AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Dedicated to princessjames21, whom I adore.

This chapter focuses a lot on deception, has a cliffhanger and I think that you'll enjoy the Topher/Ashlyn moments as much as me and yes, Paul is in this chapter and yes, he is just as much a problem for Ashlyn as the Dollhouse soon…

WARNINGS: Language, Dark Themes, Sex, Violence, Blood

ENJOY!

xxxx

Ashlyn and Topher – 2009

"Did I fall asleep?" Ashlyn asked gently, emotionless.

Topher nodded. "For a little while…"

"Shall I go now?" Ashlyn asked, still emotionless.

"If you like," Topher replied with a grin on his face.

"If you don't tone the smile down, we can't pull this off," Ashlyn said smiling a little bit. "This means I'm going to have to sleep in that pod…I don't like this. What if I just go to Adelle and ask if they can use me as an asset instead of an Active?"

She and Topher had been trying to figure out how to do this for the last hour or two and Ashlyn was going to need to be Summer soon. That meant being with the other Actives and being calm and innocent and at first Ashlyn was more than on board with it, but she had since in the last couple of hours thought against it. It was easy to think about it and she and Topher both wanted this to work, but they couldn't, could they? She had engagements lined up Adelle wouldn't let her out of and Topher had been informed that he might have to wipe her from time to time.

Ashlyn had had a different idea and Topher thought it had some merit, but he'd never done it before and didn't want to use Ashlyn as his guinea pig. He loved her too much to potentially damage her even though he had her backed up on her wedge and would back her up as much as he needed to so he wouldn't actually lose her…ever. Still, he thought that if she went to Adelle with it, then maybe Adelle would like the idea and let her out of her contract since Adelle had always somewhat cared for Topher and what Topher wanted as long as it didn't destroy the House.

"If you tell Adelle, she will make me test out your theory," Topher told her slowly. "I don't want to do that to you…there are other Actives I can test it out on."

Ashlyn shook her head. "No you can't do that."

"Why can't I?" Topher countered her.

"Because they're Actives and I'm a whole personality with memories," Ashlyn replied with a gentle shrug. "So you have to use me in order to test it out."

"I'm not testing out anything on you," Topher responded firmly, sighing when Ashlyn got out of the chair and walked up to him. "Don't give me the puppy dig eyes—I refuse to care about them."

Ashlyn laughed a little bit and rolled up onto the balls of her feet, pressing her lips to Topher's, and he responded almost immediately. He knew that he wasn't supposed to, but she was here and she wanted to be with him and they'd been honest and even though she was still hiding part of the story, Topher didn't know that and he wanted Ashlyn close to him. So he kissed her passionately and groaned when she pulled back and then put her hands on his shirt and looked at his chest before looking him in the eye one more time.

"Just test me just the one time…" Ashlyn pleaded with him. "Just the one time."

Topher sighed loudly. "Fine, just the one time."

"Good, I'm glad the puppy dog eyes worked," Ashlyn teased, kissing him swiftly and then getting back into the chair. "Just give me one skill…just one."

"It was the kissing that did me in," Topher replied as he went to his computer. "Just one skill it is."

Ashlyn smiled a little bit. "The kiss, huh? Then I'm going to have to kiss you a lot more often—you should really cash in on those romantic engagements you can get out of me."

"I would rather not," Topher admitted shaking his head.

When Ashlyn looked over at him, Topher felt like maybe he had hurt her feelings and he had a little bit, but only because she didn't understand why he didn't want to do that with her. Sure, she was technically a doll now, but that didn't mean that she wasn't her as she had her personality intact and Topher knew that, it was just the principle of the matter. Then again, Ashlyn's mind was focused elsewhere and Topher knew that he was going to have to correct this because he had her worrying for no good reason right now.

Ashlyn was thinking that Topher had perhaps found someone else to be with in all this time and maybe she was his dirty little secret. Then she had chastised herself about it because underneath the amoral attitude, Topher was a pretty good guy and he would never cheat on a new girlfriend with a doll…in fact he would never see her as just a doll. Maybe that was vain of her, but their love wasn't just something that Topher would or could throw away and so instead she just looked away from him and got comfortable in the chair and that broke Topher's heart.

"I don't want to pay out the ass to have sex with my girlfriend," Topher explained shrugging. "As much as I would love to just go at you, there are rules and regulations set in place for every romantic engagement."

