Disclaimer: not mine, not for profit
Notes: For Whedonland prompt "Claire/Topher"
Spoilers: Set from pre-series to during Epitaph One, with spoilers for all season one episodes
Summary: He made her the people she embodies, from Whisky to Claire, but he's still surprised by her actions and his responses to them.
"You know," Whiskey said seductively, "I find you very attractive."
Topher grinned inanely and pointed randomly to the other side of the room. "Um, thank you. I just need to…"
He pushed past her, fiddled with the computer equipment. He hoped she would take the hint but instead he heard her draw near, lean over him. He felt her head rest on his shoulder and her breath caress his neck.
When tiny but strong fingers dug playfully into his buttocks he yelped. Adelle would be cross and Dominic would kill him…
Luckily, Whiskey's handler showed up and dragged the hooker persona away from Topher before any real damage could be done.
"You're sad." Whiskey leant on the doorframe, watching Topher lose at Minesweeper. He never usually lost at the game which showed how upset he really was.
"Yeah," he acknowledged. He hadn't told anyone else, not Adelle, not even Ivy, but what was the harm in confiding in an Active who he'd wipe later anyway?
"My mom…my mother died."
Whiskey tipped her head, brown curls cascading down her arm. "That's very sad."
"She never did like me much," Topher offered. He wasn't a doctor like his brother, wasn't adding to overpopulation like his ridiculously fertile sister. He was a disgrace. A genius with more brains than the rest of his family put together and yet because he wasn't doing something "normal" he'd been practically disowned. Okay, he'd walked out, but no-one had tried to contact him until today.
Now his mother was dead and he was wondering how he could face going to the funeral.
Whiskey crossed the room and put her hand on his shoulder.
"I like you," she said, with a wide smile.
It was small comfort, but better than nothing.
Topher's hands were still shaking. Adelle had been calm and reassuring and given him some tea. The caretakers were helping clean up the destruction and scrub away the bloodstains.
Alpha's first victim sat in the chair and Topher was determined to give her a purpose, a strong sense of duty, a healthy dose of self-esteem despite her scars. He gave her the memories of Dr Saunders along with souped-up computer skills because the old guy was nice but a bit behind technology-wise. He gave her some nice high school memories, a fantastic prom, because this wasn't just a temporary assignment. This was her new life, from kindergarten squabbles to her interview with the Rossum Corporation.
Remembering how Whiskey had tried to flirt with him, Topher also decided Claire wouldn't be that fond of him.
"And you, sitting in here, pressing keys, playing God!" Claire's voice carried – someone would hear, Topher knew, and then it would be his fault.
"Woah," Topher interjected as she paused for breath. "You're no innocent here either!"
It was true; Saunders kept the Actives healthy and ready for their morally questionable assignments. It was also a lie; she too was unknowingly just another active playing a part.
She took a step backward. "I care about them," she said. "That's the difference."
"I care," Topher said, adding, with a compulsion to be honest, "a little." He didn't add that she only cared because he'd programmed her that way; in fact, he'd tried to instil professional distance into her and he wondered why that wasn't working out as well as he'd hoped.
Dominic came up behind Claire and glared at Topher. "What is going on here?"
"Difference of opinion," Topher told him.
"He's a jackass," Claire said.
"Yes, he is." Dominic touched Claire's arm and gestured. They left and Topher sighed. If he was really lucky Dominic wouldn't come back and bawl him out some more.
"Who am I? The real me?"
Topher sat down on the step next to Saunders. "Do you really want to know?"
She shrugged. "Maybe. I'm not really Dr Saunders. Whiskey is just a construct. All the other personalities are just roles I've played. I have no clue who I am or why I wanted to give up on that life. You do, though, don't you?"
He did. He and Dewitt and Dominic always knew, the unholy trinity of sacred knowledge. Topher knew that she was broken before she ever came to him, before he made her become the barely sentient active named Whisky.
"I know," he admitted. "And I'm not sure you want to know who you were before."
"Then don't tell me." She turned pleading eyes to him. "Promise you'll never tell me."
He nodded. "I promise."
He wiped her later, re-imprinting her, added a boundary that meant she'd never try and seek out her real self. It was an act of mercy.
"You're needed," Claire said.
DeWitt, cradling Topher, glanced down at the young man sobbing into her blouse.
"It's okay. I'll watch him." Claire knelt down and they manoeuvred Topher from DeWitt's grasp to hers.
DeWitt went to answer the radio transmission. Any communication was vitally important now. The world was in chaos and they had helped make it that way. Topher's spirit had been crushed by this knowledge, that he had become the destroyer of this world.
"I'm sorry," he whimpered.
"I know. I know." Claire held him tightly and kissed his hair. "Not everything you did was so terrible, you know."
She doesn't remember who she was, but she's increasingly sure he did something to fix her. That without the Dollhouse technology she'd be dead or insane. She didn't tell him that she was finding it hard to remember how to be Saunders. That would have been cruel. So she did her best to be Claire, the woman Topher created, and to give him what comfort she could.
They were both a little insane now; but these days sanity was overrated.