No Ordinary Love
A/N: Sex scene is edited to lower the rating (originally nc-17).
He remembers a time when he was still righteous. Back then he knew what he needed to do and what he deserved for it.
"Let me tell you a few things about her. Her name is Caroline; she vanished two years ago and was presumed dead since then. She wanted to try everything that came across her way."
Now, he doesn't know what he needs to do, or what he deserves. His long quest is over, but it didn't end the way he expected it to.
Paul leans over the kitchen counter, looking at her beautiful frame through the window as she gazes at the sky. It's hot outside and pearls of sweat have gathered between her breasts, moistened that lovely dark hair. Her summer dress is short and embraces her figure in all the right places. She's gotten a nice tan this summer, always going to the beach and just laying for hours outside sunbathing.
He doesn't have time for sunbathing, but he always steals a moment to go outside and spread the sun tan lotion on her skin, so she doesn't burn herself. That's him: always looking after her while she barely cares about such trivial things, always throwing herself at everything that comes her way.
And his own words come back to haunt him.
"That person you were with never existed… But there's a real person underneath there. Someone, who can't save herself, unless you help me."
How he worked to save them all, believing they were victims being abused. How he tried to make it up that he'd unknowingly and in despair leaned onto Mellie, onto Madeline. It'd taken so much time and he'd believed he'd made a difference…
"Paul!" she comes to the door, smiling seductively, "Come outside."
He quickly adopts a brighter expression, answering her smile. "Soon," he says, bathing in the light of her presence. He's in love with her, there's no doubt about that. It's something even he can't fake. It doesn't help him any that she loves him too.
She's a ghost to him, existing only for him, loving only him and no one else – ever. But Caroline, she's someone else – not his girl.
They were supposed to release her; her time was up, Paul having pulled a few strings to have her released early of schedule. He was also submitting his own resignation, even though the mission was still there and old familiar faces were still bound by their contracts – He just knew his heart wouldn't be with him anymore after she left. And just like with Madeline, he met her after her original personality had been restored, as she was Caroline again.
She was wary, somewhat careful around everyone, but Paul could see the anguish in her eyes. She'd never been a volunteer, but had signed up to gain a clean slate as far as the Dollhouse was concerned. Caroline proceeded carefully, asking for confirmation that it was all over now and that she would really be left alone. It was the news of her family's demise that shook her determination, and showed how wounded she really was.
Long after she'd left Adelle's office heartbroken, he found her still sitting outside the Dollhouse. Even with all that money she had no place to go to: her family was dead, her mind haunted by echoes of her time as a Doll. Caroline hadn't been able to step into the taxi and just give an address, so he asked if she'd like to get some coffee with him – And she wanted to.
For two hours they just sat, occasionally sipping coffee, as he told her they now had a black president and had just risen from a recession. He told her about the new trends and celebrities and situation of the causes she'd once supported. She even seemed to show some signs of life when he talked about the new progress in science and the global politics. But when she asked about the car following her around, he couldn't bring himself to tell her about Alpha and how that madman was still out there.
"And you worked there? You watched as I served god knows who and did unspeakable things?"
Her voice was so bitter, so cruel. She walked out on him soon after, leaving him alone in that table, silently comforting himself with the knowledge that he'd finally gotten her free. For a week he heard nothing of her, only to be woken up in the middle of the night as she called his number angrily. He was the face of the Dollhouse for her, the focus of her frustration and hate. This went on for months, but Paul never hung up, never stopped listening.
One night she called him again, saying she had no one else to talk to about these things and that she was sorry she'd harassed him for this long. He accepted her apology, expecting to never hear from her again. The next day another phone call took place; this time by Adelle, informing him that Caroline was on her way to him. Apparently she'd actually tried to have herself taken back into the Dollhouse, only to learn that it was through his efforts that a whole year had vanished from her deal in the first place.
She caught him in the courtyard, angry that he hadn't told her about this detail before. Paul just stood there as unwavering as ever, unable to see or hear anything but her. He was okay with the accusations as long as he got to see her again: his Caroline, who'd never be anyone's damsel in distress. But instead of insulting him further she finally stopped and sighed, "But you're a good guy, right, because what you did for me was a favour."
He looked into her clear eyes and nodded silently. Why she forgave him, he didn't quite know. Why she never returned to her former life and ambitions, or even tried, he never knew. What he knew was that it was easy for her to talk him, because he knew why she'd been gone five years and she never had to explain him anything. Trusting new people was hard for her, so she chose the devil she knew.
