Dollhouse isn't mine. Disclaim'd.

"You comin' tonight, Bennie?" Caroline asks, flinging the door open and throwing her bag down on her bed.

"Coming where?" Bennett asks, barely looking up from her textbook (she never admits when Caroline's dramatic entrances startle her).

"The party at the poli sci house," Caroline rolls her eyes, her tone saturated with duh, like Bennett should remember it. She's been spending a lot of time there; it's her kind of crowd.

"I don't know," Bennett frowns. "I was planning on finishing that paper I have due on Wednesday."

"You have the rest of the weekend, plus Monday and Tuesday, to do that," Caroline exclaims. "C'mon. We'll dress you up, meet some boys…"

Bennett wrinkles her nose. "You know I don't do well with parties, Caroline."

"You've been doing a lot better," Caroline assures her. "Hey, practice makes perfect, right?"

"Practice makes better," Bennett corrects instantly.

Caroline just shakes her head, laughing. "So are you gonna go with me or not?"

A sigh. "You won't let me say 'not,' will you?"

They've been here almost two hours now, and Caroline is knocking back drinks with the best of them. Bennett feels she's compromised plenty: she let Caroline pick out her outfit (there's a shorter skirt than usual, there are heels) and she's here and she's even had some shots of Smirnoff. (She loathes feeling so floaty-headed.)

But now it's getting late, and she's verging on being done with all of this. She's got a beer in one hand and she's biting the nails of the other. Her tongue feels thick, her eyelids are heavy, but she's keeping an eye on Caroline. Caroline can hold her liquor better, but she's also drinking more, and once Bennett sees her fling arms around some girl and kiss her deeply, she knows it's time to go. She's trusting the knotty feeling her stomach has.

She sets out across the room, but Caroline finds her first. She's all smiles. "Havin' fun?" she chirps, and she cuts off Bennett's "no" by pulling her toward the dance floor.

Caroline's hand never leaves Bennett's as she drags her into the crowd. Bennett is warm – there are too many people, people packed together and gyrating, it's bodies against bodies. It's reasonable to feel flushed.

Once they're close to the speaker, Caroline stops short, and Bennett's eyes widen. "Why are we…?"

"'Cause it's a party, Ben," Caroline smirks. "At parties, you dance."

"I don't," Bennett insists.

"You do," Caroline insists right back, and she throws her arms around Bennett's waist. Bennett yelps in surprise, but there's no time to dwell on it, Caroline's swaying her to the beat. "You loose yet? Steam all blown off?"

"I don't – I mean, steam, I don't – need to?" Bennett shouts over the music.

"Everyone needs to," Caroline laughs. "Especially you." She lets her hands slip down a bit, to Bennett's hips, her ass; Bennett looks away hurriedly. All that's in her mind is Caroline pressing against the other girl (someone prettier and more fascinating than her) and she's shocked her face isn't betraying that.

"E-especially?" she finally stammers.

"Yeah," Caroline says. "You're pretty wound up, babe."

She's never going to get used to Caroline calling her "babe," she's positive of that. "Babe" or "honey" or the occasional tossed-out "sexy"; even "Bennie" is something that only her little brothers have ever called her, and that only when they were still babies learning to talk.

"I don't mean to be," Bennett mutters, biting her lip. Caroline's sees that she won't (she's been trying to give her the chance to come to it on her own) so she takes Bennett's arms, resting them on her own shoulders and scooting closer so they fall naturally.

"I know, Bennie," Caroline says gently, and as she leans in, Bennett's sure she's going to kiss her. She's sure; it feels like a movie, she's a bit surprised that she's sort of hoping for it…

But no. She's just leaning her head on Bennett's shoulder a moment, whispering, "You good to let me twirl you?"

"I –" Bennett starts, but she doesn't have a chance to finish. Caroline's moving her arms for her again, taking her hand, spinning her out and around. Bennett squeals, but it gives way to a giggle. A few more twirls and one of the absurd shoes she's forced into falls off; Caroline starts to laugh, too.

