry the man in their absence.
"Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise."
He led her to the car he'd stolen, driving to a place he'd discovered in his early days at the Dollhouse, where he'd come to just relax. It was an abandoned beach, that was actually clean and no one around for miles. It was a perfect, romantic spot to take Echo to.
"It's pretty," Echo smiled happily, clutching onto his arm.
Idly, he thought on their matching clothes. It was a strange thought, but he'd forgotten he was still dressed up in a Doll's uniform. He almost thought on the Attic, but refused to. He was with Echo and he was determined to have a happy time with her.
Sitting on the sands, Echo was in between his legs and he had his arms around her as they watched the sunset, the waters glowing with the warm colors instead of the usual cool blue.
"I love you too," Echo said absentmindedly, burrowing further into his embrace.
Laurence froze up, breathless. And then he was holding onto her tighter, holding her chin and tilting it towards him, kissing her deeply. He nuzzled his nose against her neck, trailing his fingers down her arms.
The palm trees swayed lightly behind them with the light breeze. Laurence turned them over to lay Echo onto the ground. He kissed her again, hovering above her. Sitting on his knees, he trailed his fingertips all over her body, lightly teasing upon her skin. She was gnawing slightly on her lower lip, gazing shyly at him and he remembered to take it as far as he was willing to go.
Hesitating at the hem of her shirt, he was almost startled from his mental debate when she took his hands and helped him push her shirt up. Taking a deep breath, he bent down and planted butterfly kisses all along her stomach and navel, pushing her shirt up more as he kissed upwards. Feeling the first touches of the mounds of her breasts, he paused before going forward, pushing the shirt up and over them, his hands briefly but firmly grazing their shape. He gave the tips of her naked breasts two long, languishing kisses, before moving onward and kissing her collarbone.
"Adiós, mi casi amante
Adiós, mi sueño sin esperanza
Estoy intentando no pensar en usted
¿No sólo quiero ser?
Hasta luego, mi suerte romance
Mi espalda está encendido usted
En caso de que haya conocido usted me angustia
Casi siempre los amantes," he sang softly into her ear, pressing soft kisses against it.
"Your eyes are so sad," Echo murmured.
"Are they?" he gazed down heartbreakingly at her. He gave her a sad smile that was like his eyes. "Maybe I am. But you've made me happier than I've ever been."
She leaned up and kissed him, and his hands fell away from her shirt, letting it fall back into place as he embraced her.
"I want to go swimming. Swim with me?" she asked with an imploring look.
He sighed but smiled. "Okay, fine."
She didn't bat an eye as she stood up and took off her clothing, leaving herself bare.
"Echo! What are you doing?" How much like déjà vu was that?
"I don't want to get my clothes wet," she laughed and tore towards the water.
Reluctantly, he shed his own clothes and with the last pause at his pants, he took them off and began heading over to the water to join Echo.
"It's kind of cold in here, Echo," Laurence frowned.
She embraced him from behind. "You'll keep me warm."
Face reddening, he resigned himself to her antics, and whirled around quickly, letting her gasp and fall back into the water in surprise. Grinning, he scooped her up and started tickling her, her limbs flailing around as she laughed wildly, managing to trip him up and land them into the water. She got up and ran from him, leading to him chasing after her.
Of course, if anyone asked him if he was running around with Echo, naked on the beach, he would refute it adamantly. Laurence Dominic did no such things.
Laurence drove them to a nice Italian restaurant afterwards, glad that the heater in the car had effectively dried them off. Inside, he'd led her to their table, arm in arm, and he actually felt like a real couple with her.
When they were seated, he ignored the leering look the waiter gave Echo, and smiled across the table at her.
"What do you feel like eating, Echo?"
She tilted her head in a confused fashion, staring down at the menu.
"I don't know. What should I eat?"
He couldn't help smiling at her adorableness. He pointed out the penne pasta that came in lemon herb sauce.
"You might like this. I like to have that dish sometimes."
"Will we share?" she asked shyly, smiling hesitantly at him.
"Only if you want."
"What are you going to get?"
Laurence looked down at his menu, having been so focused on her he'd forgotten to look for something for himself.
"I'll just order ravioli frivotti and order calamari for our appetizer. Is that okay with you?"
She nodded tentatively.
"Echo…are you okay?" he asked anxiously.
She smiled sadly at him, "I have to leave soon, don't I?"
Oh…it was about that. Laurence swallowed and closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes again, he smiled just as sadly at her.
