Title: Identity Crisis 101
Pairing/Characters: Victor/Sierra, a glimpse of Echo
Rating/warnings Pg-13, for language
Summary: "Hi," she says, to the reflection in the mirror. "I'm Sierra. And you would be?"
Spoilers: None, really.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Word Count: 2k
Author's Note: Written for my drabble meme, but I suck at drabbles. This turned into fic. Surprisingly, because I honestly wasn't sure I could write this pairing. For grav_ity, Prompt: Victor/Sierra, eavesdropping. Unbeta'd and written in two hours, so point out any errors if you see them.
There's a glimpse of something else, a memory half forgotten. She stares across the skyline, hands gripped tightly over metal handrails of her balcony, fingers slippery with the tactile wetness of the morning rain. The view isn't much, but it isn't stories beneath the floor either and Sierra thinks about smiling.
She only breathes again when his hands curl around on her abdomen, flat against her stomach. His mouth brushes her ear, and she fights a shiver that has nothing to do with the fact that she's wearing nothing but a tank and panties in cold November weather.
"So," Victor says, "Who are we going to be today?"
There's a pattern forming, small and almost indistinct, but one of her 32 personalities used to be a weather-girl, and it's hard for Sierra not to focus on it. They like cold places. She isn't sure there's actually a preference; maybe it's more of dislike for hot weather. Sierra can't stand humidity, and though she likes seeing Victor sweaty as much as the next girl over, he has his limits too.
She thinks, sometimes, that the heat might remind Victor of Iraq, but they don't have memories about that. That's not Victor. That's not one of his 49 personality imprints. That's… him, a man that might as well have died in Iraq for all that's left of him.
Anyway, there's a pattern.
Pinedale, Wyoming. Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Duluth, Minnesota. They haven't made it as far north as Alaska, but Sierra jokes about it being on their to-do list.
"You have any idea how blood-curdling cold it is up there?" Victor protests.
She smiles coyly, and leans in to whisper. "What are you worried about? I'll keep you warm."
One year, three months and seventeen days. That's how long they've been free of the Dollhouse, but no matter how much time lapses over, Sierra knows they're really not free. Every town, every stay, every new name with a new personality to go along with it; composites of two, three, five different identities mixed and matched together into a new permutation every time.
No matter how smart they are – and they are smart; she's got three different personalities with IQs that break 162 – it isn't enough. Not for an empire like the Dollhouse. Alpha proved that. Sierra has no grand delusions. She's not like Echo with pretty conviction in her bright eyes and a manifesto of reasons to fight the good fight.
Sierra remembers coffin beds, and a glass wall, and she remembers a man too; a man she trusted, a man who betrayed her and used her and kept her silenced like a scared little girl.
The Dollhouse has taken enough from Sierra. She's done.
But she ain't free.
Today, she is Allison and he is Roger, and they're a British couple with aspirations of raising 2.5 kids in a small town, with dogs and cats and a white picket fence to go around their three-story townhouse. The fact that she seems flawless at this act is because she must take refuge in a lie, but not in blindness, in enthusiasm, in optimism, in some conviction, in pessimism or anything like that at all.
Victor has never taken refuge in anything. He is absolutely incapable of lying. Not with her anyway. It's as if they're naked and everyone else has clothes on, but she holds out her hand, and he takes it and together they line their lies with a little bit of truth. It's enough.
Or so she hopes.
She bolts awake one night with a child's nursery rhyme in her head.
One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, shut the door. Five, six, pick up the sticks…
Victor moves, the mattress shifts, his arm snaking around her waist as he pulls her tightly against his chest. She follows easily, but swallows a hard breath. He drapes his arm behind her as he says things like, baby and it's okay and I've got you, and she has no idea why she's so scared of a child's tune.
Seven, eight, lay them straight. Nine, ten, a big fat hen.
It's then that she realizes – recalls – her fourteenth imprint, Ms. Kathy Goodwill, a request for a child-like imprint by one of the Dollhouse's richest patrons. He had fun with Kathy.
She turns over and curls up against his side. Victor's hands slide across her back, under her tee, and she's almost breathing normal again when he starts singing a fuckin' Rayna Russell song under his breath. She barks a laugh, because the imprint in her still geeks out to the extreme when that song comes on the radio and she tilts her chin up to glare at him. Because as much as he's trying to help her, a part of him is totally making fun of her as well.
"You're an asshole," she accuses, affectionately.
He kisses her nose. "Every single one of me, yep. Now go to sleep."
Echo's on the phone. Sierra almost doesn't answer it when the caller ID flashes the Los Angelus area code; rationalizes while a song plays out in the background that it isn't her, and this isn't important. Crank call. Wrong number. Anything like that. They have a procedure, a routine in contacting each other when the need arises. Only in emergencies do they break protocol.
Victor answers it, while Sierra stares on, thinking, Fuck. Emergency.
"Yeah," he says.
"Okay," he agrees.
