Title: I Ain't A Doll (This Ain't A Dollhouse)
Pairing: Puck/Kurt (Glee), multiple pairings (Glee), multiple pairings (Dollhouse)
Word Count: 6073
A/N: Written based off an idea I had that combined two of my favourite shows. Title comes from the song "Dollhouse" by Priscilla Renea. Spoilers for S2 Dollhouse.
Summary: Kurt's been gone since before graduation and finals and everything, leaving Puck dying on the inside. And now here he is, with an English accent, charming smile, Italian loafers and no idea who he, or Puck, really is.
The smiling British woman in the office offers him green tea and Puck doesn't know what to think about the absurdity of the situation. He's been hunting, searching for so long - amassing more money by chance and accident and skillful planning than he knows what to do with - that when he's actually presented with his opportunity, his prize, he doesn't know where to go, what to do.
The woman - Adelle, she says her name is - has the graceful movements of a geisha, pouring the tea between them like she's done this a thousand times (and probably has, more so, Puck thinks) and arches an immaculate eyebrow at Puck.
"What is your... fantasy, Mr Puckerman?"
The question catches him off-guard slightly. He's heard about this place from colleagues, the conglomerate friends he's had to gather like strange ornaments. One of them mentioned the mythical Los Angeles haven, the Dollhouse, after a weekend of fun with a slim brunette named Karen; another had told him stories of the Dollhouse after his perfect date with Alison, an S&M enthusiast. But the question still throws him.
Puck's always travelling from city to city with business deals and meetings but he's had to open up an entire weekend in LA for this meeting here. He takes another sip of the tea, burning his tongue on slightly bitter tea before he answers.
"I know one of your Dolls. I've seen him before and I... I want him."
That part at least is true - he surrounds himself with lies and shadows of half-truths, protecting the secret he keeps inside, the real Noah Puckerman. One evening at a private function, he'd been half-listening to Senator Perrin talk about his latest policies and admiring the skyline when a lithe figure had drifted past him, clad in a smart suit and on the arm of a woman in her forties.
It was Kurt.
Puck had almost dropped the glass of champagne he had in his hand and turned to hear a snippet of their conversation.
"...and then this charming young man just walked into my life." The woman was speaking, fingers curled possessively around Kurt's arm as he smiled at her, his fingers stroking the electric blue of her gown, the fabric pooling at her waist gently.
"Now, come on, tell the whole story." That's the first thing that Puck notices that's different - Kurt is speaking in an English accent, flawlessly as if he's been born and bred across the Atlantic instead of in Ohio. He's confident and suave and his lips brush the hairline of the greying woman affectionately.
Puck's mouth goes dry as the conversation lulls, the woman leaves for the bathroom and Puck stalks over, long legs effortlessly carrying him over to where this Kurt mirage of a man is stood, smiling and idly chatting to some congressman.
He grabs Kurt's arm, pulling him away from the no-doubt scintillating conversation of Congressman Petrelli and pushes him against one wall, bending down to whisper harshly into Kurt's ear. "Where the fuck have you been, Hummel?"
Kurt's been gone, having skipped out of Lima and WMHS a few months before Graduation and finals and everything, leaving only a tearful father, confused classmates and teachers, worried friends and Puck dying on the inside.
And now here he is, with a different accent and what he suspects are Italian loafers, smiling innocently up at Puck.
"My dear man, I'm afraid you have me confused with someone else."
Puck rocks Kurt's shoulders back and forward with enough force for Kurt's head to loll back threateningly before Kurt shrugs off Puck's grasp.
"Your name is Kurt Hummel. You're this little soprano singer from Lima, Ohio and--and you like Beyonce and dance routines and I--"
Kurt smiles, drawing a business card from his pocket and hands it to Kurt. It reads Jonathan Bannister, Attorney At Law... and then it gives the address of a Los Angeles law firm, a name made of animals and which sounds vaguely sinister.
The woman returns, swiftly removing Puck from Kurt's attention and kisses him on the cheek before they leave. Puck spies a large, muscular black man watching from across the room, hand near his ear. Puck buries himself in his conversations and tries to forget that he ever saw Kurt.