"Yes, Echo. I'm going to have to bring you to Boyd, and he'll have to take you back."
"…I won't get to see you again for awhile."
He took her hand and kissed it sweetly, holding onto it.
After dinner, he drove them back to the library. Seeing Boyd still not back, he led them inside.
"I want more pictures," she pulled at his sleeve.
"Then let's get more pictures," he murmured.
In the photo booth, he just selected the filmstrip and wallet-sized pictures, though Echo convinced him to get the 5x7's. Those he could at least scan and then make bigger pictures of.
They'd settled inside and Echo surprised him when she wrapped her arms around him and pushed closer, her mouth hard-pressed against his. When her mouth opened, her tongue slid out and tentatively touched his lips. Opening his mouth, their tongues slid together and he clutched her close to him, wanting to feel every inch of her. They were getting so into it that they didn't even notice the pictures had already been taken, and Boyd was watching them amusedly and at the same time disturbed from the entrance, having pushed aside the curtain.
Boyd stepped back, when Echo had pushed hard against Laurence and the both of them fell back through the entrance still making out.
"Have you two been behaving?" Boyd teased, though he said it with a straight face.
Echo blushed and hid her face in Laurence's neck. Laurence twitched.
"We behaved very well, thank you very much."
Both of them were winded from the fall and from the heavy kissing. Laurence cleared his throat, getting up first and then reaching down to help Echo up.
"Nice pictures," Boyd commented dryly, smirking at him as he handed Laurence the new pictures.
"Thanks," he mumbled
Laurence refrained from grumbling, taking them and handing the filmstrip to Echo, who again folded it and hid it in the bra sewn into her top. He took a hold of the other pictures, and kept in mind not to clutch onto them too tightly.
"We have to leave now, Laurence," Boyd told him quietly.
He nodded jerkily and turned to Echo. He hugged her tenderly and kissed her brow.
"I love you, Echo. I'll miss you," he kissed her on the mouth and then reluctantly let her go.
He watched them walk away, with Echo turning behind and saying, "I love you, Laurence."
His heart was clenching again, and he barely noticed the drops of tears that leaked from his eyes.
Goddamn it, was it going to hurt like this every time?
Paul pushed the cart along grumpily, looking for the milk he usually drank. He frowned when he saw it was all out, and settled for 2%. Looking around, he saw a man gaping at him. He looked behind him, expecting something weird, but the man seemed to actually be staring at him.
"You have problem, sir?" he frowned at the man.
The man audibly gulped.
"N-no. For a second, you looked like someone I knew," he stuttered.
"Sorry for the mistaken identity," Paul said, eying the jumpy man in suspicion.
"O-okay. Uh, I gotta go. Bye!"
The man hightailed it out of there, and Paul scowled after him.
And of course, Topher Brink had the luck to run into FBI agent Paul Ballard at the grocery store. Just look at his luck the past few days!
After the unfortunate meeting, Topher decided he couldn't just go shopping when the man of the hour (well, actually –Laurence was the man of the hour) was shopping at the same time. This called for intel gathering.
Following the agent around, he snuck around aisles, and peeked around corners, watching Paul buying microwavable foods, eggs, juice and milk, and assortment of other things. He also saw Paul grab two bars of Godiva dark chocolate. He had a feeling Laurence bullied Paul into buying them for him, knowing Laurence had a secret adoration for sweet.
Several times, Paul glanced around paranoid. Topher snorted to himself. That man was too paranoid and needed to get a life. Not everyone was watching him.
Yeah, that was a little ironic coming from him.
And when Paul Ballard left, Topher realized he spent an hour in the grocery store watching a loser. Come on, what kind of stuff was the guy buying?!
He also realized he spent that hour doing nothing but stalking the man, and doing no shopping of his own.
Grumbling, he went back into the correct aisle began looking for cake mixes.
Started 4/20/09 –Completed 4/23/09
A/n: So, how do like them plot twists, eh? Mwahaha! I thought I was obvious last chapter, but since no one got it….(evil laughter). So again, the usual –join Dollhouse wiki, still waiting for another LaurencexEcho fic (I'm feeling lonely here), etc, etc. Last scene dedicated to an online journalist who wanted to see Topher outside of the Dollhouse and maybe meet Ballard in a grocery store, and Joss who said that it would be an arc. Oh and look at my profile for a poll I need ya'll opinions for. Aside for some LxE one-shots I'm going to do, there is a Dollhouse/HP crossover I want to do.