A/N: I wrote this a while ago for a ficathon on LJ and for some reason I never posted it here. This is kind of a crack!fic, but could actually work in continuity if you thought about it a little bit. Saunders and Perrin, I had to do it for the love of these two actors because they never appeared on the show together and I think that's a damn shame.
Disclaimer: I do not own Dollhouse. It belongs to Joss. But he told me to play in it, so...
So the story is set after Perrin's episodes, somewhere in between "The Left Hand" and "Meet Jane Doe". Enjoy the gratuitous fun I had scheming up a reason to write these two characters together, I sure did!
She had expected there to be security guards posted outside the hotel room, keeping the mad world out or keeping the broken man in, but there was no one. Claire knocked twice, the feeling inside of her suddenly overwhelmed with anxiousness, and she waited in the long corridor for an answer. After a moment the door opened, a small crack at the edge, and Claire could see the beginnings of a man's arm. She was given no invitation and was ordered to speak her name and reason for being there. What was she to say? I know the truth. Everything is a lie. I can help you. Why was she even there? What had compelled her to seek out this man anyway? She had no right to raise those demons with him, demons he had seemingly vanquished not that long ago. But there was still something Claire couldn't let go of.
"My name is Claire Saunders." She was to go on from there, speaking her reason. She hesitated. The door didn't move, nor did the man behind it. Finally, Claire took a breath. "I'm a victim."
The door closed.
Claire let out a shaky breath, both disappointed and relieved, and stood still at the door. What had she expected anyway? Did she think that she would be the one to make a difference in this man's stance, that she would move him in some way? Madeline Costley was a victim but she had been treated like a criminal, all in the public eye. Now where was she?
She raised her arm once more to knock again but the door was opened for her on the other side, still a little hesitantly. The man before Claire made her silently suck in a breath, as she had expected a tall and confident man to befall her but what she received was a haggard, drunk and lost soul. His plain white shirt was rumpled, split and unbuttoned, and the black slacks he wore appeared to be unwashed. His breath was hot as he faced her, strained from hours of downing scotch. He looked at her through bleary eyes, the blues in them covered with tiny veins of red. Bloodshot. The sandy hair she was used to seeing perfectly shaped over his scalp was dishevelled and quite a mess. This was not the man the camera so loved, the man on the news every night at six. This was quite a different story.
"Daniel Perrin?" she had to ask, as if to check herself.
He gave a nod, slight and empty. Yes, she had the right man.
The door opened fully and Perrin stepped out of the way, a clear invitation. Claire walked through with a stirring apprehension for what was about to happen, and she knitted her eyebrows when she thought he hadn't even registered the fact that her face was covered in deep, red scars.
Claire looked about her as she paced a few steps through the hotel room, its spaciousness overwhelming and expansive furnishings luxurious in their upholstery. Despite this, there was a large mess happening about the entire room, with papers and folders and clothes and half-empty liquor bottles spread around the tables and benches. Claire knew from the press conferences that Perrin hadn't occupied this room long, a couple of days at the most. There was a lot of mess for just a couple of days.
"Can I offer you anything...?" He was searching for her name; he had already lost it.
"Claire," she responded kindly, even smiling over at him. "And no, thank you. I'm fine for now."
There was silence as Perrin struggled with what was happening, his reality having been washed away to nothingness about ten drinks ago. Claire just looked at him, trying not to stare, but unable to keep her eyes off the man before her. Daniel Perrin, broken and alone. He had said himself in front of the whole world that he had lost everything, the fruitless pursuit of conspiracy had taken his life away, and it was unclear to Claire just how aware of that conspiracy he really was. In any case, that was what Claire had come for, that was her mission. She needed to share with someone her experiences of the Dollhouse and what they had made of her.
She began as simply as possible, treading lightly. "I know what you've been through, what you have experienced over these last few months, but there are still some things you need to hear."
They both stood squarely in the centre of the room, a patterned rug beneath their feet marking the floor in deep reds and blues. Perrin was the first to move as he turned to collect a glass of scotch from the kitchen bench. He downed half of it at once.
"I'm done with Rossum. I know what the truth is. Nothing you say will make me pursue this whole mess again."
With that, he emptied the glass. Claire thought him incredibly coherent for somebody so intoxicated, but to her his words sounded manufactured. Like a rehearsed speech, ready to defend every accusation. Claire knew it well.
"You haven't said anything about my scars."
Perrin looked at her with piercing eyes, straight into her own; he did not search her face like every other person she had met over the months of being a runaway.
"For most people they're the first thing that's noticed," Claire concluded wistfully, a small smile playing at her mouth.
Perrin relaxed into her presence as he leaned against the cold, marble bench. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes, sighing quite heavily. When he looked at her again he spoke quietly.
"They are noticeable. They were the first things I noticed about you, but I've seen too much in my life to be shocked by something like that anymore."
"The Dollhouse did this to me."
It was a half-truth, but that was all Perrin really needed to know about Claire's wounds. Alpha was too large a presence for a first meeting.
