Author's Notes: I could write tomes of reasons I wish Dollhouse had not been canceled, but right near the top is the epic romance between Topher and Bennett. Had the show continued, I think they could have developed a foe-yay relationship of epic proportions. So welcome to my AU. Here, the L.A. dollhouse split off from Rossum and began a rather corporate-espionage-laden war against it, separating our geeky Romeo and Juliet from one another. But our R&J are each more than a little twisted, especially Bennett, so they're hardly going to let a conflict of interest get in the way of their being together. In one way or another.
Bennett has four Tophers.
The first is, necessarily, a little boring. Hermes only recognizes Bennett as the woman who makes people different. He smiles shyly at her when he tells her that he is ready for his treatment, but otherwise walks right by her.
That doesn't mean he doesn't look like her Topher, though, all floppy gold hair and puppy eyes, so perhaps she shouldn't be surprised every time she finds herself unlocking his pod so that she can watch him sleep.
The second is her assistant. She had loved working with him, for those few hours before he realized she wanted to kill Echo. Now she could do so again, without a single memory of the treacherous doll (or even the dollhouse she came from) to get in the way of brainstorming and inventing. And if he was so overwhelmed by their combined genius afterwards that she had to suggest, every time, that he sit down in the nearest chair to think it over, she could live with that.
The third isn't actually Topher. He called himself that for a few months in middle school, but went back to Chris in honor of a science fiction author whose books he can't quite recall anymore. He's working his way through another grad school, now, because he's awfully smart but he knows this next doctorate could get him a position at the super-secret facility where his girlfriend works. Even he doesn't know what she does. He's pretty sure it's illegal, though, and has mentally prepared himself to resist torture in his refusal to give up her location when the Empire comes after her.
(She worked for weeks on Chris' backstory, because he needed to get Harding's approval as being no danger to Rossum if she was to take him outside of the facility; but of course, he wouldn't be, because that's just how he was wired.)
The fourth she keeps in a wrapped box under her bed, with a tag that reads "To Bennett, Princess of the Galaxy" because once she had had Chris give it to her as a birthday present (he was so proud of his handmade Minecraft mod) and giggled over the symbolic implications for days. Every night she checks that it's still there, and whispers good night.
She keeps it there until she can't possibly stand it any more, and when that day comes she sneaks it into the D.C. dollhouse at one in the morning and loads it into the imprint machine. She unlocks Hermes' pod, but this time she reaches in and shakes him awake, gently.
Hermes wakes slowly, his neural systems unused to rising before his pod is scheduled to open. His blond eyebrows lower a little in consternation. "Hello."
"Hello, Hermes. Are you ready for your treatment?"
Contentment replaces the confusion, and Hermes climbs from the pod in the wall—which reminds Bennett of nothing so much as a chest of drawers—and smiles. "I like my treatments," he says.
They navigate the twisting halls of the D.C. dollhouse, Hermes a few paces behind Bennett, inspecting his surroundings.
"What's wrong with the air?" He asks.
Bennett pauses and looks back at him. "Achluophobia," she replies. "It's dark and that scares you."
"Is that bad?"
"Not for you," Bennett says, and her pace increases.
When they reach the imprint room, Bennett hurries Hermes into the chair. The confusion has returned, but Hermes is eager to please and sits down. He wriggles a little to get comfortable; the movement looks natural for this body, far more so than the relaxed, languid motion of a doll. Bennett checks the wedge once more, then begins the imprint.
Hermes inhales sharply in pain, and Topher exhales as sharply in shock.
It's been so long, and she smiles to see him, really him, because she knows that the others were fakes. Only this one has ever been her equal.
Because only the real Topher remembers. He remembers that they're enemies; he remembers that she tried to kill Echo, and that he chose that silly doll over her; he remembers when he first snuck into the D.C. dollhouse, like some geeky James Bond, and hit her in the face in a panic; he remembers the second time he snuck in, when the alarm was raised too soon and, as metal gates were closing over their escape route, he called after Ballard, Echo, and Tony to leave him, because they had what they needed to get Perrin out of office and maybe, just maybe, Bennett would save him.
He remembers Bennett explaining to him that a doll, Hermes, had just left the D.C. house, and that she had convinced her superiors to let Topher take his place. She promised to take good care of him, and she had smiled just like she does now when she told him that she would hide the wedge, so she could wake him up sometimes.
She leans down and pushes his hair out of his face, as he looks at her with tears in his eyes and asks how long it's been.