They would have coffee together, even dinner occasionally and just talk about how their lives were progressing. And with each encounter Paul would feel his self-control crumble bit by bit. As she mended, she began to shine again and he recognized that woman from the videos and photographs from before.
The sex started from his initiative, after he sneaked behind her one time after dinner and kissed her silent. He drowned her in his passion, no longer capable of holding it back. And she felt just as good beneath her as he'd always thought she would. The way her nimble body responded to his every thrust was just incredible and her silent moans of pleasure more than enough to drown the wrongness of the act underneath them. She hardly ever stayed for the night, and even when she did, she left at dawn without tender goodbyes or promises.
They went on like this for awhile, both unable to let go of the physical connection they so obviously shared. Slowly their encounters became more frequent and more passionate. She even started to open up to him little by little; her armour developed cracks here and there and he learned to locate them to make her relax.
Paul especially remembered a day at his apartment, when he was surprised to find her still sleeping next to him, her naked form only covered by the sheets. He'd ran his fingers across her body, looking at the scars and faded bruises she had no memory of, and thinking to himself that unlike all those other men and women, he was with the real Caroline and she was with him because she wanted to. The thought marked her in his mind and his possessive side quickly realized she'd become his.
He started arranging daytime encounters for them, taking her to places and giving her new ideas where she could take her life from now on. And while she'd talk to her heart's delight, he'd listen solemnly and voice his approval or disapproval with just a few words, until she started talking again. Caroline was so passionate about the environment, the animals and equality that sometimes she could talk herself dizzy. This was usually when Paul would pull her aside in a crowded place and drive her insane with the forbidden intimacy. Albeit she usually protested against it afterwards, he knew she didn't mind the treatment: Her eyes shone with excitement each time.
When he asked her to move in with him, she was initially against it, because this thing they had wasn't real according to her; Paul just wanted her, having seen something beautiful one day at the office, and Caroline had needed something even resembling normality after her ordeal. Paul had then told her how he'd come to be apart of the Dollhouse's staff – because of his desire to save her, having seen her photo during his research. While this had silenced her, she quickly risen with the argument that it was no different from the scenario she'd described earlier on. In both she was just prey for the stronger.
It was the only time she'd angered him into a passionate response, because she sure the hell wasn't a victim. She'd survived the Dollhouse, and Alpha's ploys – even gotten her life somewhat organized afterwards. To claim she was a victim was the same as giving up. She tried to walk out on him and he stopped her, burying her in kisses, pushing her against the wall, until she had no choice but to look at him.
This encounter of theirs had been fiercest to date, with him holding her stronger than he should and she clawing him between kisses. He'd eventually lifted her on the table and drained them both, after he'd teased her to her peak first with his fingers and then through quick thrusts, while she'd laid on the table still surviving her first orgasm.
Their fights always seemed to turn into sex that silenced all arguments. After this time, she didn't stay to shower with him, but pulled her clothes back on and left while she still could. Paul didn't hear from her in days. The silence ensuing was frightening; he feared he'd lost her for good and just because he'd suggested living together. Somehow for the first time in months, he thought about Mellie.
When Paul called Caroline the next time his message was very simple: Madeline Costley, also a former Doll. Adress enclosed. She's willing to meet with you.
Caroline did meet with Madeline, finally finding someone to talk to. The lively woman won her over with cookies and cappuccino, convincing Caroline that anything that'd happened at the Dollhouse wouldn't affect their lives anymore. As Madeline explained her own reasons for being in the Dollhouse and then being released early for unknown reasons, Caroline quickly placed the pieces together: Paul had helped this woman, the same as he'd helped her. Madeline also told of her new life and how it'd slowly balanced during the years. Now she was remarried and happy.
When Caroline met with Paul the following evening she'd adopted the usual calmness that occupied Paul during their encounters. Using Madeline to reapply the halo over his head was just unspeakable, but Paul apparently couldn't help being the snake he was, having been infected by the Dollhouse all those years ago. While Paul tried to defend himself, slowly beginning to lose his temper with her, she also threw in the real truth as to why she couldn't go on like this.
"I don't like myself when I'm with you. I don't end arguments with sex and expect everything to be fixed. But I can't help myself for coming back to you, even though when I leave you I fully mean to leave you for good."