The week later, his thoughts still on Kurt, Anton at Puck's golf club mentions the Dollhouse - a hush hush secret among the rich, eagerly spoken about between the really rich - and that's, Puck muses, how he's ended up in LA once more, in front of this strangely poised woman.
He can't believe it. Puck has never stopped having faith that Kurt would turn up, but always in his fantasies... he found Kurt, rescued him from a gang that must have kidnapped him years ago and kept him; he and Kurt met over a casino in Monte Carlo; a starving Kurt was in Paris where Puck found him and saved him.
The fantasies change. But Kurt never does.
Kurt meets him on the Santa Monica pier, grinning shyly as he pulls Armani shades free from his eyes. Right now, this isn't Kurt. Adelle's assured him that any personality is available, any trait - but that doesn't stop him from half-expecting a sharp comment from Kurt and some disparaging comment about his hair.
"Hi. I'm Niko." Kurt grins, wrapping a hand around the thick muscle of Puck's arm and grinning as they move down the pier.
"I'm Noah. You can call me Puck."
"Puck? Like the Shakespeare character?" Niko-Kurt is smiling, eyes blue and bright like the sea in the Californian sunshine and Puck feels a sick kind of satisfaction in wrapping an arm around Niko-Kurt's shoulders.
"Yeah. Something like that." Puck smiles. Niko-Kurt smiles back and they head into the sunshine.
That night, Puck forces Niko-Kurt onto silken black sheets that make his pale skin gleam in the candlelight. It's how he wanted to have Kurt the first time, back when he used to throw him in dumpsters and throw Slushies at Louis Vuitton products. It's all slow and soft and he almost put some Coldplay on - but all of that becomes peripheral, the background noise to Niko-Kurt's laboured breathing as Puck slides in.
In the morning, Niko-Kurt gorges on waffles and maple syrup and ice cream which Kurt never would have done in a lifetime before he goes for his treatment. He kisses Puck sweetly, hands him a cellphone number on a scrap of note and heads for his treatment.
Puck dials the number, hears nothing but static and cries. He's never felt so sad.
"Normally we don't agree to repeat... engagements, Mr. Puckerman." Adelle tells him, offering him a cake from the delicate silver tray in her manicured hand. "You can understand why."
Puck refuses the cake and drinks his tea once more. He's getting used the taste - bitter and addictive. And he knows. He knows that he should relish the memory of his time with what used to be Kurt. Adelle pulled a lot of strings to allow him time with that 'Doll' in particular. The last time a client had a personal attachment to a Doll and abused it, he apparently ended up disappearing off the face of the Earth.
But he... he needs this. Puck needs one more time - one more chance with the Kurt he could never have. Adelle refuses Kurt's original personality - and she does so while drinking heavily from a bowl-like glass that Puck suspects doesn't contain green tea.
So he chooses another fantasy. And another... Kurt.
This Kurt is sultry and sensual and meets him at a private party that one of his 'friends' hold - a million miles from the stuffy receptions and the poised, controlled public balls. These parties have the best courtesans and hookers that LA has to offer, drifting around halls like trained waiters, offering their services like hors d'ouevres.
Puck walks around in someone's black masquerade mask, refusing the attentions of several pretty girls and boys in their best finery, until he finds Kurt - draped up insolently against a wall, sipping from a champagne flute and smirking laviciously at Puck.
This Kurt identifies himself as 'Charlie' and places one small, pale hand against the hard length in Puck's expensive trousers, squeezing it and cradling it against his palm delicately. He kisses at Puck's mouth and Puck kisses him.
"Wanna take me somewhere special?"
They make it as far as the staircase before Puck drags Charlie-Kurt into a bathroom, locks the door and fucks him against the sink. The lights are harsh and bright, unforgiving to the dark circles under Puck's eyes and revealingly blunt to the blood from Charlie-Kurt's lip from where Puck's teeth are too aggressive.
It's over before Puck can comprehend it and Charlie-Kurt is pulling up his expensive silk underwear and pressing a wet, open-mouthed kiss to Puck's neck. It's gonna leave a mark, a purple-black hickey that Puck wishes wouldn't fade, would remain like a tattoo.
