Despite the chaos Alpha had caused, things were running relatively smoothly at the Dollhouse. Boyd was certain it wasnt far from DeWitt - or anyone elses - mind that he would come prepared when he tried again.
And Boyd was sure hed try again. He wasnt sure why Alpha was fixated on Echo, but the why of it didnt matter. Fact was, he was fixated on Boyds former active, and as head of security Boyd had to ensure what had happened didnt again.
It helped that Agent Ballard was cooperative in telling them just how hed found Alpha (or, rather, how Alpha had laid the clues that led Ballard to finding Alpha). And how theyd gained entrance to the Dollhouse without anyone being the wiser until theyd already infiltrated very deeply.
They were all very fortunate that Ballard wasnt believed or hadnt left and come back with multiple agents once he saw that what hed been searching for so heartily for so long did in fact exist. And hed found it.
Mr. Langton, Adele DeWitts voice brought him out of his reverie.
Ms. DeWitt, he replied. He glanced at his watch and realized it was long past time she should have gone home for the day. He, on the other hand, would not rest until he was sure that what had happened couldnt again. Long night?
She leaned against his doorframe as if not sure she wanted to enter. Just as well, he didnt like having her in his office anyway and felt as if he should disinfect the things she touched after shed left. Some would say he wasnt much better, except she didnt seem to display any second guessing or remorse for what the Dollhouse did. He liked to think he hadnt strayed that far from being morally good.
She regarded him for a moment. He imagined Dollhouse headquarters, wherever that was, was ensuring she dotted every I and crossed every T after what had happened. So, her being here late really shouldnt have taken him by surprise. He just hadnt realized she was here.
Youre needed, she said calmly. That was the thing about her, she was always so calm. The building could be on fire and he was pretty sure that shed use the same tone of voice to inform him of that as she would to tell him shed had meatloaf for supper the night before.
Im sorry, he said. Despite his nonchalant answer, he felt that burst of adrenaline that always hit him when he thought something was going wrong around him. Had Alpha decided to return already? He could see where the man might think it prudent to return quickly because most people would assume hed lay low for a while.
Boyd Langton wasnt most people and he was militant in ensuring that those who worked under him in security were prepared now. Laurence had been thorough but had never really prepared for a crisis like the one Alpha had brought. No one had thought someone from the outside could get in and so they'd focused on ensuring those that weren't supposed to leave couldn't.
Did something happen?
Not what youre thinking, no. Its Echo.
He didnt say anything then, trying to keep his face neutral. Echo was his weak spot. She had been almost since the beginning and grew increasingly so the more time he spent as her handler. Only thing, he wasnt her handler any longer. Travis was.
Is she all right?
He couldnt help but think that whatever Alpha had done to her would have repercussions, no matter what Topher said. Alpha was clearly smarter than anyone had given him credit for. Ex-cons had that happen to them with a fair amount of regularity. People assuming because they were leading a life of crime they were dumb or somehow lacked the capacity to hold real jobs and be productive to the world. Not so, though of course there were criminals who fit that generality just as there were ordinary people.
Well, it seems Travis is having a hard time controlling her.
And this is my problem?
You seem to have a connection to her despite our imprinting her to another handler.
I dont know
Theres no need denying it, Mr. Langton, Ive seen it with my own eyes. She even smiles when you enter the room shes in.
She did? Boyd had never noticed that and hed looked, several times, for signs that she remembered him. A sign, something, that she knew him and was special to her. As she was to him.
I dont know what to say. I assure you I havent acted improperly in any way.
She waved him off. I believe you, Mr. Langton. If I thought differently you wouldnt be my head of security.
So what is it you want me to do?
Travis is having difficulty bringing her in for her treatment.
I see, he said. That meant that Echo wasnt even responding to her new handlers most basic command. He called them commands rather than trigger phrases?
So, I thought it was worth a try. We cant have her running around with this imprint forever.
No, we certainly wouldnt want that.
I understand how you feel, Mr. Langton, thats been abundantly clear for some time now. But she is one of our top actives and we need her returned to us unharmed.
So, you think shes going to respond to me.
No stone unturned.
Right, he said, standing from his desk and grabbing his car keys. There was no question hed say yes to her request, she knew that before coming here. There wasnt anything he wouldnt do for Echo.
