A/N: Wow, I made DeWitt terribly mean in this one. Or at least ignorant. Please don't judge me. I didn't realize I was doing it. Sorry.
He knows DeWitt catches him sometimes, bent over a doll in the chair, whispering to a mind long-gone, but neither of them mention it, and so it stays a locked memory box in his mind. He's got a few of those about her. Only ever her, that all-consumingly bright, brilliant, geek who could be both annoyingly forceful and adorably shy within seconds of each other.
He never even thinks her name during the day. It's not like anyone can read his mind, but there are times when it just feels like the sheer feeling he has for her will drip out of his mind and drown the world until they can feel it too. He never thinks about her around other people, not if he can help it, but sometimes the things other people do just remind him so much of her. It could be a little thing, a small snort of laughter at something funny, someone grabbing a palette or some brushes to mix colors. It could be something big, a dark head of soft curls or the way someone walks that reminds him of her.
Either way, he'll make up an excuse to dash into his office nad hide behind his desk, and he'll fall to his knees and clutch at his heart and lose his breath and she'll be almost real. But then he'll remember her grey-green-blue-teal eyes and think how nobody could actually have hair the same exact color as hers, or he'll remember that she only ever let out a snort of laughter when something was truly funny, because she hid what emotions she could and amusement was easy for her to disguise.
But it still keeps braking him, what he doesn't have.
"You mean to tell me that in a week my brain will be entirely blank? Tabula rasa? Nothing there?" She crossed her arms, and knowing her would've cocked a hip if she'd been able to. As it was, she had to settle for her expression showing how completely put-off by this news she was. It had been five months since she began to lose feeling in her legs, three since she began losing motor function, and Topher hadn't lost hope.
"Yes, miss, I'm afraid the best we can do for you is put you somewhere comfortable once it's happened."
"Don't you dare." Topher broke in. He haad always been hostile to the hopeless doctors diagnosing her, worse to the nurses who patronised her, acting as though losing both muscle and mental memory meant losing maturity as well. "It's not going to happen."
"I'm sorry Mr. Brinks, it is what it is, and what it is is incurable." The doctor sighed, swishing out of the room in a white-coated huff of 'I-know-better-than-you'.
"Toph..." She began, drawing a half-defensive breath, "They already think I'm an invalid, you aren't helping with that."
"There has to be- has to be a way to fix this. I can make something, find something. I can-I can fix this." He paced the length of the room.
"I think it's a bit too late for that, Topher." she was quiet, smiling fondly through the tears. He wanted to smash something. To break it into the millions of pieces his heart was in. "It's completely incurable."
"No." He started, leaning over her to kiss her forehead. "No, I can fix this. I can help you. I can save you." She twined her arms around his neck and her hands into his hair. "I can save you." he was practically begging, for what he didn't know. She smoothed her finges through his hair, and still smiling murmured,
"No." She kissed him. "No, Topher, this isn't something you can save me from."
"But what if it is?" he whispered then, knowing she'd still listen, began talking louder. "What if you die only for me to find out I could've saved you, what then?" He pulled her closer, whispering words only for her. "I'd die. Without you I'd die."
"No you wouldn't." She says sharply, and he'd be startled, but this is always her, he'd never have her any other way. "You'd be brilliant and stupid and egotistical. You'd be cute, and funny and annoying as all hell." She smiles again, about to cry now and he thinks he might just die if she starts to lose it. "You'd be Topher Brinks and nothing less." And she smacks him over the head with a book as if to say 'so there'. He chuckles and kisses her temple and wishes he was a better technician.
It's been three days since then, and Topher has only four to go before she essentially "dies". He's racing against an imaginary clock, and he can't clock in enough hours to make a difference. She's told him she wants to be saved into a disk, laughs and tells him maybe if she's a computer chip she'll understand why he loves technology so much. He wishes she wouldn't say things like that. It brings it a bit closer to home that she's goign to be gone soon. He's got most of the tech finished, only the imprinting left.
He has an hour left with her before she disappears completely. She's clinging to him, and he holds her as close as he can. In a moment this will be all he has. She's crying, honestly crying for only the third time since he's met her, and she's whispering into his ear that she loves him, that she doesn't want to forget and why is this happening to her? He kisses her again and again and he wants to go in her place, to have her be the one left standing, but he knows that there's no way to do that besides this.
As she is wheeled into the room, he isn't allowed to touch her. They hold hands by proxy, a layer of oxygen between their open palms, before he pulls away to store everything she is on an imprinting disc. Her last words are an 'I love you', and his name. His heart rises into his throat and shatters down into his lungs, and he vows never to feel for anyone else. There is nothing more he can give her than his heart and the safety of the Dollhouse, so he will give her the most of both.
And he still visits her. Every day. He's tried so many times to imprint her with her old personality. God knows, he's tried. Again and again. He's given it to other dolls to see if it's the technology (it isn't, it never is.), but never for long. Only the amount of time it takes to affirm her personality, her mind is still safe. Every time he imprints her, she smiles at him. It's always a different face, some girl taken from the street, but the movement, the magic of the thing is always the same. And he wants to die so badly when she smiles, because she'll forget, she'll fade and he'll have lied to her one more time.
But he doesn't, Topher smiles back, and kisses her cheek and asks if she feels safe. She says yes, and he removes the imprint, because it isn't really her smile, it isn't her voice, and he could have her back but never really have her. The handlers and the overseers and the government never let a doll have their original personality imprinted back in, and she's no exception. He curses this technology, these rules, the disease, the imprints because it's never good enough. He lets the doll, whoever she is, walk away and mourns.
It makes him sick, knowing that he's accidentally sentenced her to a life of pain. He used to ask DeWitt if he could take her out of the list of Actives and give the missions to other dolls, but he's learned his lesson. The last time he asked, DeWitt had given her an imprint that held hardly any skills. He only realized later she had been sent to a man who had raped her viciously. He had smashed the imprint and quite calmly told Dewitt that should she do any such thing again, he'd sabotage every imprint to wear off halfway through each job. DeWitt merely shrugged and told him that this was what he'd signed up for.
He keeps her imprint in the safest place he knows. It's waterproof, protected, and nobody but him can get in. He takes it out every now and then, not always to check on her, sometimes just to make certain she's still there, still alive in some way. He runs his fingers over the tiny plate inscribed with her name: Juliet Novenine Sands.
It was her name that inspired him, actually. She told him her parents were looking through the NATO alphabet and decided they'd use it to find their children's names. Her brother was named Charlie and her sister Tango. He's never used any of their names in the Dollhouse. It would be sacreligeous to him. DeWitt and the others merely roll their eyes and take it for another quirk, but he thinks sometimes that if there were a doll named after her he might have a heart attack. Especially since he had given her a different name. He calls her India, finds it strangely appropriate for the odd child occupying his lover's mind. Juliet was a name that belonged to him now, belonged to the old her, not the emptiness using her body as a shield.
He even visits her body sometimes, when seeing her empty eyes and dark hair don't hurt too much. She'll sit there, tthe sameway she always has, even when she had her memory. She'll be still and fragile and half-broken and Topher will cry and the empty version of the woman he's always loved will ask him softly if he's alright.
And the only reply he can give is a lie.
A/N: Well. That was angsty. I actually thought this would be happier, but I must've forgotten which fandom I was writing for, eh? I've only seen about the first two episodes of the show, but I know most of the plot so meh. My original plan was that he created the technology and took the job because his girlfriend had a disease that wiped her mind. I guess my idea was that he did all that so he could save her mind and her body, like if you get rid of cancer before it spreads, you can save the patient.