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 S1.10 ("Haunted").
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 "Briar Rose" (S1.11).
Warnings: Violence, language, sexual situations, etc.
Pairings: Laurence/Echo, Topher/Claire, slight Paul/Mellie, slight Paul/Echo, and slight Boyd/Claire.
A/n: Poll's still up, people, so go vote. I still miss Laurence, disappointed not to see him or the Attic in the last episode, still feeling disturbed from the Laurence tease I did get, and can't wait until the next episode. Oh and if you haven't checked it out already, I have another Laurence/Echo fic out called Sins and Prayers. Stop by and leave a review, eh? So…to 40 this time?
A/n: Do NOT read unless you've seen episode 11.
Happiness in Misery
Chapter Nine: The Unforgiven
"The horses were doped?"
"That's what the results say. I'll have to report it to DeWitt as soon as I'm done talking with you. Um…Topher asked for an Active for some kind of test. I signed off on it. Should I have?"
"Oh, it's that time of the year, huh?"
"What do you mean, Laurence?"
"It's fine. Every year at this date, I always sign off on his request. It's his birthday."
"His birthday…what does he need an Active for?"
"The usual geek crap. He goes around acting like a kid with whatever available Active, and just programs them to be his best friend for the day. Last year it was Echo, and the year before that was Victor."
"Do me a favor, Boyd. In my office, well your office now, there's a wrapped box in the closet. Hand it to Topher."
"You got him a present…?"
"If you're grinning, I'll come there and shoot you myself…and yes, I got him a present."
"You really don't have to listen to every conversation," Boyd commented dryly, watching Claire listen to the conversation he had with Laurence not too long ago.
"Oh, but it's very interesting. Ohh! Is that the present Laurence got for Topher? Wonder what it is," she grinned at him.
He rolled his eyes, "We're not opening it. Laurence would kill us both."
"Right, right," she agreed.
"Did you get something for Topher?" he asked her curiously.
She sneered, "Of course not. I hate him."
"Then what's that gift-wrapped box at your feet?"
She coughed, sliding it back more behind her.
"Mmhm, sure. I'm just going to deliver this now."
"Pretty girl is suffering while he confesses everything
Pretty soon she'll figure out what his intentions were about
And that's what you get for falling again
You can never get him out of your head
And that's what you get for falling again
You can never get him out of your head!" Laurence sang loudly.
"What…the fucking hell?" Paul walked in, watching incredulously as Laurence was sprawled all over his couch, more than a couple cans of beer next to him on the ground.
And blasting Sugarcult's Pretty Girl, and singing along with it.
"It's the way! That he makes you feel.
It's the way! That he kisses you.
It's the way! That he makes you fall in love," Laurence ignored him.
"Are you okay?" Paul asked tentatively, inching close but not too close.
Laurence paused the CD player and glared at him.
"Fuck no. I'm miserable, depressed, and lonely."
"Huh. Good point. I think I feel the same way."
"You have November, jackass."
Paul sighed and refused to comment.
"This matches my mood too well."
Laurence snorted, swigging a drink from a newly opened can, missing and splashing most of it on his face and neck.
"Matches my mood more than yours, buddy," Laurence grunted.
"Press play," Paul huffed.
The song started playing again, and then both of them started singing morosely.
"She's beautiful as usual with bruises on her ego and
Her killer instinct tells her to be aware of evil men
And that's what you get for falling again
You can never get him out of your head
And that's what you get for falling again
You can never get him out of your head!"
Paul sighed and opened a can of beer himself.
"You son of a bitch," Paul muttered, glaring at the little souvenirs he'd confiscated.
He'd been fishing around for something he could use against the guy, something he could tease back with. Instead, he found pictures of him and Caroline.
He glared at the dead to the world Laurence, contentedly lying askew on the couch. He aimed a kick to the man's side.
Laurence caught it without even opening his eyes.
"Nice try, Ballard. Drunk, sober, hangover, I can kick your ass any day."
Paul threw his wallet at him, "I didn't know you knew Caroline personally."
Laurence's eyes shot opened and he sat up abruptly, glaring at Paul and grabbing onto his wallet possessively.
"It's none of your fucking business! And no…I don't…really know Caroline. I know Echo," Laurence sneered, hiding his defensiveness. He didn't need to explain himself to the likes of Ballard.
Paul threw a punch and Laurence blocked it with one arm, twisting quickly and doing a rapid snap kick to Paul's chest. Paul was knocked back into his wall, next to his Dollhouse information map and nearly rattling it right off the wall. He pushed himself off the wall and jabbed a left punch to Laurence, who leaped back and quickly flipped himself behind the couch.