At first, hed thought it was a part of the imprinting, that somehow despite never once sitting in that chair hed been programmed to want to do everything he could for her.
Hed come to realize that wasnt it, though, because the feelings he had for her werent fatherly or guardian-like in nature. And to prevent incidents like that which happened with Sierra and Hearn from happening again they would certainly ensure that a handlers feelings were innocent in nature if they were able. Of course, what did he know.
Where is she? he asked.
You dont know?
Quit playing games, either you want my help or not.
Im sorry, I just assumed you kept track of what assignments your active were on.
Shes no longer my active.
Well see about that in a little while, wont we?
And what happens to Travis?
She shrugged. He gets assigned another active, I imagine.
No, unless hes somehow betrayed us while trying to get her back in. Even then, Id analyze damage control possibilities before doing that.
All right, Boyd said, reassured though he knew he shouldnt be really. He knew for a fact Hearn wasnt in the Attic. He didnt know where the former handler was, but suspected he would never be seen or heard from again even after his contract with the Dollhouse was up. Not that he didnt think Hearn deserved that end, but it reminded him who and what he was dealing with in his employer. There was every possibility he wouldnt walk out of here alive and move on to another career one day.
Are you going to tell me where she is or do you want to leave her out there even longer unresponsive to the Dollhouses triggers?
There was that look again. He didnt know what she was looking for. He had no idea if he would be able to bring her in, but he would do his damnedest to do so. Honestly, he was surprised they had her out on assignments so soon, after what happened with Alpha. Theyd done it before when he thought she deserved a break, some recuperation time so nothing they did really surprised him anymore.
She told him and he jotted down the address, though he knew the club well. It was a hot spot among people Echos age and one shed been to more than once when he was her handler.
Would you like a car?
I have mine, he patted his suit jacket down ensuring he had his cell phone with him. Ill call when I have it under control.
She smirked then and he knew shed picked up on the fact hed said when not if. He didnt bother correcting his mistake, merely brushing past her on his way out the door.
He couldnt believe the traffic, which made him realize he probably should have taken DeWitt up on her offer of a car. He wouldnt have to deal with parking or worrying his car got towed. Thinking on his feet, he telephoned Travis and had him meet him at his car. Boyd slid out of his seat, holding the door open so Travis could get in. Travis was more than a little scared at the moment. He'd come on as Echo's handler just before the shit hit the fan so was understandably worried he would somehow be held responsible. Especially if things didn't go right with Boyd. An active that didnt respond to you could potentially be dangerous, depending on what that active was imprinted with on any particular assignment.
Where is she?
A table toward the back, drinking like crazy, and crying up a storm.
It was one of those assignments where the guy wanted to be the one to break up with the beautiful woman instead of the other way around.
Ah, Boyd said.
So, he not only had to deal with whether shed respond to the trigger but on top of that her being drunk. Hed dealt with her before like that, so it wouldnt be the first time. It didnt mean it was fun, though.
Drive around the block until you see us come out.
You think you can get her?
Im going to try, Boyd said.
Ive never had this problem before.
She hasnt been out on any assignments since Alpha.
"You may need to help her out as much as she's been drinking."
"I'm aware of how to handle the situation," Boyd snapped, not meaning to be rude but he knew how to handle a drunk. He certainly felt he knew how to handle Echo better than anyone else.
He didnt want the guy thinking this was his fault, Boyd had no way of knowing it was or wasnt but no sense the guy being a wreck for the next little while.
He went into the club, squinting a little as his eyes and ears adjusted to the pulsating lights and music. There were so many young nubile bodies engaged in all sorts of dancing - if one could call some of the moves he was witness to dancing.
He spotted Echo with a little effort. He almost missed her because she didnt look like the Echo Boyd usually saw. Her face was splotchy and her eyes red from crying. No sign of the client in question. He should have asked, but he assumed Travis had ensured the guy exited stage left as soon as it was clear there was an issue with Echo. He wondered if the guy would get his money back or if hed just assume that this crying fit was part of the programming.
He slid into the booth next to her.
Go away, she said, not even looking up from the fruity drink she was staring at studiously.
I dont think so, he said smoothly.
