Rating: T for language and adult situations
Spoilers: All of Season One, including "Epitaph One"
Complete Wordcount: Currently, 6971
Disclaimer: The Dollhouse universe and everything in it belongs to Mutant Enemy. However, most of the characters that will appear in this story are OCs.
Notes: It's a Dollhouse fic! I'm as surprised as you are. I really thought I was firmly adhered to the Buffyverse, but the end of Season One wowed me so much that this story took root and I finished it in a jiffy.
I tried to get everything 'right', but there's a possibility that I may have skewed canon here and there, and even if I didn't yet, I'm sure I'm about to get majorly Jossed. (Which I'm actually kind of excited about, since I never had the chance to before this.) I realized after almost finishing the whole damn story that the name I chose for my doll character was already used in canon (and for a doll of the opposite sex, no less). So there's that.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Barring unforeseen complications, a new chapter will be posted every day this week, with the last one celebrating the premier of Season Two. I didn't even plan it that way, it just worked out to have seven parts. :)
Her first thought was that she had been buried alive—her worst nightmare. Her second thought was that she was wrong about that, because air was flowing freely around her and she was looking up through a translucent surface, and also, she suddenly had no idea of what her worst nightmare was. Come to think of it, she couldn't remember any of her nightmares, or where she was accustomed to waking up, or her name or age or family.
The situation became that much less clear and that much more terrifying, and she slammed on the lid above her with both hands, screaming "Help me!"
Somebody did. The barrier over her didn't break, but it wobbled and moved, and she sat up in the pod and looked into a pair of solemn dark eyes. Their owner held a finger to his lips and offered her a hand, and she quieted and let him help her stand without a second thought. Friend? Enemy? He was the only one there and she knew nothing, so she would have to rely on him for now. And those eyes…
She chanced a quick look around the room to get her bearings, and saw to her shock that her pod was one of five, and all the others were closed. The closest one held a sleeping or dead person—no, she moved, definitely sleeping—and there was nothing to tell her why she was the only one who had been woken. It didn't look like a prison. It actually looked more like a resort.
The man touched her hand to bring her attention back to himself, and leaned close to her to whisper, "I can get you out of here, but you'll have to follow my lead and save your questions for later. Are you with me?"
She nodded. Anything to get away from the coffins.
He was wearing a suit, she noted as he led her to the doorway, and she was in a comfortable purple dress with a very simple cut. The difference in their apparel wasn't enough to tell her anything, but suits meant power of some kind, so she resolved to follow and learn what she could from her self-appointed guide until her memories came back. Her scrutiny of him hovered briefly on his wavy black hair and broad shoulders, but also picked up something more important: a gun on his hip. Was he government? Did she want him to be government?
They emerged at a long, softly-lit corridor, where he paused after ascertaining that they were alone. "If anyone greets you, smile and greet them back. They'll call you Quebec, so don't look confused."
Quebec? Okay, that meant…Canada. Montreal. French-speaking residents. Fries with mayonnaise. Apparently she had been there, though the knowledge wasn't attached to any actual memories. And she knew it wasn't a name, but it would have to do for now.
Startled by the normalcy of the introduction, she looked and spoke for the first time since leaving the coffin. "Well hi, Hayden. I guess I'm Quebec."
"For now." His smile was taut and vanished as soon as it appeared. "When we're out there, try to look…serene. Like you belong here. Follow me, but don't make any conversation. Let's go."
The hardest part about following his instructions was resisting the urge to look up and around at the unfamiliar surroundings, like a—well, like a tourist in Montreal. The hall that she and Hayden had entered was really quite beautiful, a spacious and immaculate place where others, mostly dressed like herself, were moving through at an unhurried pace. They did seem strangely serene.
Fortunately, Hayden knew where he was going and managed to look relaxed and confident as he walked, and she concentrated on shadowing him to keep from gawking. It didn't take long to cross the facility, whatever it was, and get to an elevator, but once they were inside and the door was closed, he still didn't talk to her. It was nerve-wracking, and holding up her uninformed façade was starting to make her feel numb, but she had to assume there were cameras in the elevator or some other very good reason for staying in character.
Character? That was a joke. If anything, the role she was playing was absolute neutrality, and apparently, for everyone else in this place it wasn't a role. All she could think about was the elevator going up, so very slowly, and her anticipation made its eventual halt feel like an earthquake.
The door opened to a parking garage, which felt extremely odd. In a moment she realized that elevators don't generally go up to parking garages, but by then Hayden was ushering her into the passenger seat of a black sedan. He got in the driver's seat and suddenly his movements became very fast, and the car was rolling out into the sunlight in a heartbeat. "We're off their surveillance now," he said. "If we ever go back there, I'll be in handcuffs and you'll be wiped again, so I really hope I've got your cooperation in this." He gave her a quick sideways glance. "You can ask your questions now, if you want. To start with, your name is not Quebec."
She inhaled deeply, took a look at the ordinary American city outside her window, took a look at the stranger who had her life in his hands. "Then what is it?" she asked.
His voice was too regretful to be anything but entirely honest. "I don't know."