Laws of Supply and Demand
"You won't believe this. You ... will not believe this," Topher says to Ivy, and waves the file in her face.
"Okay," Ivy says, raising her eyebrows, "we'll see about that. What is it?" He just laughs, and she follows him out of the imprint room into the lab. "It can't be weirder than the guy with the oatmeal."
"Ivy, babe, you have no idea." He hands the file to her and throws his hands up in his obnoxious And now you'll know I'm right, QED sort of way.
She opens it, scans it, and her mouth falls open. "Oh my god."
"That's right," Topher says, grinning. "Someone requested Dewitt."
The really tricky part about this one is the confidentiality, that this is a third-party engagement and Dewitt didn't hear the details so somehow, Topher and Ivy have to build a modified Dewitt imprint for someone completely mysterious and manage to look her in the face without wondering who's off in a hotel room doing the horizontal tango with a carbon copy of her.
"I bet it's Clive Ambrose," Topher says as he works on the screens. "She goes all Simon Cowell whenever she talks about him, no way she'd ever touch him unless she was, you know, breaking his neck. And he'd know just how to get around the application process."
Ivy's still skeptical. "You really think he'd do that in her house when he could go to any of the others?"
He sends her a smirk. "I hear the danger makes it fun."
There's a pause. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," she decides.
Topher moves right past it. "I really don't get these parameters," he says, squints down at them again before just throwing his hands up. "This was flagged as romantic but it's not looking like it! We're not changing anything. It still looks like -- "
Ivy bites her lip. "Unless..." she starts, and sends him a significant look.
"No, no," he says, shaking his head, then pauses as the idea of Dewitt having a sex life starts to sink in. "No!"
"I don't know," she says, considering it. "She's... not a young woman! She could have exes."
Topher shifts awkwardly. "Oh, this is getting weird," he says, as though just realizing this.
"Now you notice," Ivy says, and hands him a juicebox.
"Whoever this is, they're going to have a really interesting night," Topher concludes, and makes a face before he starts rearranging. "Oh, this works..."
It takes Adelle a moment to get her bearings; namely, just enough time to get into her car. It's then that she realizes how different she feels, quite herself but rested, relaxed, and not exhausted in a way that she hasn't felt since before she began pulling in six figures.
"Exactly how long did you think it would take me to notice that I'm not in my own body?" she asks Burton, Whiskey's handler, and her lip curls. "I suppose we can chalk that up to Topher."
Burton looks uncomfortable. Good. "You know better than anyone, ma'am, this is how the business works."
"We give people what they need. Yes. Of course." She reaches into her purse and withdraws a compact to look at herself. "Good lord." She snaps it shut. "I don't seem to have been imprinted with much information, Mr. Burton. Who is it I'm going to see?"
"This engagement was purchased by a third party, ma'am," Burton says, looking anywhere but at her.
Toying with him isn't a good distraction from her current situation, so she lets him go. "There's no need to be so nervous," she informs him. "I am not Adelle Dewitt, and I doubt the genuine article will have even the slightest idea that this has happened."
"Yes ma'am," Burton agrees, but barely relaxes. "It's a little strange, that's all."
"Yes." Adelle stares out the window of the limousine as they race towards their destination. "It really is."
The regret really starts the night before, when what he's really done is sinking in, but it develops into desperation and annoyance to the point that he can't get himself to eat his fucking lunch while waiting for her to show up.
And then, when she shows up, it's guilt. Sharp and nasty guilt, and he doesn't really do guilt.
"Mr. Dominic," she says slowly, and her mouth sets in this dark imitation of a smile that he knows means she's very angry. "I expect you have an explanation for this?"
This is insane. It's Whiskey, but it's her, all the little mannerisms, the accent, the facial expressions. It's not her but it's her, and it's made everything just a little more complicated. "Not a good one," he admits. "But, hey, you want dinner?"
She stares at him in complete miscomprehension. "I'm sorry?" she asks, half-demanding.