She looked up then, recognition in her eyes and his heart caught for a moment. She knew him.
You came, she said softly. He almost missed it, but the music happened to die down to a tolerable level at that moment.
Did you want me to?
She shrugged. I dont like that other guy.
Travis? he asked, not at all surprised she knew there was another guy.
Yeah, him. Travis? Is that his name?
Huh, she said simply. Anyway, hes boring and not very nice.
I can talk to him about the nice part, but its not his job to be exciting.
You talk back to me.
She waved him off, taking a bite of the cherry from her drink. You talk to me as if I was a person.
I know, but I dont think Travis knows that.
Ah, Boyd said. I can mention it to him.
I dont want him, she said, sliding a little closer toward him on the bench seat. He was beginning to realize she wasnt as drunk as she was reported to be. So, why the act? For the benefit of the client? Surely not.
Im not sure youre in much of a position to make demands, Echo, he said.
She smiled then, taking hold of his arm and sliding hers through it.
Oh but I am. Dont you see? I dont respond to him and look what I get? You.
You could have gotten someone else.
Maybe and I wouldnt have responded to them either.
He actually smiled then, not at all put off by her arm touching his. Those in the bar would probably think she was picking him up after being rejected. Or see him taking advantage of the woman whod been spurned publicly.
You planned this?
Well, yeah, she said as if he shouldnt have had to ask.
He should know enough not to be surprised or shocked by anything she managed to do. Whether it was taking the parameters of her assignment and doing something with it no one else had thought of. Or saving his life and keeping him safe instead of the other way around.
Why would you do that?
She scrunched her nose and took a sip of whatever it was she was drinking. Maybe she was a bit under the influence, but not as bad as Travis seemed to think.
Because I dont want the other guy!
And youre not really in a position to voice your opinion.
She pointed at him with a nod. Thats it, right there.
Ill see what I can arrange, but I make no promises. You cant keep malfunctioning, Echo.
Ever heard of the Attic?
She closed her eyes and he could tell she was thinking about his question.
Yes, the other man"
"Laurence?" Boyd asked.
"I don't see him anymore, but he mentioned it to me. Threatened to send me there. Is it a bad place?
It is. Well, if you keep malfunctioning they wont just threaten and let me assure you, its not a pleasant place at all, Echo. Ive been there and as much as I'd try to keep you out of there I am only one voice in the matter.
Her eyes widened. Really?
Id say Caroline deserves better, but Im not sure she does really. Look at what she did to me.
Boyd nodded simply, dismissing the waiter who came to see if he wanted something to drink. Echo, however, was having none of that.
Hell have a beer. Whatever you have on tap thats good. Something imported, she said, giving Boyd a wink. He sighed softly.
Echo, we cant stay here for much longer. Travis is in my car driving around the block as we speak.
Let him drive! Im not ready to go back there yet.
Is there any of your imprint left inside of you?
I dont think so, how can I tell?
I dont know, he said, upset with himself for not knowing the answer. Hed like to know how to tell if he was talking to someone who would remember their conversation an hour from now.
Come on, one beer isnt going to hurt you. Tell Travis I was in the bathroom or on the dance floor and you couldnt find me.
He sighed, nodding slightly to the waiter who wasnt paying attention. He just wanted to know if he needed to get the ordered beer or not.
What do you do for fun? she asked. Wait, she said, drawing away from him just a little.
You dont want to know what I do for fun then? he asked, amused.
First I want to know your name.
Its Boyd, he said. Boyd Langton.
He probably broke all kinds of rules and regulations by telling her his real name. He didnt really care at this point. Clearly, whatever connection he had with Echo went beyond the norm so rules and regulations really didnt apply. Did they? Or perhaps he was allowing his feelings for his former - and possibly current - active cloud his judgment. Normally a pretty straightforward guy, he wished he knew what it was about this woman that left him so unsettled. And acting so out of character.
Having a drink with her was the last thing he should be doing. Allowing her this close to him, pressing her fit body against him as if she belonged there and he just didnt know it yet were things he shouldnt be doing either. He liked having her close, though. And he couldn't remember the last time he'd just sat and had a drink outside of his house.
It had been a long time since hed let anyone get close and for some reason it seemed appropriate that she of all people would get under his skin. The woman hed shunned as being nothing more than a blank slate when he first saw her.
