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. EDIT: watch for spoilers for episode "Haunted" (S1.10).
Warnings: Violence, language, sexual situations, etc.
Pairings: Laurence/Echo, Topher/Claire, slight Paul/Mellie, slight Paul/Echo, and slight Boyd/Claire.
A/n: Not as long as the past chapters, but longer than my usual limit at least. Not a lot to go on for this episode (missed Laurence A LOT), but I know I'll have a blast for the next one this week. I know ten is too much to ask for, so maybe up to 35 this time?
A/n: Do NOT read unless you've seen episode 10.
Dedicated to Lady Amethiste for being number 30~
Happiness in Misery
Chapter Eight: The Sweetest Sadness in Your Eyes
Laurence was slumped over on the couch he had been sleeping on for the past week and a half. He hadn't seen Echo since their little trip to the beach.
He was tired. He was miserable.
And Paul Ballard was annoying the shit out of him.
"How many times do I have to tell you? We can't just go barging into the Dollhouse!" Laurence hissed out angrily, his hand inching towards the gun Claire had given back to him when he'd fled.
"But nothing! We need to be organized, not running into a den of wolves blindly. I know these people. They wouldn't hesitate to kill you. They stuffed me in the Attic, after all," Laurence said bitterly.
"What's the Attic? And they've had plenty of opportunities to take me out before, why didn't they?"
Laurence sighed in irritation, "The Attic is where they send Dolls and employees that they…no longer have need of."
"They don't honor the contracts?" Paul asked, horrified.
Laurence shrugged, "I've never seen someone released. I've been there three years, and no one's ever left the Dollhouse in that time. And I think they have plans for you."
"What kind of plans?" Paul looked edgy.
He rolled his eyes, "Does it look like I know? Why do you think I was sent to the Attic?"
Paul awkwardly looked at him, "I don't know."
"I was caught as the spy," he scowled. "DeWitt, the LA head I told you about, ordered what was practically my execution. It always hurts the first time. A regular wipe is like wiping a clean slate. A scrub is a little worse and more thorough. I went through what was basically a mind-suck, where they take everything from you and it literally is like sucking everything in your head. You're more aware than a Doll, but you never fully know who you are. It's at the tip of your tongue. You're always asking 'Who am I?', but you never have the answer to that. You've completely lost your identity into a hard drive and you're nothing more than a shell with an echo."
Paul winced, "You went through that?"
"Yes," Laurence said curtly. "And I'd rather not go through it again. Or even talk about it. So we're not going to go storm into the Dollhouse."
The other man conceded, still a little unnerved from the description of the Attic and the mind-suck. He left Laurence alone, and so the blond quickly reached for his phone and called up Claire.
"Laurence…Echo?" she guessed immediately.
"Is there any way I can see her again?"
"No, DeWitt has been keeping her in the House. I think she's planning something for Echo. Not sure what yet."
"…I miss her, Claire. She hasn't gone to the library or on any engagements, so I haven't seen her at all. Is there any way I can talk to her at least?"
There was a sigh on the other end. "You're in luck. She's coming in a minute or two for her check up. Just stay on the line."
The line went silent and then Echo's voice came on. "Hello?"
He sucked in a breath, "Echo. Sweetheart, do you remember me?"
Echo didn't answer. He closed his eyes in pain and was about to order her to give the phone back to Claire when Echo spoke again.
"…Laurence…Y-you're not here. Why?" she asked innocently, hurt in her tone.
"I want to be there, Echo. I really do. But I can't."
"I know," Echo surprised him. "But I miss you. I want you here."
"I miss you too. I want to see you again, so badly," Laurence murmured to her. "I need to hear you at least. While Claire's checking on you, can you just…keep talking? Tell me anything you want."
And he could hear the happiness in her tone as she talked to him.
"Something's missing," Echo mentioned to Boyd.
He looked sadly at her, and showed her the 5x7's he'd taken from Laurence's apartment, and had distributed between himself, Topher, and Claire.
Echo stared blankly at the pictures, awareness seeping into her eyes as she stared at them.
"Where is he?" she asked him confusedly.
"He had to go away for awhile, Echo. He'll be hurt if he stays here."
She clutched the pictures to her chest, "I want to see him."
"You can't. You have to stay here for now. It's time for your check up, Echo."
Travis was thankfully off duty, and so Boyd got to bring Echo to Claire without being suspicious. He saw Claire talking to someone on the phone and when she turned and saw them, she mouthed 'Laurence' to him.
And then Echo was talking to Laurence.
He saw her staring intensely at the pictures for a long while before she started to talk, "…Laurence…Y-you're not here. Why?"
"How long until her next assignment?" Claire asked him in quiet voice.
"I don't know. DeWitt is keeping silent. She's been talking on the phone a lot though."
"Not good," Claire murmured. "We need to find out what she's up to."
"And if it has anything to do with Echo or Laurence. Don't you have her office bugged?"