He didn't understand what she was saying. He was a righteous man, who'd done everything in his power to help her. He'd been by her side, even as she'd thrown insults at him and accused him of every bad thing that'd happened to her. He didn't understand what she was saying.
He knew they were meant to be, because they fit together so perfectly – even she had to admit it. Her old life was no longer valid, so why not build a new one with him? He didn't know how to fix her, but he'd try. And with his declarations and romantic notions, she'd simply say she wasn't broken, or his to fix.
Sometime later he'd given up hearing from her and was sitting outside on a sunny day, enjoying the summer and watching the people pass by. This is when rather unexpectedly Adelle sat next to him, in her summer skirt, wearing her bargaining expression. Paul wasn't alarmed though – there was nothing Adelle could do to him anymore. She called him Mr. Ballard like she'd used to and talked nonsense about the weather for awhile, eventually taking notice of his gloom expression.
"Not to worry, Mr. Ballard, she'll return to you. It's the way we programmed her to."
Astounded Paul demanded for an explanation, unable to believe his ears. That girl was Caroline, she loved him, he'd freed her – he knew all these things for a fact! To this Adelle merely agreed. This was Caroline, Echo's original personality, albeit with some minor modifications, like her gratitude and fascination with him. This was his reward, having lusted after her for years and years and refusing to climb down from his high horse, even when he'd been offered the chance to spend time with a specially adjusted imprint of hers. Paul had wanted the real deal even back then.
Paul knew then he should've been angry, he should've made her return Caroline her free will, but strangely he just felt betrayed. No matter what, she'd come back to him and never leave him. This was still Caroline and he'd freed her and she was glad he had. Paul only wanted to know the price of everything – to which Adelle merely smiled: The price was his silence and loyalty to the Dollhouse. It was because of them that he could have his dreams, so he would allow them to continue fulfilling people's dreams. Well that, and Paul would be placed in a key position in the near-future, from where he would continue looking out for the Dollhouse's interests.
While the moment of hesitation seemed like forever, it only lasted seconds. He gave Adelle his silent approval, too entangled in his selfish motives and the consuming feeling of abandonment by the woman he loved. He no longer cared whether it was her will or not, just that she was his and would continue being. Adelle, satisfied with his response, left his side, knowing very well that Paul was under their control as long as he had Caroline.
Three days later Caroline was waiting by Paul's door. Seeing her again nearly stopped his heart and brought him to a halt quickly. She leaned against the wall, looked straight at him with those defiant eyes. He could see she'd cried and wanted nothing more than to forget the incident had ever happened and to close her in his arms. Regaining control of his body, Paul began approaching her, pulling out his apartment key, and as he got to the door was quickly embraced by her.
He spread his arms to sink her in his embrace. She kissed him, her lips tasting like tears and regret, but the taste vanished quickly as it mixed with his. Caroline tried to apologize and explain the agony that'd taken her over during their separation, but he just said it was okay, uninterested in explanations and words. It was enough that she'd come back.
Paul opened the door when one hand, pushing her inside with his body and closing the door behind them. He started removing her clothes and she told him she wanted them to live together after all; that it'd just been her fear talking back then. He didn't say anything to that, just admired her naked skin, touching her all over. She started opening his jeans and that tricky belt she hated and he pulled off his shirt, sinking his hands in her silky hair and biting at her shoulder tenderly.
She whispered how she loved him, screamed how she needed him harder and he was happy to oblige. She made noise unlike ever before – the Caroline he knew was always quiet, almost ashamed to voice her pleasure.
Now as Paul looks at her in their paradise that the Dollhouse paid for, he can't help feeling that it still isn't enough. He can still have more: more power, more respect, more of her. He might not be a righteous man, but he has a family now, so his guilt over the way he got it would only break that family apart, if it were released.
Paul chooses this reality over the numbing truth once again, grabbing his sunglasses on his way outside, where the kids are already playing in the pool and Caroline pets her swollen belly, while reading the morning paper over a glass of lemonade. His arrival is greeted by joyous voices and hugs and smiles and kisses. Everybody loves him, and he has no fault.
His life isn't painless though, for every once in awhile in the heat of an argument she leaves with the kids, yelling she's never coming back and she hates the man he's become. Yet she always comes back, enticed by the way he still touches her like he did when they first met, like he can never get enough.
It's only when she's away that Paul even remembers the crimes he's committed in her name anymore.