"Something to remember me by, stud." Charlie-Kurt grins, kissing him again before he slinks from the bathroom. Puck pulls up his trousers and follows. Downstairs, Charlie-Kurt is joined by three women who are all showing signs of that pleasant fucked-out smile and happiness; two equally slender women, one a long-haired brunette, the other an Asian-looking blonde; and a curvier, grinning brunette.
Puck blinks at them - he's found more of the Dolls. Or so he thinks.
The third time, Kurt is kidnapped. There's a rogue gang prowling Los Angeles, kidnapping boys and girls alike and selling them to prostitution rings. Puck, naturally, is there to stop them.
He sees Kurt running from an alleyway and stops his car, grabbing the wayward boy into his top-range Lexus. Kurt is crying and apologetic and clinging to Puck as he speeds out of Los Angeles. He tells Puck his story - came to LA to live the dream, wanted to become famous, got kidnapped...
The only problem is that Puck already knows the story. He created it.
They drive up to Puck's hillside cabin. It's far from the city and close to the mountains and the ocean - Kurt spends ten minutes breathing in the crisp, salty air and cries. Kurt tells Puck his name is Chris.
That night, Chris-Kurt doesn't leave Puck's side. They eat the most basic food and Chris-Kurt curls up next to Puck near the fireplace. The fire glows all night and Puck offers to call the police but Chris-Kurt refuses.
Chris-Kurt kisses Puck near the end of the evening and crawls on top of him, tearing away clothes and pushing Puck inside of him - Puck feels somewhat guilty but Chris-Kurt soon distracts him.
The next morning, Chris-Kurt is gone. He leaves only a note, saying that he loves Puck but has to go. There's the wet saliva outline of a kiss on the paper. Puck keeps that note.
There's a crisis the next time Puck goes to the LA Dollhouse to arrange a meet. He's in the reception area when Judith, the middle-aged, buxom receptionist, brings a shotgun out of the desk and hands it to Adelle.
She doesn't even notice Puck until she and a tall, black man - the man Puck remembers from the soiree months ago, protecting Kurt - stride past. Adelle stops and takes a swig from her hip-flask.
"What the bloody hell are you doing here?" She sounds slurred but the man behind her rests an allaying hand on her shoulder.
"I came here for another engagement."
Adelle snorts with laughter. "Aah, yes." She turns the black man. "This is Mr. Puckerman, Boyd, the apparent boyfriend of our little Active Lima."
Lima. They called Kurt... fucking Lima. That's gotta be some kind of joke.
Puck stands, crossing his arms over his impressive chest - there's no use denying it, he's gotten enough attention for his work on his chest - and looms over Adelle and... Boyd?
"Look, quite frankly, you guys have got me over a barrel here. You know I can't tell a soul or I can't... so at least tell me what's going on here." Puck's voice becomes the negotiating, diplomatic one he's perfected over the years. And if something's going on here that has the remote possibility of hurting Kurt in any sense... he'll knock Adelle and her damn lackey both out if that means he can retrieve Kurt.
Adelle sighs, offering Puck the hipflask. He shakes his head. "Mr Puckerman..."
"Call me Noah."
The same immaculately arched eyebrow is raised. "Noah... the people to whom we all work for have deemed this Dollhouse a wreck. And so... they're coming to help us clean house, whether we want to or not."
Puck blinks, confused. He loosens the tie around his neck, breaking the noose-like pressure that's suddenly on him. "So they're coming here to kill all of us? All of you?"
"It would appear so."
This time, Puck takes the drink that Adelle offers him.
The Dollhouse itself is gorgeous - striding along the upper catwalks, Puck can notice a swimming pool, Zen gardens, yoga mats... it's like that movie The Island all over again.
Then Adelle leads him into some kind of computer-hub area and there's this cute, tiny Asian chick running around with a steady stream of people going into some kind of chair. Beside her, a nerdy blonde man is keeping check of these... blocks of data which slide in and out of these chairs.
The blonde man throws him a viciously sardonic look. "Do you have an advanced, complex understanding of neuroscience and the architecture of Active brains? Are you my replacement? No? Then you can't help--" The man turns to Adelle questioningly. "Who the hell is the McMeathead here?"