"Yes, but she's all hush hush. And in code. I need to look through her messages and the recordings of her conversations to get any real idea on what she's up to. Why isn't she letting Echo go to the library?"
"Probably the same reason she's not allowed any engagements. It's making me nervous though."
"Keep an eye and ear out," Claire muttered. And then Echo was gesturing for Claire to come over, so the doctor started on her examination, trying not to listen in on Echo's conversation with Laurence.
"Goodbye, Echo. Take care," Claire smiled softly at her.
Echo was holding on tight to the pictures.
"Echo, I have to take these now. If I don't, all of us will get into big trouble," Boyd reluctantly told her.
Echo stubbornly held onto them, but then lowered her head and released the pictures to Boyd.
"When you get to your bed, you have a filmstrip of those pictures," he reminded her, and she cheered up a little.
She left and both Boyd and Claire looked unhappily at each other.
"Everyone is going to be miserable for awhile," Boyd commented.
"Even Echo. For as unaware as she sometimes is, and how happy she'll carry on through the days, there's going to be something heavy weighing down on her all the time. She'll always think that something is missing, and no matter how happy she is at the moment, that dark cloud over her will always be in the back of her mind."
Boyd heaved a big sigh, "I can't wait until this whole thing is over."
Laurence glared at the wall dedicated to the Dollhouse conspiracy.
"That man is obsessive and pathetic," he muttered.
He huffed and began rearranging some things, adding information and removing unnecessary or untrue information.
"At least get your facts right," Laurence sneered.
Once he had finished, he rolled his eyes and sat on the couch that was right in front of the neurotic mapping of Dollhouse information.
"No wonder it took him so long to get together with November…and also why he fucked up their relationship in the first place, before she came back," Laurence commented to himself, conveniently forgetting the fact that one of the reasons why Paul first messed up his relationship with November was because of his obsession with the Dollhouse and in relation Echo.
He heard the door start to unlock and he was about to greet Paul rudely, when someone else's voice interrupted him.
"Paul? Are you in here?"
Cursing silently in his head, he snuck around until he reached a closet and hid in it. He had the perfect view of the living room. In fact, he had a perfect view of November.
She looked like a lost puppy, staring around the apartment and looking around for the FBI agent. She walked around awhile, before sighing and then leaving. He was about to get out when his phone rang. He saw who it was and anxiously answered it.
"Echo's on assignment."
He stiffened up, not sure whether he felt excited at seeing her or disgruntled at the prospect of Echo being with someone.
"For who and for what?"
"DeWitt's been keeping Echo in check in the House, because she's been planning on engaging Echo for her just recently deceased friend."
"Everlasting life, huh?" he sneered.
"It's temporary, she says. It's only going to last for as long as Echo solves the murder."
"DeWitt actually has friends?" Laurence pursed his lips. "Never mind that. So her friend was murdered and now she's sent Echo's body out, rented it to her friend for a little joyride. Where the hell is Echo?"
"I'll pick you up and drop you off there."
"Get me a sniper rifle."
"Alright. See you in a little bit."
He hung up at the same time the door to the closet opened. Paul looked inside confusedly.
"What are you doing in the closet?"
"Your girlfriend broke in. I had to hide," he deadpanned.
"Mellie didn't break in. I gave her a key," Paul muttered. "And what's this about a sniper rifle?"
"I have a lead on the Dollhouse," Laurence half-lied. "I'm going to be gone for awhile to check it out."
"Well, I'll come with you," Paul started getting excited.
"No, you have to stay here and interact with November," Laurence hid his annoyance and worry.
"If the Dollhouse finds out anything suspicious is going on with you, they can find out I'm here or start putting heavier surveillance on you."
Paul grumbled but gave in. Laurence sighed mentally and started packing his clothes.
"How long are you going to be gone?"
"A week at most."
Laurence awkwardly clapped his hand against Paul's shoulder. He sighed aloud this time.
"Take care, Ballard. Novem –…Mellie is still a person somewhere inside."
Wincing, Laurence left and waited outside. Glancing longingly at the sleek black Corvette he'd stolen, he wished he could've just ridden it there. He'd even switched the license plates.
He watched Echo outside her window, talking on the phone and knowing it was probably Adelle she was talking to. The scope of the sniper rifle helped to zoom in on her, and he'd wished he could be right there beside her. Unfortunately, Echo wasn't Echo right then, it was Adelle's friend. And Margaret would report his presence to Adelle.
At least, if he had to take a shot, it could be blamed on Alpha.
And where the hell was Travis anyway? At least Boyd could be counted on to stick close and keep an eye on Echo.
The days passed by and there were times he got twitchy hands on his rifle. For one, Adelle's friend had gotten a little too close to her widowed husband with Echo's body. And the jerk had the nerve to drag Echo's body out roughly by the arm.