Paul followed and delivered a punch to Laurence's shoulder, which threw the blond off balance. Laurence was quick to regain himself, and answered back with a roundhouse kick that made Paul fly backwards.
Abruptly, Laurence just sniffed and went to sit on the couch, opening another can of beer and glaring forwards.
"What the fuck?! What the hell are you doing?!"
Laurence shrugged, "I'm too depressed to even work up any care to beat the shit out of you."
"You're no better than them," Paul spat out.
"Of course not. I worked for them. It rubbed off on me, though I'm sure it's probably mostly all me," Laurence said sarcastically. "That being said, Echo means more to me than anything. Don't ever insinuate anything less. I love her."
Paul was still steaming, but a leak of curiosity was in the man's eyes. He slowly moved to sit near Laurence, but stayed far from reach.
"How isn't it anything like using her? You're living a fantasy, aren't you? Doesn't that make you just another client?"
Too tired and depressed to do anything more than throw barbs at Paul, and even then he just didn't feel like it, Laurence just tried to explain his side of the story.
"I would never hurt her. I would have never even approached her like this, if it weren't for the fact that she's become so aware that she's actively, subtly though, pursuing me. And I…I wanted her just as much. I'm not a client. God, it's been too complicated and confusing for me to just be like them. I actually care about her, and God forbid, she's not just a fantasy. She's more than that. I told you, I love her."
"Had it…always been like this? I mean, how long has this been going on?" Paul said, not noticing the slight hint of jealousy in his voice. Laurence did, but he ignored it.
"Not really all that long. It all started three months after the Alpha incident –"
Laurence sighed, "A rogue Active who escaped and killed several Dolls and employees. Probably the same one that sent you the photo of Echo and the tape. Not the same one who reprogrammed the Dolls though, to talk to you. Anyways, three months after that, was the second real interaction I had with Echo. The first one had been exactly after Alpha's murder spree and escape. She had been left alive and I'd found her as I'd headed the team to search through the House and looked for Alpha. She was confused and terrified, and kept saying they wouldn't wake up.
"That had been the first time I'd taken any real notice of her. Before, I'd seen her around and watched her. I held no interest other than that. I hated Dolls back then. I couldn't understand how anyone would willingly erase themselves and I hated how the Dolls acted. It creeped me out, but the truth also was that it made me feel terrible inside about the business. The way the Dolls acted in their blank slates reminded me of how wrong the Dollhouse was, and that even if I was undercover I was still a part of them. Still, I think even then, Echo drew me to her. I didn't understand why, but she more than the others held my attention.
"The three months passed by without anything wrong, though I'm aware now that I did keep a close eye on Echo. I thought it was because of the Alpha episode, but I think now that I was slowly becoming aware of my attraction to her. Unconscious as that was. And then after the usual engagement with Matt Lauer, Echo was hired to be a hostage and kidnapping negotiator by Gabriel Crestejo, becoming Ellie Penn. That went wrong, but we'd decided that Echo could keep being Ellie and rescue Crestejo's daughter. We took her handler aside and I took his place briefly, going in with her as she saved the girl. I admired that. And though at the time I was completely disgusted with the Dolls, I couldn't help thinking she'd done a good job.
"After that, it kept snowballing. I fucked up on a job. Richard Connell, which was an alias anyway, hired Echo to have sex with her and for her to be the perfect outdoors woman. Bastard ended up being a psychopath and tried to hunt Echo in some kind of sick game where she had to run and survive to be worthy of her life. As Jenny, she was able to survive and killed him. But uncomfortable with Echo as I was, because looking back I started feeling oddly around her even more then and mistook it as being completely of fear of another Alpha, I practically harassed her when she got back. I don't think she completely understood what I was talking about, but by then she was aware enough to know I wasn't being kind.
"God, you have no idea how loud alarm bells rang in my head in the next important engagement Echo had. She was hired by Bill Zarella, friend of DeWitt, to become best friend and bodyguard to the pop star Reyna Russell from an obsessed fan. She became Jordan, but she'd in my eyes gone off-task. Another Active we'd sent in was kidnapped by the fan, and Echo ended up endangering Reyna to save the Active and stop the fan. The pop star was suicidal so in the end, Echo had basically stepped out of the box and saved Reyna not just from the fan, but herself. She went out of the parameters we gave her, and did better. It terrified the shit out of me, and I was seeing another Alpha, as far as I was concerned.
"The next really important engagement was where she'd become Taffy, an expert safecracker to help steal a priceless artifact. Somehow, Alpha had hacked into our phones lines and had done a remote wiping on Echo, turning her useless and into her Doll state. For all that I was worried about another Alpha, right then I was actually worried about her and how'd she handle the harsh environment she was stuck with. I…didn't want anything bad to happen. I'd wanted her to come back unharmed.