"This is Noah. One of our repeat clients - and it appears as though we've sort of adopted him for the time being. Mr Puckerman is the most frequent client of Lima."
The way they speak of them, so impersonal and detached - it's frightening but helpful. It lets Puck engage his logic centre somewhat. This is like the football games - tactical games with defense and offensive strategies.
"How many Actives have we cleared so far, Topher?"
The blonde man - Topher - checks a list on a screen, bright green tick marks showing the cleared ones.
"Fifteen. Just over half. And with Victor, Echo and Sierra already primed... that makes eighteen. Eight down." Puck doesn't know who Victor, Echo or Sierra are.
The air smells of jasmine and is cold, ventilation keeping the machines cool. The Asian chick - she says her name is Ivy - offers him some food, anything. He refuses and keeps his eye on the line steadily streaming through the door.
Then a woman moves through the door, her blonde hair tied behind her and carrying a laptop - and Puck's mouth goes dry. She's the girl from the party a few months ago, but now her carefree expression has hardened into resolve.
She notices him and half-turns to Adelle. "Who's this? A new handler?"
Adelle smiles. "This is Noah Puckerman, one of our repeat clients. And as it appears our willing hostage." Puck manages a quick smile and the blonde chick stretches out her hand.
"I'm Priya. Priya Tsetsang." Puck likes this chick - she's smiling and turning around to help Topher plug in more hardware and he can hear the Australian drawl in her voice, a shock from her East Asian features.
Behind her, a tall handsome guy with close-cropped, curly dark hair lays a hand on her shoulder and smiles apologetically at Puck. He introduces himself as Anthony, or Tony, or formerly 'Victor' he adds as a side-note.
The dark haired chick - the slender one from the sex party - joins them moments afterwards and says her name is Echo. And behind her, a tall muscular man has his arm around the curvy smiling girl who cheerfully says her name is Mellie and his is Paul.
Then, just when everything was turning into a high school reunion, the ceiling burst open into shards of glass and bullets flew into the lab.
The remaining Actives yelped and screamed in terror, the other armed men and women rushing them out of an entrance. Then Puck spotted Kurt.
He was crouched in a corner of the computer lab, eyes wide and crystal blue with fear, breathing laboured and full of terror. And all of Puck's self-survival instincts fled as he dived across the remains of the lab to seize hold of Kurt - or Lima as they called him.
No. He's Kurt. Even if he doesn't remember it right now... he's Kurt.
Kurt clings to Puck in fear and stares up at him like he's his personal saviour and messiah.
Puck asks Kurt the only question his adrenaline-riddled mind can think of to allay Kurt's fears. "Do you trust me?"
Kurt's answer is instantaneous and plunges to the point in Noah's heart as he pulls Kurt to his feet.
"With my life."
The first few weeks are sketchy at best; they travel to Arizona and to the Rossum Headquarters. Puck knows - as they all do - that he could leave at anytime. But he's seen inside the Dollhouse now, past the pretty, painted facade and into the belly of the beast.
And he needs this.
Kurt's the only 'Doll' they have left in the group - Priya and Tony are reformed to their original personalities, Paul and Mellie are... aware that everything they know is a constructed lie; Topher is slowly dissolving underneath his own guilt; Ivy and Adelle are doing everything they can to save him but they just can't... and Echo's pretty much her own creature.
They blow up the Arizona base and see Boyd's true colours. Echo and Adelle are hit hardest and Puck waits inside the SUV three blocks away and keeps Kurt entertained with a colouring-in book from the store next to the van.
He runs his hand mildly through the once-immaculately styled hair and sighs. It wasn't supposed to be this way.
Kurt frowns at the black crayon. "I don't like this colour. It's bad."
Puck throws the black crayon from the open window when they're on the move, driving towards where Priya sent him a text. "You won't have to see it anymore, hun."
Kurt smiles pleasantly. "You keep me safe."
"Forever, Kurt. Forever."
Ten years pass. And the world gets fucked.
Puck feels the strain across his body and mind - like scraping butter over a loaf of bread. Eventually something has to give.