And then he saw Echo riding beautifully on King's Ramsey in the night, forgetting for a moment it was Margaret, before remembering and wondering if Echo would like horse riding lessons.
He followed her into the stables, watching as she'd unsaddled the horse and almost shot at the dark person who had snuck up on the both of them. It turned out to be Nicolas, Margaret's son, and he'd figured out who was really Echo.
And then Jack, Margaret's husband, attacked them after that pitiable confession of Nicolas' and the fact that the horses had been doped up. Of course, his first instinct was to shoot Jack because he was too close to hurting Echo, and Laurence would never allow that.
But on second thought, Jack had no idea of the horses being doped up. And Boyd had told him the drug was what had poisoned Margaret and had killed her. So he can't have killed her.
And that left…
Snarling, he followed after the running trio from a distance, and using the athletic prowess he'd been trained with caught up and then quickly climbed up into his tree he'd been using to spy on Margaret/Echo.
He didn't have a good angle. And then it got worse when Jack broke into the room and all three began fighting. No clear shot, and that meant he could be too late to save Echo. Closing his eyes, he resigned himself. He wasn't going to leave Echo to fend for herself, especially when she wasn't even in control of her body.
Jack was knocked out and he took that opportunity to swing through the window and crash into the room. Both mother and son looked over to him, confusion clouding their faces, before Laurence swung the rifle strap off his neck and use the butt of it to quickly knock Nicolas out. Breathing heavily from his little stunt, he glared over at Margaret.
"You better take care of that body," Laurence growled out.
Margaret smiled slowly, "You're in love with this girl, aren't you?"
"Yes," he said firmly, without hesitation.
"She loves you too, you know. I can hear her quietly in the back of my mind, whispering and calling out for you," she laughed lightly, giving him a reassuring look he didn't understand.
Jack groaned and he took that as his cue to ditch the area. He looked back longingly at Echo before retreating.
Strangely enough, when Margaret was taken back and wiped, she didn't mention him at all. He supposed that was what the reassuring look she gave him was for.
He tiredly entered Paul's apartment, stiffening when he heard November in the bedroom and Paul's shower running. He guessed that November was walking around idly in the room, and Paul was taking a shower after their activities.
Laurence blanched at the thought in his mind.
Hiding in the closet again, he heard November ask Paul if he had found any clients of the Dollhouse.
"Yeah. One," came Paul's pessimistic voice.
He allowed himself to feel a bit of pity for the man.
When November finally left, and Paul was alone and staring angrily at the Dollhouse map, Laurence finally emerged from his hiding spot, scaring the crap out of him. When Paul saw who it was, he went back to brooding.
"Oh. When did you get back?"
"Not too long ago."
"You fixed my map."
Laurence shrugged, tossing his bag to the side of the couch he usually slept on.
"You had things wrong, and some things needed adjustment. I added things too."
Paul heaved a huge sigh, glaring in front of him. Laurence plopped down beside him.
"You aren't a client of the Dollhouse."
Paul snorted. "Of course I am. Mellie –November isthe Doll I've basically hired for my needs.I just had sex with her, knowing she was a fucking Doll."
Laurence did his typical response. He slapped Paul upside the head.
"Don't be a moron. You didn't contact the Dollhouse and went ahead and hired November. They sent her to you and tricked you. And yes, you have to keep up the charade. But if you don't, you'll be killed and the Dollhouse will never be brought down. A client is willing in every way. Reluctantly willing doesn't count."
"Should I really listen to that? You did work with them, and your judgments would be jaded," Paul replied dryly, though he seemed to sound better.
"Take it as you will," he shrugged.
"Yeah…maybe I will…"
Topher began wiping Margaret from Echo's body, and he looked away from the rare moment Adelle shared some tears, holding onto her friend's hand. And then Adelle left and he was left alone with Echo.
"Did I fall asleep?" Echo asked innocently.
"Only for a little while," Topher murmured, taking out what he'd hidden from Adelle.
Handing them to Echo, he watched as awareness flickered into her eyes.
"Do you remember this man, Echo?" he asked anxiously.
"Laurence," she answered softly, hands cradling the photos as she gazed softly at the images.
"That's right. He saved you again."
She looked at him imploringly.
"No, Echo. He's not here."
Her hands tightened slightly around the photos, and a couple drops of tears fell from her eyes.
Started 4/24/09 –Completed 4/27/09
A/n: Working on that Doll!Laurence one-shot I promised allison lightning. So again, the usual –join Dollhouse wiki, still waiting for another LaurencexEcho fic (I'm feeling lonely here), etc, etc (haha, I copied and pasted that). Don't forget to vote on my poll.
On another note…Ty Murray survived another round of Dancing with the Stars! Yay! I like him so much because he looks like a nicer version of our dear Laurence. Vote for him tonight!
And watch this week's episode!!! Online viewing is best, unless you're a Nielsen household. Then watch it live and online.