Ashlyn nodded gently as the words sank in. "So I'd be like some high end prostitute, basically?"

"Yeah, basically," Topher responded shaking his head. "I don't think of you like that and I'm sure as Hell not going to treat you like that. I'm going to give you some Kung Fu and you can do with it what you please. Just don't kill anyone because Actives don't do that. They are calm. At peace. They are—"

"—they're whatever you tell them to be," Ashlyn responded with a gentle laugh that Topher had been missing all this time.

"That's very true," Topher said and then he got a serious look on his face. "This is going to hurt...not being an actual Active, you'll remember the pain too."

Ashlyn nodded at that and looked over at him. "I can handle a headache, Toph. I've been through far worse than that…"

xx

Remy – 2009

Colin had been waiting for Remy to get home and when she did, she just growled and wheeled into the living room. He closed up the newspaper and ran his fingers through his hair, knowing by the look on her face that he was about to get an earful and he knew that he didn't even deserve it, but Remy got the benefit of the doubt a lot. While he had genuine feelings for her, Colin knew that Remy was bitter about her legs and that she would always be bitter about her legs, so he let her yell and rant and even be alone when she asked for it.

At the same time, Colin pushed her.

He had wanted to be a part of her life before the accident had happened and when Remy had been brought back to him, he sore never to leave her. All he wanted was for her to understand that this last year and a half had indentured him to her but not because he pitied her or any of that—no, Colin loved her and just wanted her to know that. Even in a wheelchair, Remy was spontaneous and full of life and she loved with this large heart that no one could really see if they just looked at the girl in the wheelchair.

Remy put others above herself even though sometimes she was a bit selfish, but she was human and it wasn't like the wheelchair had taken away who she was. Yeah, she had days where she was so depressed that she couldn't even look at herself or anyone else, but she loved Colin too and she was strong for her family and for Jenna and Jenna's parents…she was strong because Ashlyn would have wanted her to be. The problem, was that Remy couldn't even tell Colin how she felt because she was so guarded that she couldn't see straight.

Ashlyn knew that she had ruined all of this for Remy and was trying to figure out how to make it up to her despite her charade with Topher, and Remy did blame Ashlyn a little bit. She was so guarded with others—especially where love was concerned—because the one person that had always stood by her and taken her as she was had up and become an Active in the Dollhouse when things got tough. Remy's best friend had given up everything, even Remy, because she hadn't been strong enough herself to deal with any of it and even though Remy understood it, she was furious about it.

"I saw Ashlyn," Remy said angrily, setting her camera down.

Colin's eyes widened. "Wait, what? I thought that she was in rehab…"

"Well she was wandering about trying to collect herself and now she knows I'm alive!" Remy continued, knowing that Colin knew nothing of the Dollhouse really existing. "She was so…she missed me and she was surprised and she was tearful and it wasn't enough!"

"They didn't tell her that you made it? This whole time they just let her stew away when she could have come and been with you?" Colin asked angrily. "I bet you can sue for that."

Remy found herself tearing up out of frustration. "She was my best friend!"

"She's still your best friend, Rem…she didn't know," Colin said shaking his head. "She would have been here the second she knew."

"How can you know that?!" Remy asked him angrily, tears spilling out onto her pale cheeks. "Maybe she doesn't give a shit!"

"You don't believe that," Colin responded as he stood up and came over to her, "you know you don't."

Nodding, Remy let Colin wrap his arms around her and pick her up, even though she hated to be picked up because she could never remove herself when she wanted without the mobility in her legs. Still, she needed to be held right now and Colin knew her well enough to know that even though he would never tell her that out loud—she hated when people told her that they knew her. Besides, he didn't want to upset her when he had her this close to him right now, where he could hold her and protect her as much as he could from the rest of the world.

"I just wanted her to be here!" Remy exclaimed shaking her head. "I just wanted her to be here and be near me! She wasn't!"

Colin nodded and stroked Remy's hair as she cried into his chest and he sat on the couch. "I know, Rem, I know…she didn't have a choice."

"You always have a choice!" Remy exclaimed, sobbing into him.

"Except when you don't…" Colin replied slowly.

xx

Dollhouse – 2009

Adelle had a feeling that something was off in her Dollhouse.