"Look out," she says to no one in particular, and she leads Bennett to the couch before going searching for the shoe. Bennett sits on her hands, making faces at the music (it seemed less painful when they were moving to it, but that's painful to remember now, too) and waiting for Caroline to return, and when she does, she's got the heel in one hand and a smile on her face.

"Milady," she bows grandly, kneeling down to slip the shoe on Bennett's foot. Bennett leans forward – this could be another moment, couldn't it? Their faces are right there close to each other, and…no. Instead, Caroline scoots up on the couch next to her, taking her hand again and sighing contentedly as she surveys the party.

Bennett feels safe here. She feels like she wants this moment to linger and last. Caroline pulls her a bit closer, and her hopes perk up again (foolishly, she knows this) until Caroline murmurs, "I have someone I want you to meet."

Bennett hides her disappointment as she lets Caroline pull her up and off. First, another drink (Caroline permits her something lemonade-flavored now, which sits better with her), then off to a group in the backyard.

The "someone" is Jamie, Jimmy, something (there's music playing loudly out here, too, and she doesn't want to ask again and look like she hadn't been paying attention); he's a psych major.

"That's sorta brain stuff, too," Caroline says by way of explanation.

He's not Bennett's usual type, if she had a type: he's tan, his pants are too tight, he's wearing a fedora. But she knows she's supposed to play nice, so she does. Caroline's disappeared, and what's-his-name is nice enough (or oblivious enough) not to notice her longing gaze.

He does most of the talking, and she nods tiredly along to all of it that needs to be nodded to. When her bottle is empty, he offers to recycle it, but once he's back, he pulls her from her seat and, leaning into her like Caroline had, he kisses her. He tastes like cigarettes, but it shuts him up, so that's got to count for something.

When she shuts her eyes, she imagines the other way this could have gone. Should have gone. It's Caroline's lips against hers (the cigarette taste explained away by that slut from before, Caroline's words, and she's so sorry for that) and Caroline's the one asking her "Upstairs?"

She nods. She might as well.

There's a bedroom down the hall, empty; Jamie-Jimmy pulls her skirt off unceremoniously (Caroline in her mind tugs at the zipper gently and allows her a chance to fold the skirt up nice and neat) and he kisses her again. She supposes he's good at it, not that she has much to go by, and she tries to enjoy herself. She knows that's what Caroline wanted for her. To come out tonight, have anonymous sex or something like it with a boy, to loosen up. Never mind that she doesn't do any of that regularly.

She's trying to have fun, but she doesn't believe in magic. Even if she wasn't seeing Caroline at every turn (she's fairly sure this is what a crush feels like; it's another thing she doesn't have much experience with, but she vaguely recognizes the sensation) she wouldn't try to make this romantic with him. It's no dream, no momentous occasion. It's just something that happens.

With Caroline, it'd have been different, yes: softer, sweeter. But that's because Caroline is her fantasy, her fairy tale. Something she can't have in reality. Jamie-Jimmy is reality, and she's played by the rules.

She goes straight to Caroline when she's done, though. Caroline is doing shots with one of the hosts in the kitchen, laughing loudly; Bennett just taps her on the shoulder, and, voice flat, says, "I'm ready to leave."

"Have a good time with Jamie?" Caroline asks, turning away from the others and focusing all her attention on Bennett. She's quiet, but she's grinning. Even if she hadn't planned it, it had been a part of her design. Pawn the little girl off on the nearest someone who'd have her, give her a new experience for the collection.

"It was fine," Bennett mutters, watching Caroline for telltale reactions: what, she's not sure, but disappointment that it didn't rock her world? Happiness that she wasn't into that pretentious Neanderthal? Something? "Now I just want to shower and sleep."

"'Course," Caroline nods, waving goodbye to the others and, damn her, taking Bennett's hand again to lead her out the door. Maybe she's just pretending not to see the ache in Bennett's eyes.