Title: Wounded Flower
Characters/Pairing: Claire, Whiskey, Topher
Summary: How did Topher know Claire?
A/N: Originally written for the Jossverse_LAS LJ community for the prompt: Pick a character, and write about their past, something we don't know in canon.
Topher surveyed the room with distaste. Dark color patterns, harsh natural light pouring in through the windows, and defeated minds wandering aimlessly. They called this rehabilitative socialization?
She deserved better.
She was in the far corner, seated alone at a table and watching the wanderers with contempt and fear; she never did like crowds. As he watched, her head turned and she recognized him. Her demeanor shifted; she was alert. He approached at a gentle pace.
"Hey," he greeted, unsure of what to say.
"Hey, yourself," she replied.
"So," he said slowly, "I came as soon as I could. My new job - well, they don't like to let me out very much."
"At least they pay you well," she offered noncommittally.
"Yeah," he mumbled, "yeah." Their eyes locked for a second before they both turned away. "So, how'd you get yourself in here anyway?" He stared at the well-polished table.
"They tell me I was on the roof," she responded dryly, "trying to fly."
"Oh." An awkward pause. "Were you - uh - cross medicating?"
"That was one time," she retorted indignantly.
"Sorry," he answered, humbled. "I had to ask."
Silence fell momentarily.
"I know you can fix it."
"Huh?" He looked up at her face again and was met with direct eye contact, making both of them uncomfortable.
"Isn't that what they do?" she prompted. "The Dollhouse?"
"I don't know what you're-"
"You think I can't figure it out?" She asked boldly. "Why Rossum bankrolled your education? Why it's all so secret? Why they don't let you leave?" Topher shifted uncomfortably. "I may be mentally ill, but I'm not stupid."
"No," Topher agreed quickly. "I never meant..."
"You're a neuroscience genius, Topher. And with the technology they have-"
"They have," Topher pointed out. "It's not mine, it's theirs."
"And you're their golden boy," she countered. "Do you really think you can't get a favor for your own sister?"
"I want to be normal," she said softly. "I don't want to keep finding out I've been trying to fly. And I don't want to keep waking up in the damn socialization room!" She nearly shouted the last two words, earning suspicious glances.
"Claire, I can't just-"
"Why not?" she demanded, eyes watering with angry tears now.
"We can't get something for nothing," Topher tried to explain. "I - I might be able to sell the idea to De - my boss, but only if..." he hesitated again.
"What?" she asked. "Anything."
"Only if you're willing to do what the rest of them do." He admitted quietly. "Five years. You give them five years and they fix you."
"Done," she answered shortly.
"You should really take some time to think about-"
"I don't care," she snapped. "My head - it isn't even my own head. To get that back - to be healthy again - it's worth anything."
:::A few years later, 2008:::
'Don't think about it,' Topher told himself as a team of handlers dragged Alpha into the room. 'God, she could be dying - it's my fault - don't think about it!'
"Get him in the chair!" Topher shouted.
"But why did you decide it was important for me to hate you?"
Topher stared blankly, unable to respond to this statement. This amalgam, Dr. Saunders, infused with aspects of his own sister, hated him.
"I think that's strange."
Topher reeled with waves of guilt pulsing through his system. He glanced at the computer screen.
"You didn't open it," he observed.
"Aren't you curious to see who you really are?"
She deserved the information.
"I know who I am," she answered coldly, leaving him to ponder.
:::Later that night:::
He jumped as Echo placed a hand over his heart. He looked into her eyes, searching for some sort of reason. It was strangely clear that she was expressing sympathy for the pain he was feeling. He should probably be alarmed by this level of awareness from a doll, but all he felt was comfort in the gesture.
"You don't know me!" Topher shouted at the doctor who wore his sister's face. He sank onto his bed as the meaning of his words caught up with him. "That's the contract. You don't know me and I don't know you. Not fully. Not ever." It hurt him to ponder this at all. "I made you question," he kept talking, it distracted him from the pain, "I made you fight for your beliefs. I didn't make you hate me. You chose to."
They were both silent, both on the verge of tears.
"How do I live?" she pleaded, voice shaking with desperation. "How do I go through my day knowing that everything I think comes from something I can't abide?"
"So, you weren't really gonna sleep with me?" He verified, trying to dodge the painful subject matter.
"I can't stand the smell of you," she answered disdainfully.
"I did that," he pointed out with a half-smile. "So we never..." he hesitated, as he always did when he spoke to her. "Why don't you find out who you really used to be?" he questioned, thinking how much happier they would both be. "I mean, you had your chance. Maybe DeWitt would even re-imprint your old identity," he added hopefully. "You've earned it."
"Because I don't wanna die."
"Aren't we supposed to care for these people?" Topher demanded of Adelle. "Dr. Saunders would never have allowed-"
"Which Dr. Saunders would that be?" Adelle cut him off. "The avuncular physician, so brutally cut down, not five feet from where you were standing? Or the last woman to whom you gave a permanent imprint? The other wounded flower you restored by offering her a new life? Who apparently found you so unbearable she had to flee the city. Is it that one?"
Topher had no answer.