Summary: Paul's just doing his job but Topher doesn't see it that way.
Rating: PG-13 – swearing in a mighty fashion
Genre: Angst, slash
Author's Note: Written for the comment fic prompt: Topher/Paul – Topher gets hurt by Paul just 'doing his job'. Turned into a whole fic. Just know that it's an established relationship and enjoy!
Topher grinned playfully and leapt to the doorway of the lab when he saw Paul coming in, "Hey, Abs of Steel, what brings you to my humble abode of genius-dom?"
Paul did not share Topher's enthusiasm though and asked evenly, "You busy?"
"Nothing I can't drop, especially if you want me to," Topher replied.
Paul motioned towards the door, "Can we go somewhere more private?"
Topher's eyebrows shot up gleefully, "Seriously? Yeah, definitely. Little, afternoon delight, sure! Just, give me one second."
As he spoke Topher backtracked to his computer, typed in a code to lock it up and returned quickly to stand proudly in front of Ballard.
"All set. Let's go. You know, I never figured you for an 'on the job' kind of guy," Topher remarked as they headed down the hallway towards one of the meeting rooms they used to coerce potential new Actives.
Paul opened the door for him, "I'm not."
When they got inside Paul shut the door and Topher was immediately on him, lips grabbing hungrily at Ballard's as he tried to tug the larger man's jacket off.
"So, when I said I wasn't busy I really meant I had like, twenty minutes max, but I feel you can make them memorable," Topher said playfully but felt his heart dropping when Paul responded to his attention half-heartedly, almost reluctant.
"Sit down Topher," he requested as he gently pushed him away.
Topher felt his gut tightening but tried to play it off, "All right, if you want to give me a show first that's your prerogative. It's your twenty minutes."
"We're here to talk," Paul said firmly, taking the seat across the table.
"About what?" the genius asked fearfully.
Topher sighed in relief that he was not about to get dumped at the same time that he tensed with fear, "You really know how to bring down a mood, anyone ever tell you that?"
"More people than I care to remember. I'm still trying to put some pieces together. Tell me about how Alpha was created."
"I already told you, it was an accident, a fluke," Topher exclaimed, not wishing to discuss the monster.
"No, I got the basics, I need the exact details. How did 49 personalities 'accidentally' get downloaded into him? Is the machine even designed for that?" Ballard pushed.
"Not designed for it, but fully capable of it," Topher replied with a sigh. "Look, Alpha attacked Whiskey, while wiped, while he should have been docile as a bunny. Hell, a bunny should have been able to take him in a fight no problem. We had to know what happened so I uploaded all his previous imprints, I was going to analyze each one to see if there was a glitch but …"
"Alpha fought back, kicked off his handler. I was at the back computer and the guy fell onto the imprint switch and then BAM! Forty-nine people all in one slick package, and all collectively insane," Topher finished, arms wrapping protectively around himself as he explained.
"And then he started killing people? Killing everyone?" Paul reiterated.
"Yes!" Topher exploded. "You know that! He killed everyone! His handler and Saunders and the security guys and the dolls. Everyone!"
"Except you," Paul whispered so softly Topher wasn't sure he heard him.
Paul lifted his head slowly to meet the genius's eye, "Why didn't he kill you Topher?"
"I … I don't know," Topher shrugged, never able to figure that out himself.
"Come on Topher, he killed everyone, you said it yourself, except you and Echo. We know what he wanted with Echo, why didn't he go after you?" Ballard pushed.
"I don't know, he just didn't. He knew I was there he … maybe just because I wasn't a threat," Topher guessed. "I'm pretty un-intimidating, if you hadn't noticed."
"Or maybe he needs you for something?" Paul hypothesized.
"Maybe. I don't know what it would be though, he's got almost the same technical know-how as me …" Topher stopped talking when a terrible realization hit him. His voice was tight as he continued, looking Ballard directly in the eye, "Paul, is this an interrogation?"
"Topher, I need to know everything I can about this guy. Knowing why you're alive might be part of that," Ballard explained.
Topher felt sick, easily noticing that Paul hadn't denied his allegation.
"Oh my god. You think … you think I had something to do with this? That I made Alpha on purpose or something? What the fuck, Paul!? What the fuck!?" Topher exploded, knocking over his chair as he stood angrily.
"Topher, whether you like it or not you helped create this thing. You understand him in a way I can't, you made all the parts that make him up," Paul pointed out defensively, working very hard to not feel guilty for what he was doing.