Even so, she needed to send Summer off on an engagement and told Topher to take care of it, who got together a folder of information for Ashlyn and handed it to her, noticing that Ashlyn was rubbing her head a little bit. When she noticed that Topher had seen her rubbing her temples, however, she just waved it off like it was nothing and started to recite back to him some of the key elements of this personality that she was supposed to know like her name, age, parents, some background information. It wasn't the same as her actually being imprinted, but it would have to work.

"Topher?" Adelle asked as she came into his office, Ashlyn leaving with her Handler. "Have a moment?"

Topher nodded slowly. "Sure do, Boss. What can I do you for?"

"While I'm aware of your past with Ashlyn, I don't believe it is good for you to be seen spending so much time with Summer the Active," Adelle told him bluntly. "Mr. Langton has suggested that we use her to the extent of her potential and I have to agree with him. While we can't get her out of her contract so early, we can amend it greatly."

"Ashlyn has ideas of her own for that…" Topher explained slowly, but he wasn't elaborating.

The idea of using Ashlyn as a test subject made Topher upset and jittery and he kind of regretted saying what he had said just now too. It was only going to put more ideas into Adelle's head than she already had and then Topher would be asked to carry out whatever crazy scheme they all came up with. He was the programmer and while he had a pretty solid relationship with Boyd, Ivy and Adelle he thought, he was still used for his purpose: programming the dolls.

Sometimes Topher wrestled with that, but not enough to stop what he was doing because he was far too fascinated by the human brain and so was Ashlyn. At first Topher had thought that Ashlyn was going to talk him out of all of this, but she had always pushed him to be better and even helped him to perfect some of his tech. In fact sometimes Topher even gave Ashlyn ideas and he wondered why she had settled to be a nurse when she could have been a surgeon. She had the hands and the love the job to be it, she just had instead wanted to be a nurse.

Admirable, but strange.

Regardless, he knew that Ashlyn had some idea of what it was that she wanted and should he bring it up and Adelle veto it, then they no longer had the upper hand here. Adelle would be aware of what they might try and buckle down on them and right now Topher just wanted a sure way to get Ashlyn back so if that meant bending some rules, then so be it. He smiled at Adelle who looked him over curiously and then she chewed on her lip. She knew that there was something going on, but she didn't know what it was or to what extent it was being played.

"I am in the process of petitioning to give her a staff position, but until then I need my Active and I need her in the best of health." Adelle told Topher firmly. "Anyone who gets in the way of that will have a lot of explaining to do."

Topher nodded because it was a warning not a threat. "Understood, Boss."

"Good…back to work," Adelle said gently.

"Yep," Topher agreed with a nod.

He watched as Adelle walked out of the room and he took a deep breath, wondering how much it was that Adelle actually knew. Her body language had suggested that she was at least onto him but that didn't mean that she knew what it was—still, he had to be careful or he could get Ashlyn sent to the Attic. So, he looked over some of the schematics and decided it was probably best to call Remy and see if there was anything that he could do to get his mind off of things. It was that or he needed to call Jenna and actually, it would be best if he did both of those things.

xx

Ashlyn, Jenna and Remy – 2006

Sometimes even though they were clearly adults, Remy and Ashlyn liked to have sleepovers with Jenna and tonight they were all having a Scream marathon. They were some of their favorite movies and sometimes they even cast themselves in movies…picked out the characters that reminded them the most of themselves. Jenna was definitely Sydney, the star of it all that could stand on her own two feet, Remy was the Deputy Dewey all awkward and loyal and then there was Ashlyn, the Gale Weathers of the bunch with her need to be part of the story and her inability to understand the word 'no'.

The three had blankets and pillows out and some junk food, knowing they shouldn't eat too much crap, but also feeling like they couldn't have a sleepover without junk food…it just didn't seem right. So they were curled up with junk food watching Scream 2, complaining about how obviously they needed to come up with a list of things you should and shouldn't do if actually finding yourself faced with a life or death 'horror movie' scenario. They were also laughing at the parts they still found funny and talking through the deaths because they'd seen this so many times.

In fact other people didn't want to watch them with them.

Well, that wasn't entirely true. There were people that found that watching these movies with them was an experience, and it was an experience that only the very few found themselves wanting to actually experience. It was fun to watch them dissect the movie piece by piece even though some people wanted to just watch the movie and it was for many of those reasons that the three girls only watched them by themselves. They liked the time they got to spend with each other and it was fun to just pig out and complain about horror movies that weren't really horror movies—if anything Scream wasn't even that scary to them.