"Senator Boxbaum came to us to hire an Active to become essentially a 'true believer' to infiltrate a suspicious religious cult. We'd made Echo blind and put cameras into her eyes, which I was worried about but I'd pushed that feeling far into my mind to be ignored. By that time, she had made me completely paranoid about a second coming of Alpha, but at the same time I was starting to feel something for her. I didn't understand those feelings, so I freaked out by the end of the mission. I denied a request to retrieve Echo when the trouble really started, and made a split-second decision on rash feelings to fly over there. That was the first time I'd ever tried to kill her, I'd left her to die in a burning building after knocking her out. When my head cleared on the way back on the place, I knew I'd made a mistake. I felt so goddamn horrible that I was practically praying for Boyd to do another of his miracles and save her. I could feel her eyes boring into me after they'd fixed her sight, which made me feel even worse about it as it was."
Laurence wiped a hand down his face before he continued, Paul listening intently and with fascination.
"After that, it was just a mess of stares and feelings, and then one day she'd followed me down to the shooting range," and then Laurence began explaining how that was the start of a relationship really forming between the two, ending with how he was gone that week because he'd gone to watch over Echo as Margaret Bashford had taken over her body.
"I don't how to reply to that," Paul muttered.
"Good. Now leave me alone to wallow in my misery," Laurence snapped, finishing off the beer he'd opened at the beginning of the conversation and starting on another one.
Paul stared at his wall, eyes narrowing when he caught something. Standing up quickly, Paul walked closer.
"What?" Laurence looked at him confused.
"This man. You put him near the Dollhouse foundation. It says he helped built the Dollhouse."
"Oh. That. Him…He basically designed the systems that make the Dollhouse almost self-sufficient."
"Can he take me into the Dollhouse?"
"Probably," Laurence tiredly answered, knowing where this was going.
"Look, if you really want to go, why don't you just follow November?"
Paul looked hesitant, "And how will I do that?"
Laurence studied him considerably before mentally shrugging and giving in. It was the man's funeral.
"Break up with her. Crush her heart and send it packing back to the Dollhouse."
Laurence settled himself into the closet, taking out his phone and starting up Tetris. Listening with one ear, he played his game as Paul practically tore November apart with his words.
She left upset, and Laurence had a feeling she felt like jumping off a bridge.
Leaving his hiding spot, he snapped his phone closed and looked disdainfully at Paul.
"Such cruel words," he sneered. "What did she do to deserve such brutality?"
Paul glared at him, but didn't reply, feeling like he'd deserved the words.
Laurence sighed and cut him some slack, "Good luck, Ballard. Get out of my face and hurry up and follow her. Stay at least 5 minutes behind the black van you're supposed to be following."
"I know, I know!" Paul grouched, grabbing his jacket and leaving him in the semi-empty apartment.
Half an hour later, he's getting a call from Topher.
"Laurence, DeWitt wants to imprint you into Victor," the brunet immediately said.
"Shit, what? Why?"
"Alpha, we think it was Alpha, sent you a flashdrive. She wants to find out what's in it. We thought it was NSA, but right now, Alpha seems more likely and in the front of our minds."
"Okay. What can you do? There has to be something. Isn't there like a copy you made of me?"
"Well, there's residue from the reloading into your brain thing in the computer. I can take whatever's left, take the annual employee MRI brain images from your old files, and reconstruct a temporary imprint."
"You go do that…and Echo?" Laurence softened his tone.
"I sent her out on an engagement to help an abused girl. She's on her way back. I called you earlier and you answered, but you were mumbling and I couldn't understand what you were saying."
Laurence grimaced, but he was proud of his girl. "I was getting pissed drunk and then I was held up by Ballard. I think I might need to get drunk again, knowing I just missed a chance to see her."
"…Thanks for the gift."
The call ended, only for Topher to call back two hours later.
"What is it this time, Topher?"
When Topher replied, there was utter panic in it.
"Laurence, it really is Alpha! He was trying to contact you. Your imprint got us the password –"
"The Greek letter for Alpha right?"
"Uh…yeah. Huh," his interruption made Topher pause and he was able to calm down a little. "It was basically him sending you photos and information. A body was found in Tucson. We're sending Sierra over to analyze the body. Um, do you have any idea why Alpha would be sending you things? Even your imprint thought it was Alpha, after Dewitt grilled you about the NSA contacting you and you'd said it wasn't them."