Perrin shook his head decisively. "There is no Dollhouse."
Claire approached him with tentative steps, though her voice remained calm and sure. "There is. There are many. They do horrible things, they make their victims do horrible things, then they wipe away the memories until all that remains is a shell. I've been inside, I know everything."
"It's a lie," Perrin said, sounding more and more rehearsed.
They were close. Claire was standing with her head titled up, towards his face. "I can show you."
She reached out her hand and took his, extended it out to the back of her neck and pressed his fingers down, hard. Perrin looked at Claire with horror, and she stared back with assurance.
"It's a GPS strip, so they can keep track of me," she whispered to him. "The Dollhouse is real, and it goes deeper than you can imagine."
Perrin shook his head again, trying to remain disbelieving. "No, it's not real. It can't be. They told me, they showed me..."
Claire let his hand slip from her grasp, and Perrin's arms fell heavily, his hands clutching the side of the kitchen bench, his head shooting up at her accusingly.
"You're trying to trick me," he said sternly, eyes narrowing.
This time it was Claire who shook her head. "Madeline Costley had one just like it. The people you were working with would have known that, but they didn't tell you. They were using her. They used you. They wanted to clear Rossum's name, and they used you to do it."
"You don't know anything."
"You know I'm right," Claire said quietly.
Perrin didn't argue any further. He became quiet, disoriented and uncertain.
Claire had known, after having followed his pursuits of Rossum and the Dollhouse and being shocked at the outcome of his investigation, that Perrin had been a victim of Rossum, just like she had been. She could barely begin to guess what would happen to him now, what he would do, but she had shared with him the truth. That was all that really mattered.
She raised her hand again and it fell gently across Perrin's cheek, her palm finding a mould against his skin and her fingers lightly brushing the unruly hairs from his forehead. Claire's thumb stroked the curve of his high cheekbone and she leaned close to him. She felt his hands on either side of her waist, his fingertips light against the soft fabric of her dress. His breath was hot against the side of her face, the smell of alcohol strong in the air between them, but Claire didn't mind.
"I'm running from them," Claire spoke softly, calmly. "But I can help you bring them down."
She pressed her lips softly against the side of Perrin's neck, then moved her head back so that was she facing him again. He looked at her, his eyes staring through her, and while Claire knew this wasn't a good idea, that she should walk away from the broken man, she was compelled to stay. His fingers gripped her body tighter, pulling her towards him. With her other hand she closed her fingers around the edge of his open shirt and pried it further apart, then she opened her hand and placed it flat against his chest, pushing down. She waited until he closed his eyes before she leaned in and pressed her lips to his, softly, and Perrin didn't stop her. He was complicit, empty and lost, and Claire knew he needed this as much as she did.
Claire pulled away and tried to smile. She couldn't. She realised Perrin wasn't smiling either. He had grown cold, colder than he'd been the entire time she'd been in the room, and his eyes filled with something Claire couldn't quite recognise. Her hands were still on him, and he suddenly took his away from her waist and violently gripped both of her wrists, dragging her in closer.
"I'm not fighting them anymore," he whispered to her dangerously, his voice coarse. "I'm done fighting."
He roughly kissed her, his mouth closing over hers, and he freed one of her hands so he could fold his over the back of her head, keeping her still. He pressed hard, needing to feel that one scar that crossed in a line over her lips, needing to know what it felt like.
Perrin was strong but he was also very drunk. He stumbled forward, one foot fumbling over the other, moving Claire back with him. Feeling threatened, Claire pushed him away with her free hand, and while he still held one of her wrists, Perrin stopped kissing her. Claire looked at him, disgusted, and Perrin stood with his head partly bowed, his face reddening with shame. Realising he still held her wrist, he let it go quickly, keeping his hands open and in front of him, easing the danger.
Heatedly, Claire raised her voice and backed away from him. "I gave you the truth. I offered you something few ever get to know. Don't you dare try to abuse that."
Perrin couldn't look at her as he tried to apologise. "I'm...I didn't know what I was doing..."
Claire looked at him hard while she steadily controlled her heavy breathing, the panic in her fading slowly. "That's the truth laid bare. What you do with it is up to you."
She touched her fingers to her lips gingerly as she walked away from him, towards the door. Before she could reach it he had moved behind her, grabbing her hand. She snatched it away quickly.
"What you've told me tonight won't change anything," he said coldly, again decisive in his manner, resilient. "I know who I am."
Claire started at the words, a very echo of herself all those months ago, calm and assured, confident in an identity so far removed from anything that was real, and yet remained real for months after and months to come. Daniel Perrin knew who he was; Claire Saunders didn't know who that was. She thought she had, when she'd seen him talk to the cameras, when she'd knocked on the door, when she'd softly kissed him. Now, he was a bigger mystery to her, broken still but not in the way she had thought. He was stuck on repeat, unable to accept the truth for what it was, holding on to the lie because maybe that was better. He knew who he was. He was a Doll.
She gripped the door handle, turned it and stepped to the side. Claire looked at Perrin one last time with a sad smile. "So did I."