Even Topher didn't watch the movies with them because other than just not having the interest to do so, he always rolled his eyes at them talking through everything. He also thought it was kind of entertaining and obnoxious all at once to listen to them call the characters by each other's names and not by their character names. Sometimes he was in the mood for it and sometimes he would just rather be at the Dollhouse programming Actives and making sure that Ivy was doing what it was that she was supposed to be doing for him.

"I might have to veto your boyfriend for hating these movies," Remy teased Ashlyn as a Sydney scene came on the TV.

Ashlyn rolled her eyes at that. "He doesn't hate these movies—he hates watching them with us."

"Which is understandable on so many levels," Jenna laughed, shrugging her shoulders. "I mean we all have to admit that when it comes to these, we get obnoxious."

"We get so obnoxious it's unreal," Remy agreed with a nod, looking at Ashlyn. "You really like him though, don't you?"

"I think he's a catch," Jenna put in as she looked at Ashlyn too.

Ashlyn smiled at them and took a sip of her juice. "I really like Topher…he's kind of my perfect match as cheesy as that sounds. We talk about a lot of different things and we have similar interests and he's so smart I just want to rip my clothes off when he talks about things sometimes."

"You have always wanted a nerd," Jenna laughed loudly.

The three erupted into giggles because it was true: Ashlyn had always been attracted to men that could talk science and Topher was passionate about science. They even had lists of things they looked for in men and a list of deal breakers both good and bad, Remy wanting Ashlyn to set her up with someone because if Topher had any friends, Remy wanted in on that. As it was though, Topher spent pretty much all of his time in the Dollhouse—he even lived there—and so there wasn't much Ashlyn could do on that front but she still had her job…her job where she had met Colin, so it all worked out in the end.

xx

Paul and Ashlyn – 2009

The engagement that Ashlyn had to undertake was easy enough, but her head hurt so desperately that she didn't know if she was going to be able to make it all the way through without her Handler realizing that something was wrong with her. Honestly, the last thing that she needed was for Jared to think that something was wrong enough that he told Adelle and Dominic and then she was questioned about what was going on with her. So, she tried to suck it up and read to some of the children, talking to the woman that ran the Orphanage, and looking at the little boy she was supposed to be helping.

To make matters worse though, Ashlyn saw a face that she recognized and went to try and hide herself, but he recognized her too and came toward her. She bit her lip and smiled awkwardly at him as he approached and grinned at her, having not seen her for awhile and she knew that even though this would compromise both of her identities, she had to say something to him. If she just ignored him then something would be off and he would think that something was happening and she needed to keep him off of the scent.

"Ashlyn!" Paul exclaimed and opened up his arms a little bit.

Ashlyn took the hint and hugged him, breathing in his aftershave. "Paul! What are you doing here?"

"I saw you come in and wrestled with myself over whether to come in or not…what are you doing here?" Paul asked raising his eyebrows.

"Reading to orphans like a good Samaritan," Ashlyn shrugged, waving it off like it was no big deal. "They need someone too, you know?"

Paul nodded and looked around. "Yeah, they do. So how have you been?"

"Pretty great, you?" Ashlyn asked him, trying to make small talk really quick, wishing she could some up with a quick excuse, but her head hurt so badly.

"Heather?" asked the Orphanage leader.

Paul paused as Ashlyn chewed on her lip because right now she was being called by the name she had been given for her identity and Paul knew her as her real self. Now she was going to have to make up some excuse and she knew that Paul being in the FBI meant that he could easily tell if she was lying by checking her records at the station and she just needed to suck it up. She was stronger than this and really needed to channel Gale Weathers to get her out of this mess that she had somehow gotten herself into.

"I'm supposed to still be in rehab right now, so I'm using a different name," Ashlyn lied with a shrug. "I tried to kill myself a while back and I just…I needed to do this. See that there was life to be lived, you know? Some kids have it way worse than I ever had it."

Paul nodded slowly and pointed to the woman. "Well, then…you should go."

"Yeah, but we'll catch up later, just call me, okay?" Ashlyn asked, patting his shoulder and walking away…why did she feel like he didn't believe her?

Note: What in the world could possibly happen next? There will be more soon, and a lot is about to happen. HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Feedback is always appreciated!