A/N: Well, not much to say. I wrote this a while ago, but I never got around to posting it here. I hope you guys enjoy!
It's difficult at first. Remembering.
He sees her out of the corner of his eye and wonders why Whiskey is wandering hallways she isn't supposed to be in. She looks at him, says a simple firm hello, and he remembers. Every conversation contains an awkward pause as he remembers anew. When he looks her in the eyes, he doesn't need to be reminded. The blank stare in her eyes is permanently gone. He finds he's glad.
But he pushes down the emotion, because it feels bad somehow. He covers it up within layers and layers of jokes and games, just like he does with practically everything else. Except he still knows deep down, that he wants her to be real. Wants it desperately.
He finds it hard to pretend about this.
So, he avoids Dr. Claire Saunders, when he can do so without seeming obvious. The last thing he wants is for Adelle to be question his behavior. He is after all a professional.
Buying into an illusion is on thing, when it's for a day, for a week. It is another thing to buy into an illusion for a lifetime. He thrives on such things.
He is a genius, who deserves to be respected and adored by his inventions. And these people seem to. They give him a fridge (a ridiculous request, he knows, enjoying making it), along with an unbelievable salary, tinged with the a promise that if he ever, ever left the organization, ever attempted to sell their secrets to anybody else, he'd never make it past the front door. The praise isn't as much as he'd hoped. He has improved the system, but he can be replaced. So he throws himself into his work, seeking to keep himself valuable and he succeeds. His life is good, his work is complex and he doesn't need his friends bugging him about his dirty little secret.
Which is good.
Because he has no friends.
He has co-workers, who he pretends are friends. A sarcastic tinge to his voice, a chuckle from his throat, holds together an illusion of companionship as he teases Bode about worrying over Echo. He takes care to discuss details about what happens every particular day with whichever handler about whatever active. His life is his job. He shares his life with his co-workers. This makes them his friends. It's enough to get through the day.
He has never met the real Whiskey. Oh sure, he looked up her file, met her as a doll, but never in person. It was chance, really. It haunted him long after. He got sick, a minor cold really. Something from a returning active, Tango, who was quarantined later. Himself, he was sent to his quarters by the real Dr. Saunders with instructions not to return until he was no longer contagious. While he lay there, his head on a pillow, a box of tissues by his ear, his assistants were hard at work, mapping tissue, preparing her. He returned to work within a few days, walked in through the front doors, down the elevator, crossing the main floor to the stairs. A figure caught his eye and he turned. Dressed simply in a doll's uniform, a young woman with smooth brown hair and flawless skin was looking at him with simple, trusting eyes.
"Hi." It took him a moment to realize that the sound had come from his throat unbidden and another to think over what a silly idea it was to try to communicate with a doll. Stick to the script, that was what he did. No point in talking to a wall.
Except the wall was looking back at him, not responding, with an open searching look that she was doing nothing to hide. Curiosity was evident in her eyes.
He knew, she couldn't possibly know, couldn't understand who he really was, what he did, how he felt- but there was something in the way she looked at him.
"You seem nice," she said finally, in an easy soft voice. "I like you." He found himself flushing, pleased at her statement.
"I have to go for a massage now. Do you get massages? They are very relaxing." She smiled, revealing perfect pearl white teeth. With that she walked away, toward a handler who was beckoning.
"Nice…." He muttered to himself, staring after her. His heart thumped with something simple and terrifying and oh so wrong.
He never lusted after her, oh no. It was something else, what he felt for Whiskey. He just felt happy when she was around, simply happy. He never tried to seek her company, knowing for it would only cause suspicion and really, what good would a conversation with a doll do?
I like applesauce, do you? The pool was nice today. Am I my best?
But her as an active, that was a different story. She was pure, but he was not. He spent many a night guiltily recalling her more pleasing imprints. It wasn't difficult to call up her face or her voice. Not when so many of them seemed to have that sort of thing on their mind in reality anyway.
A romantic, who smiled at him shyly, before falling in love with the client, a playful kitten, who turned away from her handler, to offer him a round in the backroom first, a sly wink from a technological genius with the skill of being able to scale walls with her bare hands and the memory of a steady boyfriend. He didn't know if he was imagining things, but after a while he realized he must be, because she couldn't possible remember him, she could possibly be reacting to him.
It didn't stop him from pretending at night, that she did know him. That she had come to him and he was holding onto her, not his pillow as he moaned wordlessly into the night. Clutching his bed sheets with his spare hand, he reached towards her, satisfying one desire, fruitlessly trying to fulfill another.
And when Dewitt came to him, with Whiskey trailing behind her, touching her face and wincing from fresh cuts, her head bent low, he knew what he had to do. He had to make her, her best.
He pulled and picked bits and pieces of memory and mind, taking skills to give to her. He gave her intelligence and knowledge of medicine and of science, among other things. He gave her skills he wished he had, like the ability to cook, to paint, to write eloquently. He gave her as highly developed computer skills as he dared, because he needed to give her a chance to become her own person. He hoped and dreaded that might one day discover herself again, like he wished he could.
It was that desire that cause him to pour as much of her old personality as would fit into the wedge and to stuff the remainder with a tinge of doubt at what the Dollhouse was doing, so that she'd put him in his place. He made her just so, so that she could and would dislike him.
Otherwise, he knew, he wouldn't be able to stop himself. He'd flirt and attempt to be charming and ask her out. But it wouldn't be her. It would never be her, not for a long time and it would hurt, knowing that she wasn't herself. It didn't bother him with any of the other dolls, but it bothered him with her.
Not to mention there was the chance that Adelle would fry his brain if she ever found out his feelings toward their new doctor. They were doing the devil's work, there was no doubt about it, but there were rules, which he took great care not to break.
And when Whiskey awoke as Dr. Saunders, she smiled hesitantly, as she opened her eyes, blinking the sleep from her eyes. Then a scowl darkened her face, as she took him in, hastily asking if he needed anything more for her backup personality that he was supposedly making. He shook his head no and she left, her heels thumping against the carpeted floor.
He ignores her the best he can. It does no good. The few times he visits her office, he is fascinated by the fact that she seems to enjoy writing reports, yet does not seem to want to pick up a paintbrush in her spare time. He notes this in the cleanliness of her hands, too clean for someone working with colors that would stain, and the lack of any extra art on her walls. He sees her so little, yet notices so much. He hopes he is glimpsing something real. Pushing himself deeper and deeper into his work, he strives for perfection.
Today, he sets up a personality known as Eleanor Penn for Echo. She'll need the motivation to work as a hostage negotiator and he sets about finding the best kind of motivator there is- the past. As he wanders the Dollhouse, a headphone attached to his head, he boosts to Bode about his achievement with this personality. About how he made her perfect using her imperfections.
"Achievement is balanced by fault, by a lack," he begins, turning away from the treadmills. Whiskey-no Dr. Saunders catches his eyes as she speaks to another employee and his stomach flops as he realizes exactly who he is really talking about. "Can't have one without the other." He mutters regretfully, continuing, creating an illusion that Bode is his friend and will understand. "Everyone who excels is overcompensating for something. Running from something. Hiding from something."
She looks up at him and he smiles, unable to stop himself. There's a flicker of something in her eyes. She turns away.
"The past?" asks Bode.
And the present, he thinks, staring at her retreating form. "Sometimes," he replies dully, not caring about this conversation anymore.
'Don't you want to know who you are?' bubbles up in his throat; he swallows it down.
She walks away and for now, so does he.
A/N: Reviews are love. :)