She was so much more.
Whatcha thinking? she asked.
That youre going to be bad for my career.
She smiled mischievously. They almost have to put us back together after this, dont they?
I dont know, Echo. Its a logical assumption, yes.
Im glad you dont call me by my other name.
I dont know you as anything else, really. I know theres someone else, but they could imprint her in someone elses body and I wouldnt recognize her."
Im kind of mad at her.
He chuckled, taking a sip of the beer the waiter had brought, quickly set it down and went on his way to the next table.
I can imagine.
He shrugged. She sold you out.
Well, yeah, I guess you do understand, she said with a pout. So, what do you do for fun?
I work too much to have fun, especially lately.
Because of him, she asked.
Yes, he said.
He frightened me.
Understandably. Im sorry it happened and wish I could have saved you from that. I did try.
I know you did. If Id run when you told me to
He looked at her then, surprised she remembered it so vividly. He searched her face, looking for any sign that there was anyone but Echo in there. He didnt see any sign of whoever she was supposed to be tonight.
You didnt do anything wrong. You tried to protect me, as youve done before.
Did you finish your mission tonight?
Yes! she said with a sigh. How pathetic is that guy needing to humiliate a girl in public?
Pretty pathetic, Boyd said in agreement.
Most of the assignments dolls went out on were pathetic as far as Boyd was concerned. He knew what it was like to be lonely and have a career that he couldn't mention. That left socializing pretty much out of the picture because in his experience, women wanted to know what a man did for a living.
You would never do that to a girl.
No, he said, I tend to handle my affairs more privately.
So, is Travis going to come with us when you take me back?
I dont know. I could let him take my car back.
She snuggled against him even closer. Or you could take me in your car.
That wont go over well, Echo."
"Youre bringing me back, arent you?
I dont want to be around anyone else for a while.
All right, Ill call Travis, tell him Ive found you.
Thank you, she said, sounding entirely too proud of herself. She deserved to be, she evidently managed somehow to wrap him around her little finger.
Travis, he said when the handler picked up his cell phone. Well be coming out in a minute or two. It took me a bit to find her because shed gone into the bathroom when too many people came up to check on her.
He set money on the table, knowing it was more than enough to cover the bill. He just hoped the waiter wouldnt be talked to later. He could probably get in trouble for sharing a beer with his active.
Fact was, he considered her his and probably would until she walked out the doors of the Dollhouse for good. He didnt know if that actually happened or if it did how often, but he hoped for her it did.
The transfer of Travis to the company van without his active went surprisingly smooth. Boyd saw fear in the mans eyes, Boyd did his best to reassure the handler once more, but there was only so much one could say when dealing with people like those who ran the Dollhouse. He didnt seem to question in the least why it was Boyd bringing Echo back in.
In his car, buckled in and ensuring Echo had done the same he placed a call to his superior to inform her they were on their way.
Well done, Mr. Langton, I knew you were the man for the job.
So it would seem. Well see you in a little while.
Not so fast. Is she all right?'
A little tipsy and heartbroken, but thats to be expected given the parameters of her imprint.
No, he said. And I dont know why she wouldnt respond to her handler.
Yes, well, hopefully Topher can find the reason.
Yes, maam, he said before disconnecting. He didnt like to think of Topher poking and prodding around in Echos mind or body any more than necessary.
You dont think Im broken? she asked as he pulled his car out into traffic.
No, I think theres something going on with you that the Dollhouse probably should know about.
Youve known that for some time, though.
Yes, he admitted with hesitation.
And yet you havent told them.
No, he said simply. It was so odd to hear her talk like this. Normally. There was no character driving her. She was simply Echo talking and walking just as anyone else they passed on the street was doing.
Im not sure.
And he wasnt. He should have said something right away, but he hadnt for various reasons. In part, wondering if it was possible to break free of the Dollhouses imprinting. It seemed it was, but she wasnt Caroline. She was simply Echo.
And simply Echo was all right with him.
She slid over toward him on the seat and he wasnt sure whether to curse or be thankful for a bench seat over bucket seats. His was an older model car, one he took care of but there were things about it that dated it. The front seat was one of them.
