Notes: "Whiskey was Topher's sister" is not a theory I personally subscribe to, but I was thinking about it recently and the sorts of implications it would have for Claire and Topher and the Dollhouse world in general. Eventually, my thoughts landed on 'ooh, there's a level of fucked up I've yet to explore.' I'm not sure what this says about me, exactly, but I'm sure it's nothing good.

Topher is becoming very, very good at pretending this isn't horrible.

He's learned how to keep everything separate in his mind, how to convince himself that she is Claire Saunders, only Claire Saunders, not anyone else she may resemble or he might have known. This is Claire straddling his hips, Claire's hands wandering across his chest, and it's Claire's breath he feels on his neck.

It almost works, most days, and when it doesn't, she's there to correct him. Claire's voice in his ear, darkly whispering, "You said I'm real, a whole person. That means I'm not her." She's convincing, persuasive with simple logic that traps him in his moral quandaries. It's one of the few things she has in common with who she used to be, aside from the obvious.

Unwillingly, he remembers Jenny slipping out the window, smiling and putting a finger to her lips, with an argument that boils down to, "Don't tell Mom I'm out." He shouldn't think of her. It makes this so much worse.

Beyond that, there is almost nothing of her in Claire. He'd made sure of that. Really, even the physical resemblance has faded. Jenny never used to keep her hair curled, had no scars or viciously world-weary expressions on her face. That had been a worse sight to bear when she was Whiskey, all but identical (everything but the eyes). It's not impossible to see another person entirely in Claire.

It still helps to keep his eyes closed.

If he can't see, it could be anyone (Claire, just Claire), and as long as he can fight back the nausea, keep from shifting away in disgust and horror, she won't hold him down and whisper to him in a voice that's too familiar. If he can keep still it's just hands and lips on his skin, just fingernails scraping across his scalp.

It's nothing like the way she used to ruffle his hair affectionately after he'd covered for her to their parents while she was out there doing whatever it was she did. To think he had once been the good kid. He dropped out of college and went to work for Rossum the week she disappeared.

There's another trick to it; he can never convince himself too well. Can never believe the lie too fully. That's just as dangerous, lets him become complacent and forget the rules that get him through this. His eyes flutter open with Claire's face too close, and suddenly he's choking back a wave of revulsion and trying to back away. There's a spark of fire to the dark emotions in her eyes, a life, a stubborn will to survive that you would never find in Whiskey or any of her imprints, only in the girl who came here as a last resort.

She came to him, really, looking miserable in the lobby of the Dollhouse's front company, and you can't deny family no matter how mad at them you are for running. He brought her to talk to DeWitt with a sick feeling in his stomach and wondered just how far this would go and when the regret would start setting in.

It's too much. All he can see is Jenny Jenny Jenny not Claire. He turns his head away and thrashes, panicked, until Claire pins his arms down and hisses, "Topher, stop!" and he freezes because he's always had trouble refusing her, no matter who she was at the time. He breathes heavily as she looks down at him, and then she slowly leans forward until her cheek presses against his and her lips brush his ear as she speaks. "There's nothing wrong with this unless you've lied to me," she says. Her voice is calm and soothing, but he can hear the challenge in it, the anger and the trace of pity.

It sounds entirely like Claire Saunders and nobody else. Topher shakes his head and lets his eyes slide shut once more.

After the Alpha incident, he was summoned to DeWitt's office to discuss Whiskey's fate and to draft a new contract, one he would have to sign. She made very certain he understood the dangers involved in putting too many familiar traits into a permanent imprint. The new doctor would have to be a stranger to him. And he would make sure to keep it that way.