Another Year Gone By

Fandom: Dollhouse

Pairing: Gen (Topher, Victor, & Adelle)

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: mild swearing

Archive: Ask

Author: Lily Zen

Notes: Written for fic_promptly. Dollhouse, Topher & Victor. The actual prompt was the first line of the story. The theme for the week was "first lines."

Disclaimer: Not mine.

They all used the dolls on occasion for personal reasons, but Topher's always seemed the most innocent in a profoundly sad way. Adelle studied the young genius from the catwalk. She wasn't usually prone to such sentimental displays—imagine, interrupting her schedule to fondly observe her employee!—but that day was a special day. It was Topher's Day of Diagnostic Testing. In her mind it was always capitalized.

They never spoke of it, the real reason for the "diagnostic tests," though she did know it, and Topher knew she knew it…but still she never said anything to him. Adelle thought it was his business, and his alone. He chose to spend the day at the dollhouse rather than among people his own age. He had, Adelle assumed, no friends, and very little in the way of family. Topher had forsaken them before he'd ever set foot in the dollhouse. She imagined that for someone like him normal people would be entirely too dull.

The light went off, the soothing blue light mounted in the chair, as the imprint finished uploading and the chair powered down.

A moment later Victor stood up, or at least it was Victor's body. Adelle wasn't sure who Topher had imprinted him with. He stretched, and Adelle eyed the slope of his shoulders and stretching of his spine appreciatively. She'd have to be dead not to look around her and notice all the beauty. The key was to never be drawn in by it. They were just empty shells on a beach.

Victor, or whomever Victor was supposed to be, slouched back into a casual posture, one that reminded Adelle of Topher himself. "Hey, buddy!" Victor called, and circled around the chair to give Topher a manly hug.

Topher slapped Victor's back as they said hello, and she could discern just enough of him to see that he was smiling. It was at that point she turned away, ignoring the uncomfortable sting in her eyes. The scene was private, and should be left as such.

As she shut the door to her office, Adelle thought a little melodramatically that if she'd known that in taking the position at the dollhouse she was surrendering her life outside of it, she might have done things a little differently. She wondered if Topher ever had regrets too. Then Ms. DeWitt firmly told herself to stop wondering.

"Hey, buddy!" Arms went around him, yanking him into a rough hug. There was some back-slapping, and Topher saying, "Hey, good to see you!"

"Yeah, man," Victor agreed as he pulled away, "It's been forever! Happy fuckin' birthday!"

The young genius stepped back a little ways with an awkward laugh. "Yeah, thanks," he said. He thought it was cheerful enough, but maybe he'd programmed Victor's personality with a little too much perceptiveness and empathy. Victor leveled him with a dark-eyed stare that reminded Topher of the way he'd looked when he had first come in, before they'd done the initial wipe. Anthony Ceccoli was an intense guy, and had been intensely haunted. That was one wipe that Topher hadn't thought twice about. In fact, it was cases like Victor's that proved to Topher that what he was doing was great. He was a humanitarian. Someday they'd offer him the Nobel Peace Prize on a silver platter for his work at the dollhouse.

"You're not happy," Victor stated, "What's the deal?"

Shrugging his shoulders in his wrinkled, unbuttoned button-up and not quite matching t-shirt, Topher tried to explain it in a way that wasn't too touchy-feely. "It's my birthday," he said simply, cryptically.

It was his birthday and he was there, at the dollhouse, with a doll who was made to think that they had been friends for years. Victor thought his parents lived in Long Beach, and that he'd grown up in a small beachfront house. He was a surfer, and a video game fanatic, and had started collecting comic books because his dad brought a few home for him every time he went away on business. His favorite color was orange because nobody liked orange, and when he was thirteen he'd let Topher talk him into shaving his hair into a Mohawk. Victor was filled to the brim with fabricated memories and feelings, and was his only companion on his birthday.

Again, Topher thought about the voicemail on his cell phone from his mom, wondering if he was going to come home and visit her. She'd probably be half in the bag if he left now. Then after that she'd start ranting about something utterly asinine, and he just wasn't in the mood to deal with that.

Victor sighed and walked through the door so he could flop on the couch.

Topher followed, but hovered over his computer uncertainly like he ought to be doing something, he just couldn't remember what.

"Dude," Victor began, "Don't tell me you're turning into one of those 'oh no, it's my birthday, woe is me' people." He crumpled up a piece of paper torn off the yellow legal pad on the coffee table, and lobbed it overhand at Topher's head. It hit with a barely audible sound, and bounced onto the ground.

The gesture was effective at breaking Topher's stalemate with the computer screen, and he turned to see Victor grinning at him. He couldn't help but to smile back. "Nah," Topher shook his head, deciding from that point onward to put his worries aside, and just enjoy that time. Victor was his best friend, and they were going to goof off and hang out, and do things that guys (geeky guys) do when they're looking to blow off some steam.

"Good!" Victor sprang up off the couch, "Then let's play some Halo!"

Topher watched as Victor set up the X-Box and marveled to himself at just how fucking brilliant he really was. Then he grabbed his lucky controller, and warned his friend, "You're about to be pwned."

"Oh, fuck off, man. Pwnage cometh swift and silent like the ninja."

"Ninja, my ass," Topher joked, and batted Victor's controller out of his hands. "Ha!"

Victor slanted a look at him, something full of mischief and humor, and the next thing he knew Topher was engaged in a wrestling match on the floor of his office, laughing his ass off as he struggled to get oxygen through the exertion and the playful headlock that Victor had him in.

His head was noogie'd fervently, and then released.

They were both laughing and red-faced, trying to catch their breath through their chortles.

"I hate you," Topher chuckled as he clutched his stomach.

Still laughing, Victor collapsed back onto the couch. "Hate you too."




"Ouch, Toph, that hurt," Victor placed a hand over his heart, "Right here." He sniffled and started some really fake, pitiful whimpering. "Like a knife. Bleeding. I'm bleeding." With his hand he mimed arterial blood spurting from his chest.

"Oh, shut up," Topher groused with a smirk. He picked up Victor's discarded controller and tossed it at him.

The dark haired man caught it in mid-air while Topher found his own video game controller and struggled back on to the couch as well. When he settled into his seat, Victor leaned and bumped his shoulder companionably.

"Happy birthday," Victor said and smiled at him.

Topher smiled back, and that time when he said 'thanks' he meant it.

"Do you see?" Mr. Dominic shouted, "He's in there goofing off, using our Active as his own personal plaything! You have to do something about this!"

Adelle eyed him coolly over the rim of a lowball glass, the scent of expensive, single-malt Scotch soothing her.

She swirled the ice in her glass idly.

"Mr. Dominic," she purred dangerously, "Are you or are you not the head of security here?" Without waiting for an answer—and enjoying his gaping fish-mouth when she just rode roughshod over his response—she continued, "And am I or am I not the head of this house? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that puts me in a position of greater authority than you. I will deal with Topher's antics in my own time and my own way, and I do not need you to tell me how to do my job. Now, instead of standing here issuing unwanted dictations, what say you run along and do what I'm paying you for?"

Dominic became red in the face, infuriated with her flippant attitude and orders. Adelle took pleasure in that. She wasn't particularly fond of Mr. Dominic. He had a problem with boundaries, mainly overstepping them. Eventually with enough correction he would fall in line just like any other dog. She looked forward to the day.

Dominic stormed off as much as he'd allow himself to. The door shut behind him with a loud click.

Inside her office, Adelle smiled at her computer monitor, and the image of a smiling, laughing Topher Brink.