She rested her head against his shoulder and he assumed she was falling asleep she was so quiet. She had to be tired, but then he wasnt entirely certain what shed done that evening. He wasnt kept in the loop on Echos activities as a general rule. He imagined there was a reason for that, probably preventing exactly what they were faced with now. An active recognizing a previous handler and stubbornly voicing a preference.
Is it going to hurt? she asked.
Whatever theyll do to me?
Im not sure. Im not involved in that part of things. I imagine its not pain-free, though.
Honesty, I like that.
I wont lie to you, Echo.
No, you wont, she said, growing quiet again.
Traffic was surprisingly light. He couldnt even see the van anymore it had managed to pull so far ahead of them. He tended to drive more carefully with Echo along than he would have alone.
Do you want the radio on?
No, she said. What kind of music do you like?
He shrugged. You name it. Blues is probably my favorite, but I like a little bit of everything.
I like blues. Its good and relaxes me.
Yes, it can have that affect, depending on the song.
More quiet. What was that saying? Silence can be deafening. He had no idea what to say to his companion. At least he hadnt until he felt her hands reaching between his legs.
What? she asked. She sounded so innocent, as if her hand stroking parts of him she had no business thinking about let alone touching was perfectly natural.
You cant. Dont you remember your friend Sierra?
I remember when she was sad, but you took care of that.
I did, he said, wondering how she knew that. Alpha?
And Im not like Sierra or the others. Im me, Echo.
How true that was.
We have to get you back. Theres no time for this even if I wanted.
She gave a rather naughty laugh, the sound of which made him grow even harder than her hand had already succeeded in getting him. As much as he tried to think about math problems and physics, having a beautiful woman give him a hand job while he was driving was not a common occurrence.
Just keep driving then, she said, sliding the zipper on his pants lower.
Echo, he hissed, knowing he should stop her. If he stopped the car to try and convince her he wasnt so sure theyd stay in the front seat.
She had the zipper all the way down now and slid her hand inside. He just about drove his car off the road when he felt her hand take hold of his shaft as if she owned it. She worked the front of his pants open as best as she could before dropping her face into his lap.
Echo! There was no hesitation in his voice this time. Youre going to cause an accident.
Not if you concentrate on driving, she quipped before taking him into her mouth. She slid her lips along his shaft as far as she could. Constraints of sitting and having pants on prevented her from taking as much of him as hed like her to be able to.
She did wonders with what she could reach, though. He gripped the steering wheel for all he was worth, working to keep control of the car. Hed heard of things like this happening, fantasized a time or two about it. Nothing prepared him for this, though. Perhaps because she herself was off-limits not just the act.
He pulled off the street into an abandoned lot and parked. He moved a little on the seat so her head was no longer directly under the steering wheel. His head fall back and his hands rested against all that hair on the head that was currently bringing him very close to orgasm. He was very grateful at the moment he hadn't agreed to being taken to get Echo. He knew for a fact that there was no way they would be in the position they were currently.
And maybe that was the wrong way of looking at it.
"Echo," he murmured as she did a particularly enjoyable thing with her tongue.
She didn't respond so he said her name again. He wondered how many men would make an effort to stop her if they were in his shoes. Probably not many, but those were the types of guys who paid for the Dollhouse services.
And he did not want to be lumped in with them.
"You have to stop," he said, surprised at the authoritative tone in his voice. He certainly didn't feel very in control just then.
His body cried foul when she did as he asked, lifting her head from his lap so their eyes met.
"Am I doing it wrong?"
He laughed then. It started out as more of an amused chuckle but quickly became almost hysterical laughter.
"No, Echo, there was nothing wrong with what you were doing. Other than perhaps I was enjoying it too much."
"Isn't that the point?"
There was that laughter again. He wasn't finding the situation very comical, though.
"Yes, I suppose it is."
"But you don't want to feel good?"
Did he ever, which was probably going to set him aside for hell. An end he decided would be well worth it for a little more time with her. He took hold of her face, bringing her to him so he could look at her.
"How much do you remember?"
"I know you're the only man since I've been here that I want to be with. And who I have a choice about being with."
How in the hell was he supposed to respond to that? He still wasn't sure if any of her imprint was in there. He hoped not.