Safe Haven is home now. Adelle teaches T and Kurt to grow plants and Puck and Paul go on patrols for water and bond. Paul tells him about his life, his ex-wife and Caroline. Puck tells him about Glee club and all the women he seduced to get where he was.
Whiskey remains at the Dollhouse, immune to the toxic gas she spreads among the butchers. Then she disappears, wandering the wilderness. Puck last hears of her somewhere on the East Coast.
Once, Puck takes Mellie and Paul to one of his old homes on the hills of California to see what remains. They scavenge food and books and water and several of Puck's very nice cars which the ravaging humans haven't gotten to yet. Puck wishes that he could have brought Kurt here.
Alpha comes back (according to the staff) and works his now apparently sane magic on Safe Haven. He leaves a few weeks later. Rumours are that he flees to the west for when they capture Topher.
Echo disappears for a whole year and the whole mood changes. Topher goes mad without his support and his comforters and his assorted crap (as Tony refers to it as) and one day wanders from Safe Haven and gets picked up by Rossum goons.
They try to fix the chair when they sneak into the Dollhouse but Topher is too busy crying and asking Ivy to read him his copy of The Catcher In The Rye and feed him Skittles while scrawling mathematical gibberish on the walls of his old lab before he gets nabbed to do any good.
No working chair means Puck can't get Kurt back. Mellie's been carrying the original imprints around in her backpack for three years and every time that they have to run and Mellie falls, all Puck can think is
There goes Kurt, not Kurt, never Kurt, need to save him, save Kurt from--
Three new Actuals arrive on the day the world changes. This cute redhead named Mag, a sarcastic man named Zone and a little girl, no more than ten, who's been imprinted with the infamous Caroline. Puck thinks Caroline's nothing more than a shadow, a messiah-like warrior goddess who in a thousand years might become beatified. And that scares him.
Topher and Ivy build the weapon from old technology and Ivy's hands start bleeding from the butterfly-light cuts across her hands. Priya patches them up while Adelle feeds Topher the soup he likes from the strange pod-like beds.
Kurt crawls inside one delightedly, tugging Puck inside. There's no comforter or soft sheets but Puck can feel the soft woollen mattress and sees in-built radiators which would have kept the Dolls warm. Kurt curls up in Puck's arms and snuggles deep.
"You keep me safe, Puck."
And he does.
The beacon detonates in the same office where Puck and Adelle had first met and drunk green tea over porcelain Japanese-style saucers. Topher's on the other end and outside Puck can feel it, a quick breeze ruffling his hair. Mellie and Paul have remained inside because if they step out - then they forget everything. Echo and Tony too.
Mag is busy with Kilo, the two of them flirting and Mag practising her bedside manner. Zone has 'Caroline' outside and Adelle has all of the remaining Actives outside.
Kurt holds his hand while they wait, looking up at him expectantly. Then the wipe happens and Puck wishes that they hadn't controlled the cell phones. He wanted to call his mom and then Rachel and Puck and Tina and - goddamn it - even Quinn. He needs some familiarity, because the Lima-Kurt has been his anchor in the tsunami of dark, stormy waves that this whole situation has brought onto them.
Then they all fall to the ground and Puck sees a flash of yellow-white-green light ripple across the sky before 'Caroline' and Kurt swoon and Zone and Puck have to catch them. Adelle and he share looks as consciousness starts to flood back.
And bright blue eyes open into Puck's, wide eyed and confused.
"What the... Puck?"
Puck manages a relieved grin and hauls Kurt to his feet. "Welcome to the world, Hummel."
"I don't understand... one minute I was in this lab and then..."
Kurt looks around - sees the destruction around him, the eroded skyscrapers and the bullet-ridden walls. The dead bodies and the falling glass from what used to be Adelle's office.
"What the hell happened to Los Angeles?"
The road to recovery is long and hard - those that survived the end of the world and the beginning of the new one are oblivious until Ivy and this chick called Bennett pool their resources and send out messages to everyone in the world. It sounds ridiculous and for several days, Puck watches the news feeds from London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. He can't believe it.