"Where?" he asks.
She listens, a pit in her stomach and a panic in her veins. She doesn't want to eavesdrop, doesn't want to listen. She doesn't want to know, and she damn well doesn't want Victor to tell her.
"Echo needs our help ASAP. They need cash for something important."
And what do Victor and Sierra do? They agree, of course, because it's Echo that's asking, and it's about their brothers and sisters, and as much as Sierra tries to forget, she never will. As much as she wants to turn her back, she won't. As much as she wants to stay silent and hide, she's not a little girl bound by fear and rules put in place by monsters.
She's had 32 personalities. Not one of them is a coward.
Sierra turns back, a cocky smirk burgeoning on her lips to cover up for the dozen other personalities that feel their stomachs drop. "Think we'll need repelling equipment for this job?"
She double-checks to make sure the rifle is unloaded, and pulls the trigger to release the action. A small push down on the release lever frees the bolt, and Sierra removes it swiftly. She isn't looking up when Victor walks through the door.
"Whoa. Okay, seriously, we planning on raiding a small country?"
The table is covered with guns and ammunition. Sierra isn't doing this half-assed, and merely lifts one eyebrow to his look, and slides her gaze back to the rifle. "Grab the MG36 from storage, would you? I need to clean the guns."
"We're supposed to be going in light and efficient."
She flashes him a flirty smile. "I can do heavy and efficient."
He smirks. "You know, when you say stuff like that, I get distracted by dirty thoughts."
"You get dirty thoughts when I walk through the door," she accuses.
"Hey, it's not my fault! You have this sexy little wiggle to your hips. It's like you're teasing me when you do that. And other things. Like breathing."
She sighs heavily, and rams the rod and pad down the barrel of the chamber, repeating the motion several times. "I'll try not to do anything that gives you dirty thoughts, then."
He narrows his eyes, and she makes it another thirty seconds before they're tearing off each other's clothes and headed for the bedroom. She nearly trips, but Victor catches her and throws her against the wall, and suddenly the bedroom is too far away and he's reaching for her waistline and tugging down her boxers and there is this panic, this need. She has to have him. Now. Forever. Always.
It's the only time she's sure about anything.
"Buckle up," Echo declares, when they arrive in Los Angeles. "We're hitting the bank tonight."
Victor kisses her just before, the vent feet away and a silent bank looming stories above their heads. His hand threads through her hair, and Sierra's arms link around his neck, mouth moving, desperate, almost violent beneath his. The first imprint she ever had floats to the surface; what Victor affectionately calls Commando Girl.
"You guys done yet?" Echo complains, in the background. "You can suck face later. Right now, we need to move."
"Yes, oh fearless leader," Victor mutters, and kisses Sierra just once more, briefly.
Sierra un-holsters her gun, declaring, "Let's rock and roll."
Victor nods to them. "Ladies, first."
The night is a success, of course. Like there was ever any doubt.
Once, Sierra runs just by herself.
Confused. Scared. Not knowing what the fuck she's doing, she takes off after a nightmare, and just runs. Leaves Victor, Echo, everyone behind. She just needs to be by herself. Her little lonesome self worth the equivalent of 32 people. The irony is not lost on her.
She heads for the beach, because for all the lies and deceit the Dollhouse filled in her head, Sierra is almost positive she's a California girl. The sand beneath her toes, the wind in her hair, she is a walking cliché just as the sun begins to set. There are two surfers riding waves, and Sierra fights two conflicting identities – the former a pro-surfer, the latter a woman with a deep-seeded phobia of water.
One, two, buckle my shoe, she hums under her breath, then stops short.
Sierra doesn't go back until three weeks have passed, and Victor never asks her a thing. She just slides into bed and curls around him, and he presses a trembling hand to her back and releases a harsh breath that she pretends not to hear. They don't talk. She barely even looks him in the eye, at first. But seconds tick to minutes, and her gaze gets drawn up and she sees him.
She sees him; not personalities and imprints, not even the doll named Victor. She thinks she sees the man, the real one, staring at her with eyes filled with relief and pain and just a touch of fear. All of it drenched in love that should scare the hell out of her with its intensity. It should knock the breath right out of her.
She recognizes him so easily. Even when their minds were wiped clean, she always knew him. She probably knows him better than she knows herself, and it's strange and weird, but there's a comfort in that.
"Do you trust me?" she asks him.
"Of course," he answers, not a stench of doubt in his voice.
She almost starts crying. "Funny thing is, most days I think that's what allows me to trust myself."
He pulls her tighter against his chest, and she reaches up to kiss him. He falls onto his back and guides her on top of him, and Sierra tugs the length of her nightgown higher. Then he's pressing against her and she's moving on top of him in a way that leaves him struggling with broken breathing.
"Sierra," he breathes heavily against her neck.
And when he says it like that, it just feels right.
"Hi," she says, to the reflection in the mirror. "I'm Sierra. And you would be?"