"There's dinner," he says, as though this is a totally reasonable thing he's done instead of a totally insane one. "Enough for two. You're here. You might as well. It's good."
"You made a third-party request for an engagement with me so you could make me dinner," she says sharply, and stares him down.
Wow. Dominic hates to admit it, but Topher is good.
He just goes to the oven and takes it out. "It's Thai," he explains, and sets it out.
She's looking more sour by the second. "I'm in your flat, aren't I."
Don't make me say it, he almost says.
Instead, he takes out two forks and starts to serve it out. "Are you going to eat or not?"
After they're done eating, she's toying with her fork and wearing this look like she's trying to fight off a headache. Dominic's just about to suggest sending her back when she speaks up.
"How exactly did you expect this to turn out?"
He exhales. "Look, Adelle -- "
Her head snaps up. "I am not Adelle Dewitt," she retorts. "All of this -- anything you say to me, or do here -- she'll never know. I am easily ten years younger, and possibly even programmed to fall directly into bed with you, Mr. Dominic, so no, I am not Adelle Dewitt." She purses her lips as she sees the look on his face. "I'm terribly sorry to ruin your fantasy, but you can't have expected less."
There's a moment where he seriously considers throwing her out and letting the handler deal with it, or possibly putting his eyes out with his fork in shame, but he doesn't. "Right. You're not Adelle," he says acidly. "But you're the closest I'll ever get."
She does the washing-up because they both need a moment alone to deal with how absolutely ludicrous this entire situation is. All this is proving to her -- never mind that what she is at the moment is assorted neurons firing in a pattern much like hers -- is that self-awareness is a terrible, terrible thing that no one sensible should bother pursuing.
She's always thought the dolls were quite lucky, in that respect.
Dominic comes back to the kitchen, and she instantly tenses.
"I told them not to change the imprint," he says.
"Hm," she says, non-committally.
"At all." He's watching her. "You're you."
"Must we do this again?" She washes her hands, dries them fastidiously, and turns on him. "You have seen me every day for three months, you certainly don't need a rather costly engagement to speak to me, Mr. Dominic, so I'd like to know -- "
He kisses her.
He had to have been lying. This was obviously a date, a romantic engagement, and she was programmed to want more, cling closer, and let herself be slid up onto the counter and snogged. All of the adrenaline and the hormones are just so many numbers in Topher's computer, and when it comes down to it, this means nothing. It means nothing.
"This can't ever happen," she whispers to him as he presses his cheek to hers, clearly as overwhelmed as she is.
"It can," he murmurs, and undoes the first button of her top (his thumb grazes her skin and she stares up at him like a shot). "Right now."
"It's because you can't have me," she says matter-of-factly, later, when they're lounging in bed.
He considers that. "Maybe," he says. "But I like your style."
He's always reminded her of William, when they were younger, so seemingly sure of himself down to the cut of his suit that anyone sensible would have to question it. She likes his laugh, his deadpan tone, and the way he calls her ma'am, the little tone he gets.
None of that is real, though. The only thing that's real is this: Tonight, Adelle Dewitt is at her flat in LA, alone, and she'll never know.
"You had to pick Whiskey, didn't you," she says, glancing down at the body. "I never supposed you for a follower."
He shrugs. "I picked at random."
That takes him aback for a second, before he says, "She looks the most like you."
There's this nagging existentialist panic building in the back of her head, but she still has too much pride to show even a speck of it. She's more relieved than she would ever admit when he moves closer and presses a kiss to her temple, and only then lets out a shudder of it.
"I think I quite like your style as well, Mr. Dominic," she murmurs lightly after a moment, and he actually laughs.
The next morning, after sending her off, the first thing he does is change the damn sheets. They smell like her.
It was supposed to help. A taste, to answer what it might be like, so he could stop wondering. It was supposed to fucking end it so he could do his job and get the hell out of Dodge.
But this is torture, and he doesn't use that word lightly.
He knows what it could be, and it's that much worse.