Adelle gets in contact with everyone else. Whiskey is back to her original self. Alpha isn't. The man they referred to as 'Dominic' is retrieved from a place called the Attic which Puck never wants to visit. He's pale but strong and Echo greets him fondly when he can move around the Dollhouse.
Kurt doesn't come near him for a few days. He spends time with Mellie and Priya who are more comforting than Puck is; and Adelle eventually finds an hour to speak to Kurt and explain what happened, why Puck's here.
Then eventually he comes over to Puck. Puck's checking out his vehicles outside - wondering whether he can run far enough. Maybe back to Lima. Maybe whatever remains of New York.
Echo and Paul and Mellie and Tony have to stay in the Dollhouse for a year before they can leave, something about aftereffects which Ivy and Bennett confirm. But Kurt doesn't which explains why they're outside, Puck underneath the hood of his stolen SUV and Kurt biting on his full lip.
"Adelle... told me what you did. Not just the engagements but... everything." Kurt steps closer, bare feet shuffling against too-warm concrete. The sun is brighter than Puck can remember for a long, long time and above them, there's nothing but warm blue skies.
"You kept me safe."
"Yeah. That's what friends do."
Kurt snorts with laughter. "Friends don't hire other friends for engagements and have sex with them. Unless things have changed in the last ten years."
Puck nods, not meeting his eyes. He's been in love with Kurt for fifteen years and this is the first real conversation they've been having. His hands drift to Kurt's shoulders, large palms pushing at the thin, too-big shirt Kurt has on. His skin is sunburnt from the treks across Arizona and Neuropolis and everywhere...
And Kurt leans up to kiss him. It's awkward and Puck lifts Kurt up so Kurt can wrap his legs around Puck's waist and they stumble against the car a little. Hot, wet mouths meet in a kiss and Puck's hands are possessive and hard across Kurt's flesh.
They breathe for a moment and Puck presses his forehead to Kurt's, blinking back unshed tears. The metal of the SUV is hot against their backs and it feels like redemption and salvation.
When phones are re-established, Kurt uses Puck's - which he's kept for god knows how long - and calls everyone he knows. Kurt's dad is fine, he and a handful of survivors holed up in his home for the past couple of years.
Rachel and Finn don't remember any of it and there's no answer on Quinn's end. Tina and Mercedes are part of a survivors commune in Nebraska with Artie and Brittany. Their parents are either dead or missing. Mike is with Mercedes and Tina - he lost an arm three years ago but has a shotgun aim to rival none.
Santana is dead. It's sad how little Puck cries. Will and Emma are somewhere in Europe, having been on holiday when the mass signals happened. They don't remember a damn thing.
Puck's mom cries when she hears him - she and Mr Hummel have been in the same group for six months now. Puck has to step outside when Kurt hands him the phone. As Kurt would have said (old Kurt, pre-Dollhouse/end of the world Kurt), it doesn't do to be seen crying.
Three months later, they leave LA. They keep the contact information of the Dollhouse and promise to email and write and for some absurd reason, it seems as though they're all the best of friends leaving summer camp.
But Puck and Kurt don't look back.
Four months after the sunny shores of California leave their sight, Puck finds out that Quinn's dead. They stop by the side of the road and Kurt holds Puck as he silently sobs. They're on an abandoned stretch of road in the desert, taking the scenic route for several months.
A CD's still playing in the car - Priscilla Renea - and Puck drags Kurt back inside. He licks his way across Kurt's neck and peels away the old shirt of Puck's that he's wearing. There's just heat and leather and Kurt spread across the backseat.
Puck whispers of need and want and bites bruises all around Kurt's neck and collarbone because Kurt is his, has been for years now but this is the first time at the same time and...
It's not the slow, gentle lovemaking Puck had eventually planned but it's hot and slippery and possessive and dark and perfect. That part Puck did plan.
Kurt flops against him, half-listening to the radio while Puck presses his face into Kurt's too-pale chest. Kurt's fingers run through Puck's hair soothingly and that's a balm to the pains in all the world.