"So what's your theory, here? I was curious what would happen so I created the most frightening thing I could ever think of in my own lab!? You of all people know what Alpha did to me. The nightmares, the paranoia, the … you think I would willingly make that?" Topher asked angrily, memory flashing back to the nights Paul had held him when he woke up terrified and the worse nights before those when he had woken up alone, shaking.
"Frankenstein was scared of his own monster too," Paul answered, hating himself more with each word. "It didn't make him any less responsible for creating it."
Topher stood in mortified shock at the comparison and it took all his strength to shift the hurt into anger, "That's what you think of me? Well, fuck you Ballard. We're done, in more ways than one."
As he tried to head for the door Paul grabbed his arm, "We aren't finished Topher. We have to talk about this …"
"Don't touch me!" Topher demanded. When he couldn't shake off Paul's arm he tried to push the taller man away and that's when it all went terribly wrong.
Years of interrogation experience had honed Ballard's reactions so when he was pushed he responded instinctively. Grabbing Topher's wrist he twisted the smaller man's arm behind his back and pushed him down face first onto the table, the same way he would a stranger, the same way he would any criminal.
There was a surprised yelp from Topher which quickly turned into a hiss of pain as his arm throbbed and his head pounded. But no sooner had the genius's head hit the table than Ballard realized what he had done and his expression shifted from angry to terrified.
"Oh god, Topher, I'm sorry, I just reacted. Are you all right?" Paul choked out, immediately releasing him then touching him on the shoulder to help him stand again.
Topher flinched away and took a step back, his sore arm cradled against his chest, never looking up from the floor as he asked quietly, "Are we done here?"
This was normally the part in the interrogation that Ballard looked forward to the most, the moment just before his suspect broke, crumpled into a million pieces and told him everything he wanted to know. Only this time, Paul couldn't bear to see that happen.
He couldn't bear to see Topher broken, especially after all those nights he had foolishly promised to protect him, to keep him safe. So much for that.
"Yeah, we're done," he whispered.
A single, jerky nod later and Topher had shuffled to the door. He never looked up. He never broke, but Paul knew that whatever was between them had.
It was hours later and Paul was in his on-site apartment, pacing, angry, guilt-ridden. He moved from one room to the other over and over again, hating himself more with each step. He had handled the situation with Topher wrong in every way possible. At the time he had told himself he was being fair, impartial, treating Topher like he would any other suspect or witness by questioning him like that. But Topher couldn't be treated like other people, it just wasn't how he worked, especially when it came to Alpha. The monster that consumed Topher's dreams, his nightmares. Paul had woken up to Topher's shaking, sometimes even crying, on many occasions, knew better than anyone what the whole experience had done to Topher. He would never talk about the specifics of the nightmares, just the one word – Alpha – was all that was necessary.
And now Paul had ruined that trust that had been forming between them so slowly after the whole tazering incident to accuse Topher of purposely creating that psychopath. He had to ask his questions, but he hadn't had to ask like that, and he definitely hadn't had to restrain him, to push him around physically like he was a common thug. That's what haunted Paul the most, the yelp of complete surprise that had left Topher's mouth when he shoved him down – the sound of trust being destroyed.
A knock at the door pulled Ballard from his guilt-ridden thoughts and a little surge of hope flashed through him – he only ever had one visitor to this apartment.
He ran to the door and pulled it open, face falling when the person on the other side was a few inches too short to be who he expected.
"Ivy? Uh, can I help you?"
"Yeah, sorry to bug you. Topher said he leant you something, or possibly even somethings, and he asked me to come pick it, or them, up. He was pretty vague. Said he'd come himself but he's been a big baby all day about something he did to his arm, he pretended he couldn't even catch a snack with it earlier," Ivy explained quickly, completely oblivious as the guilt building in Paul's gut as it took him a moment to answer.
"Yeah he … he did give me some stuff. Just one second," Paul requested and even though he knew it was rude he closed the door on her and left her in the hall. It took him a moment to compose himself – he ran a hand over his face and decided that he deserved this. If Topher wanted it to be over he had no right to make it difficult, no matter how much it hurt. He returned to the door a few minutes later and handed Ivy the small box of stuff. "I'm pretty sure that's all of it."
The box wasn't closed so Ivy looked inside, confused, "He leant you a toothbrush and t-shirts … oh. I am totally break-up errand girl, aren't I?"
"Yes, you are, and we'd probably both appreciate it if you just kept that to yourself," Paul replied, not wanting to get into it anymore than necessary.
"I can do that. Secrets, kind of what this place is all about, right? Okay, so I'll just go and … uh, you know, sorry."
Paul nodded and shut the door, "So am I."
A little sadder than I intended. Hope you enjoyed.