"…Good question…I'm going to have to think about that. I'm not sure," Laurence frowned to himself, pushing aside a box on a table and sitting himself on it.
Topher was quiet on the other side.
"Topher, are you alright?"
"It was…a little disturbing seeing you in Victor," Topher said suddenly in a quiet voice. "You were angry. You knew your body was in the Attic, or at least supposed to be. You hated being in Victor's body. And you were screaming so horribly…"
"It's okay, Topher," Laurence awkwardly soothed. "I'm right here. I'm fine. Miserable, but fine."
"Yeah…yeah. You're right. Um, I'll call you back if there's anything else. See ya, Dom."
Laurence hung up and sighed.
"Okay, Ballard, why aren't you back yet?" Laurence scowled into the phone when Paul called him later that night.
"I followed Mellie. I found the building. I even went inside, rode their elevators and everything. But I was in the wrong building. I went to Loomis, and I had her search for Steven Kepler. I found him too and I'm taking him with me. We're going to the Dollhouse right now."
"No. No, no, no! You're only supposed to observe from the outside!" Laurence shouted into the phone.
"Calm down. Just tell me who's the other spy. Maybe I can convince them to help me."
"I won't tell you who the other spy is," he hissed.
"Fine then. I'm still going in."
"Damn it, just let me call them and warn them you're planning a half-assed infiltration."
"Fine! I will!"
Laurence angrily hung up and immediately called Claire.
"H-hello?" she shakily answered the phone.
"Claire…are you okay?" he asked first, noticing her unnerved demeanor.
"I'm fine. Just a little rattled from…your imprint."
"Oh. I see," he awkwardly said. "Um, look, the stupid idiot is going to infiltrate the Dollhouse tonight and try to save Echo." He definitely frowned at that, clenching his hands into fists angrily, before shoving a hand into his pocket to find his wallet and find comfort in clutching onto it.
"What? Who?" Claire asked, more calmer.
She huffed in irritation, "Fine then. I'll just warn Boyd about it. He'll take care of it. Hopefully, he can convince Ballard to just leave."
"That'll be a miracle. Ballard's stubborn as hell," Laurence rolled his eyes. "Look, he has Steven Kepler with him. The agoraphobic architect that helped build the Dollhouse. Watch out for him too."
"…Just a question, but where the hell did you learn about Kepler?"
"I have contacts everywhere."
"Where the hell don't you have a contact?!"
She hung up on him, and he did the same with a smirk.
It was getting late, and no one had called him. Neither Topher, Paul, or Claire. He was actually getting worried.
Then his phone rang.
"Hello?" he answered hurriedly.
"Boyd, what's going on?"
"I'll tell you from least worse to worse. I might be able to get through it this way. Topher's been tasered by Ballard. Didn't recognize the FBI agent at first, and it was too late when he finally did."
"Is he okay?"
"He's fine now. Recuperating on a medbay bed. Wasn't too bad, and he was tased away from his heart. The area's a little burned, but it'll heal. No permanent damage."
"That's good. Ballard? And where's Claire? She's usually the one updating me."
"She's…a little out of it at the moment. Which I'll go into later because I know you'll panic and stop me. Ballard's been captured. He's with DeWitt right now."
"That idiot! I told him!"
"…Laurence, brace yourself. Steven Kepler is dead. The body in the photos and article sent to you was identified by Sierra as Kepler. The man Ballard brought with him was only pretending to be Kepler."
"Alpha," Laurence breathed out horrified.
"Claire had a run in with him. Alpha sliced up Victor's face, and traumatized Claire. She's fine, wasn't hurt, but she won't speak to anyone or even do anything other than curl into a ball at her desk. She's been unresponsive since then.
"Laurence, Alpha's taken Echo."
He was silent.
He screamed and threw his phone at the wall, flying into a rage and destroying the apartment, boxes overturned and everything thrown and tossed everywhere. He took out his anger, ignoring Boyd's panicked voice still calling out from his phone and the hot tears that was blurring his vision.
Started 4/28/09 –Completed 5/3/09
Sanestar: Did you win? Nope, sorry! Lol, did you know you have your private message feature disabled? And shared/shed, same differences. Laurence would mock Paul about map. Because it is a life-sized wall of crazy.
A/n: This chapter was kind of information heavy, eh? And dialogue heavy. But I always knew I wanted to go back and explore the episodes before "Man on the Street." I didn't want to leave things out or anything. I wanted to make sure I covered Laurence and Echo before they were really thrown together in my universe.
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 again). Ty survived last week! Again! So happy! Vote for him this week! Hehehe. His number is 1-800-86834-08, call after the Monday show at 8/7 central for half an hour. Yes, I'm weird.