It only ever happens once. Only once after that time they almost did it in the server room so many years ago. It happens after he starts calling her Claire but before he loses his mind completely.
He's been locked away in his office for days dashing madly between the imprint chair and his computer. Trying to repair the technology that caused the down spiral into this tragedy. She watches him from her office and if she tries hard enough, she can imagine that everything is just the way it used to be. And he's preparing an imprint for one of the dolls.
But there are slight details that ruin the illusion of days past. His computer screen is the only bright light in the room as the rest is lit by candle-light. They never know when the power will run out and Adelle is very strict about ensuring that the little power they have left is conserved. Claire knows that Topher hates the dark. She notices him shying away from the shadows that gather in the corners of his office where the candlelight doesn't reach. Still, he stands his ground and doesn't leave his office.
She and Adelle had to beg him to go back into his office. Cajoling him and convincing him had taken hours and in the end she had led him up the stairs; hand in hand. Soon enough he had become totally enthralled in his work as he took apart and adjusted the chair. Claire had watched him repair the monstrosity that had ruined everyone's lives and she hadn't been able to bear it. So she had retreated to her office.
This time Claire walks up the stairs to Topher's office in a desperate attempt to try and bring him downstairs. He's hardly eaten since he began working on the chair and she knows he hasn't slept. As important as the chair is, he needs to rest and eat.
She walks in and calls out to him, "Topher."
"Claire." Her name still sounds odd as replies. Since the server room incident after she found out she was a doll, he's mostly called her Dr. Saunders. The other refugees staying in the Dollhouse don't really know what to call her. Those who were once actives themselves call her Dr. Saunders. Only Caroline, Priya and Anthony call her Claire. Adelle makes a point of calling her Dr. Saunders; as if to make sure that she remembers to fulfill her role as the house doctor.
She asks how he's going and he stutters out reply.
"I don't - I don't know. I keep thinking that I've found something but then I don't, and I can't - I don't think I can. I don't know. It's like a puzzle with a piece missing. I put it together but it just doesn't fit – can't fit. And I pull it apart and start again but it's never finished."
Claire remembers listening to Topher ramble about technical jargon back in the better days, but nowadays his garbled sentences are worrying.
She kneels down beside him. Maybe she would be able to find the missing puzzle piece. She leans towards the pile of metal, plastic and wires that was the imprint chair but Topher pushes her away. She can't help but remember when he pushed her off him in the server room. Pushed her away. Unable to stand her. As she did then, she slaps him hard.
He holds his hand to his reddening cheek and gazes at her with an expression of shock and hurt. He looks more like his old self than he has in months. As Claire looks at him she feels her anger disappear. She starts to cry. She had meant to marry her slap with a snide retort but now all that's coming out of her mouth are sobs.
Topher immediately panics and moves towards her, placing a tentative yet comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Please don't cry. Please - Look, I'll fix it, I promise. The piece is here somewhere. I'm sorry."
"Sorry isn't good enough," she manages to cry in between sobs. "Sorry won't fix all this. Sorry won't bring everyone back. Sorry won't turn back time. We have to do better than sorry."
"We have to be our best," Topher whispers and repeats the horrible sentence over and over. That phrase makes anger rise again, like the tide coming in and she has to refrain from slapping him again just to make him stop.
It's a horrible joke that now he's the broken one. She's still broken; but in comparison to her, he's shattered into tiny little pieces. She wonders if she's the one who broke him.
Claire only realizes that she's still crying when Topher reaches out and wipes away one of her tears with a fingertip. The tear glints in the candle light as it drops from his finger to the floor and is absorbed into the carpet. Something else lost, never to be regained. Though there's plenty more tears where that one came from. She feels as though she could cry forever.
He brings one hand up to cup her face while the other caresses her cheek softly and she feels his wet finger trail across her skin. She wonders what the others would think if they could she the two of them now. The broken doll and her broken god. Both so very broken.
Sometimes she wonders why she decided to stay underground with Topher, Adelle and the others. She doesn't really know what's keeping her here. A sense of duty to heal those she can with her medical knowledge? A sense of belonging in the only home she's ever truly known? A fear of the outside world? Or feelings for someone she abhors?
She watches as Topher leans forward until their lips are only inches apart. She isn't sure if he's hesitating or just doesn't realize how very close he is. His face is expressionless, but the blank mask could be hiding any number of emotions.
"Topher," she breaths. He doesn't move. For some reason she needs him to make the move. Maybe it won't be so bad if he starts it. Maybe she will still be able to pretend that she hates him. She doesn't want to beg but she needs this. "Topher, please," she gasps and she feels him exhale, his breath caressing her skin as he leans forward and presses his lips to hers
The kiss starts off as chaste, his lips remain un-parted. But that doesn't last long. She's wanted this ever since that time in the server room. The tantalizing promise of what could have been still remains lingering in her memory. The kiss becomes passionate as she parts her lips and her tongue begs him for entrance. He obliges and, overcome, she pushes him back against the wall. They're both broken and no one can fix them now.
Topher turns them so that her back is up against the wall and he runs his hands up under her dress. She can feel the solder burns etched into his fingers as they brush over her thighs. Tomorrow she'll bring him a pair of gloves to wear while he works on the chair.
They can't see much in the dim candlelight but somehow they manage to take each other's clothes off. She grasps his hands and guides them to zipper at the back of her dress. At first his hands linger there but when she groans at him to hurry up he slides the zipper down and her dress falls to the floor. Their clothes are removed and discarded hurriedly. They don't have much time. She feels like if they take too long, she will go insane in the process.
She takes him in her hand and guides him inside. By now they're both panting and her cheeks are flushed. She hadn't realized how cold she felt until he was inside her. The cold dispelled by his warmth.
He moans her name and Claire whispers his in response. She's wonders if after this he'll go back to calling her Dr. Saunders. Never again will she be able to hear her name on his lips without thinking of this moment.
She leaves bruises on his pale skin when she grips him tight. She leaves scratches and crescent moon shaped cuts all down his back with her nails. Marking him as hers. It's been too long and she has all but forgotten the unspoken rules of a secret relationship. Don't leave a mark. But it's Topher and with him the rules have never applied. He doesn't mark her. Her skin remains pale and smooth.
She wonders if she's taking her anger out on him or if the marks she leaves are tokens of her lust. They've been dancing around each other for years and the moment is finally upon them. And so is the end of the world. She doesn't care any more. She doesn't care what the others will think when they see the un-concealable marks she's leaving on Topher's skin. She doesn't care that she used to hate Topher. She doesn't care that she might still hate him.
"God," she cries out. "Oh, God." The exclamation has a whole new meaning because isn't Topher her God? Her creator and she his creation?
She shudders as pleasure threatens to overwhelm her and she wishes this one moment could last forever. Her teeth break the skin on his collarbone and she feels his hand tighten where it is tangled in her hair. Then he moans her name and she gasps his in response. He's spilling inside her and crying out meaningless words and white light is flashing behind her eyes. A perfect moment.
Isn't that what the Dollhouse used to do? Sell one perfect moment. Wasn't she a part of that just by working there? Weren't they both part of it? After all, when you can have one perfect moment who cares about the rest?