One year after the world shifts, Puck and Kurt go to Los Angeles. Mercedes and Tina insist on coming, along with Finn, Mike and Rachel. Maybe it's pity - Rachel doesn't believe any of it actually happened - or maybe it's curiosity. Whatever the reason, there's a pair of SUVs going back to the slowly rebuilding metropolis.
Priya calls them in Santa Monica, uses the videophone (and there's even a smirk and a lyric from Kurt at that) and Finn and Mike whistle. Priya still looks gorgeous and beside her, T waves delightedly, mouth full of marshmallow from the barbecue.
"It's... it's real good to see you, Priya. How are the others?"
Priya's smile fades. "Paul and Echo left today. Without a single word, as soon as the countdown finished. Mellie's... a bit upset." But her smile brightens once more. "But she misses you and Kurt."
Kurt grins and presses his fingers to Priya's on the screen. "We missed you guys too. How does sunshine feel with your family?"
"It's good. Really good."
She gives them the co-ordinates, somewhere on Venice Beach - and for some reason familiar to Puck. Maybe Priya mentioned it once.
They arrive towards sunset and spy the huge bonfire there. Tony and Kilo are throwing the tech onto the fire. It burns well.
Mellie and Priya rush to meet Puck and Kurt, sweeping them into hugs. Rachel and the others hang back until Mellie hugs Rachel. "Friends are friends", she says, eyes sad.
T and Zone's girl - she says her name is Molly - play together in the surf while Finn, Puck and Tony mull over the barbecue. Mag limps over to Kilo and Puck and Kurt and they watch Mellie together. She's in a beautiful summer dress and is standing ankle deep in the water.
"What's gonna happen to Mellie?"
Adelle's beside them, checking the wounds in Mag's legs. They're still healing and look like black blotches against porcelain white skin. "She was programmed to love Paul. The last time he rejected her, she almost killed herself."
Adelle smiles warmly, serenely. "She's evolved. She's experiencing heartbreak but... she'll survive. She's survived worse. She's more than simple, original Mellie anymore. She's self aware and..."
"And?" Kurt is curious, eager. Everyone cares for Mellie. Her radiance and sweetness is infectious, effervescent. She's like liquid hope and optimism and sunshine and if she goes, then hope fades.
"When Priya and Anthony were Sierra and Victor, they always had some kind of... connection. It prevailed. True love and all that Shakespearean nonsense. And yet, despite their Doll states and their engagements... it bled in. They were effortlessly... in love." Adelle pauses.
She brings the cracked teapot from a bag and Puck smiles despite himself. She pours them cups of tea - strange orange and ylang ylang stuff from one of the opened stores on the boulevard. She sips and continues.
"I think that when Mellie became conscious... of the fact that she was just an imprint, she experienced what we call the 'Whiskey trigger'. Everything she believed in was challenged and destroyed. But she went against the Whiskey trigger and formed her own identity without compromising her own memories, her own feelings. She is Mellie and yet, she's completely separate from what the imprint was. She's evolved."
Mag smiles. "So she'll be fine."
"With help. And friends." Adelle takes a sip and watches as the night draws in.
The tech continues to burn as what remains of Los Angeles lights up. The eyes of the world aren't on them anymore and it's good.
Adelle stands arm in arm with Rachel, talking softly to her; Priya and Tony play with T and Molly by the shore and stuff her with hot dogs and juice; Finn and Mercedes are splashing in the surf; Bennett and Ivy are brooding over the burning wreckage with half-wistful smiles; Mike is laughing with Mellie; Zone and Tina are speaking with Mag and Kilo. Off to one side, Dominic smokes a cigar indulgently, grinning.
Puck tucks Kurt under his arm. He smiles, cradling the boy underneath his protective grasp.
"It's been one hell of a year, Kurt."
Kurt leans up and kisses him, mouths mingling and tasting of marshmallow and woodsmoke and salty air and life. The Dollhouse took twelve years of Kurt's life, ten of Puck's. He won't let them take a minute more. They've brought down the evil empire with their new friends and won.
They toast Topher and everyone that they've lost in the fight. They've made the big sacrifice and fought the good fight. And they deserve their victory, underneath the stars of a new world.
And Puck, gripping Kurt tightly, thinks he deserves his prize.