She took the decision-making out of his hands by kissing him. Oh, he could have stopped it by pulling away or keeping his mouth shut when her very talented tongue darted out of her mouth. He didn't, though. He met her tongue with his, deepening the kiss before he could really think much on it.
She was a greedy kisser, as if she needed it. That intimacy that covered so much more than base sex did. He doubted she was kissed often with sincerity or real meaning behind it. He wanted to kiss her as surely as he wanted the rest of her.
As if reading his mind, she broke the kiss to slide onto his lap. His breath caught a little as her thigh brushed against his erection. He watched her as she straddled him, brushing her ass against his hard-on.
"Echo, you don't have to do this," he whispered when she reached between their bodies.
"I know," she whispered, somehow managing to take him into her without removing any of her clothing. She wore a dress as part of this assignment so no clothes needed to be removed. He didn't find that lucky or fortunate at all because he sorely wanted to touch her and do more than kiss her lips.
He slid his mouth along her jaw and neck, capturing her ear as she rode him. There was no urgency about it as if she didn't realize they really were on a schedule. And he wasn't in the frame of mind to rush her. When was the last time she'd had sex with someone who wanted her? The real her, not just someone made up to be who they wanted in a woman. As much as he wanted this to last for hours he knew they would be missed if gone much longer. Travis and whoever was working with him tonight had to be arriving at the Dollhouse soon. And Adele would be anxiously waiting for her prized possession to return right behind the van.
That thought seemed to bring the inevitable. His cell phone rang and there was only one person who would be calling at this time of night.
"I have to get that," he whispered. "They're wondering where we are."
"What are you going to tell them?" she asked, squeezing her muscles around him so he thought he might have just died and gone to heaven. She smiled at that. "I'm not stopping."
"I didn't say you had to," he said, searching for and finding the phone with a little effort.
"Boyd," he said, managing to sound fairly normal.
'Mr. Langton, are you all right?'
"Yes, fine, Ms. DeWitt."
'Travis has been back for quite some time. I was beginning to wonder if you got lost.'
"No, not lost. Echo needed me to stop. The movement of the car interfered with her having been drinking on an empty stomach."
'Is she all right?'
The she in question chose then to slide his length almost completely out of her before taking him inside in a fast and deep stroke. He watched her bite her lip and realized she liked it. At least she was keeping quiet.
"She will be. We should be back on the road in a little while. If I have to stop again I'll call I hadn't realize it'd been that long."
'Yes, babying a drunk can be an occupying task.'
'Very well, Mr. Langton. I trust you to take good care of her. Keep us posted. I'll be waiting.'
"Bye," he said, disconnecting.
He took a second look to ensure he had, in fact, disconnected the call. He'd found when he first got the phone that they had the GPS tracking set to on, something he rectified and turned on only when he was on an assignment with Echo. It was how they'd found them on more than one occasion. He wasn't on assignment tonight so he hadn't activated it. That meant they had no idea where he was.
"She's concerned about you."
"I'm sure she is," she said as he tossed the phone onto the seat next to them and brought his hands to her hips. The skirt of her dress was pretty disheveled by now so his bunching it up even further didn't much matter.
"Now, it seems to me you did something while I was on the phone you liked."
"Yes," she whispered, sounding every bit as into this as he was.
"A lot?" he asked.
She didn't respond with words, merely lifted her hips again. He felt them move under his touch and he took control, using his strength to prevent her from sliding him back in right away. She gave a soft whimper as he teasingly thrust just his tip in and out of her, slowly working a bit more in at a time. And then he'd pull back out. He did that again and again, enjoying her soft sounds, her body's efforts at fighting against him to get what she wanted.
And she wanted him. All of him. As if she wanted to possess every inch of him to go with the rest of him she already seemed to own.
Finally, he delivered and this time she didn't bite her lip or hold back in any way. She came hard, gripping him so completely he felt that they'd somehow gotten fused together permanently. He hadn't expected the magnitude of her response or just how much she'd held back that first time. Maybe she hadn't held back that much, it was possible that his teasing had caused it. Either way, it was his undoing and he was right behind her, coming as she was still recovering.
Perhaps it was the whole forbidden aspect of it. Or maybe it had been there all along, building to this end from the moment he'd first learned she was to be his active. Certainly, out in the woods that day when she'd turned his words on him, asking him if he trusted her. He knew he was in deep. All he knew was that for the moment, here and now, he felt more at peace than he had in all of the time he'd been employed with the Dollhouse. He wasn't sure what it said that the moment of peace came at the price of being buried deep inside the Dollhouse's prized active.
He didn't want to pull out. He wanted to take her again. To love her so thoroughly as to push any remaining echoes of her assignments out of her mind forever.
He didn't want to bring her back. He didn't want to take the chance they'd keep her with Travis or give her another handler, either of which may discover Topher's programming was not working on her any longer. That could prove dangerous to both of them, as certainly he was astute enough to realize certain clues pointed to that fact.
She was completely still against him. How he ached to have her bare to him, skin to skin so that he could touch her the way she deserved. The way her body begged him to do just watching her paint or swim or
"Echo, we have to get back," he whispered.
"I know," she said, sounding completely awake.
"Are you going to be all right?"
"Yes," she whispered, drawing away.
"Are you sure?"
"Actually, you helped."
"I helped?" He couldn't fathom how what had just happened could help her in anyway.
"I know I have someone on my side."
"Always," he said softly. "You can count on it."
"I knew you'd say that," she said, lifting her body away from his. She fixed her dress as best as she could as she took her seat next to him.
"I don't know. I just know I can count on you."
He hoped he didn't let her down. He straightened himself up, turning on the dome light briefly to ensure he was presentable. It wouldn't do to return with visible evidence on either of them of what they'd just done. Of course, Echo was going to have to say she'd had sex with the client.
"Did you have sex with him?" he asked as an afterthought.
"The guy tonight?"
She laughed. "If you want to call it that, yes."
"Good," he said, though he didn't like the idea at all. And he imagined that would be how he felt until she left the Dollhouse.
"You think that's good?"
"Well, if they examine you and you hadn't they might wonder "
"Oh," she said.
He pulled out of the lot and back onto the road heading toward the Dollhouse. He retrieved his phone and called in.
"This is Boyd," he said when Adele answered. "We're back on the way. I'm going to stop at a gas station and get Echo some water. She's thirsty."
Adele laughed lightly into the phone. 'I can imagine she is. Very well, Mr. Langton. We'll see you shortly then.'
"Yes," he said, hanging up.
He stopped at the nearest gas station where they both used the bathroom to double check they hadn't missed anything. He felt like a high school kid again. He bought her a bottle of water just in case Adele took it upon herself to investigate his story. He doubted it, he'd never done anything to suggest he was untrustworthy.
She sat near him most of the way back until they neared Flower Street. He didn't have to tell her they were almost back, she knew and moved closer to the passenger door on her own.
"Are you all right," he asked before they pulled onto Dollhouse property.
"Yes, it's just so hard to pretend and I have to keep doing it."
"If I can find a way out for you, I will."
"I know you will," she said and he imagined she did.
Once inside, things moved quickly. Echo was taken immediately to Topher. It seemed her lack of response to Travis' trigger phrases was more of a concern than anything that might have been physically done to her. Boyd breathed an inward sigh of relief at that.
"I hope she wasn't too much trouble."
"Not at all," Boyd said.
"Travis said she had an aversion to the van."
"I'm not sure what that was about, but yes she was on the verge of making a scene. Not wanting to draw any further attention to her or us I called an audible."
"I think he's running scared. Afraid that somehow the Alpha thing will get blamed on him."
"I'm just guessing, so when she wouldn't respond he panicked."
"He at least took care of the situation inside the club."
"I saw that when I arrived. The client was gone."
"Yes. He's singing our praises, in fact."
"Good," Boyd said, though he didn't think it was good at all. He was glad he didn't know who the client was, though, able to put an actual face with who had been with Echo earlier.
"Well, good night then," Adele said.
Boyd wasn't sure what he was expecting. An answer as to whether he'd be returning to his duties as Echo's handler? He was sure Echo was better off with him, but then again he couldn't be sure he'd be able to be objective after tonight.
That was why he left without questioning Adele DeWitt about who would have the privilege of being Echo's handler.
To Boyd, that was the difference between him and the likes of Travis or any of the others.