Word Count: 2,339
Spoilers: 2x04 - "Belonging"
Summary: How looming, how monstrous she’s become. A good thing. It aids in keeping up at least some semblance of order. (She did not set out to become this way.) Adelle dreams. Set after "Belonging."
Author's Note: I know it happens oh so seldom, but when it does, MAN, do I love writing these guys. I sort of want to live in Adelle DeWitt's brain. I feel like there would be way more fabulous and way less homework that way.
Down by a river wide
That's where we would go
To hang our pretty things
& watch the wind blow
There used to be a tree
Where we took our pretty things
We'd hook them by a thread
Golden egg lipstick and feathers
Pieces of glass, chandelier baubles
And empty bottles of wine
And watch the light shine through
I'm afraid to forget you
I am remembering you
You were sparkling
-My Brightest Diamond, ‘We Were Sparkling’
She is in no state to drive; a House employee takes her home. She sits in the backseat of the car and they do not speak, not even to exchange the customary empty pleasantries. Having always held her liquor well, she does not stumble or let her words blend into one another. When she sits, she crosses her legs and neglects to buckle her seatbelt. Still, she supposes he must smell it on her, and there is perhaps a telltale dimness to her eyes. No matter. News of this won’t make its way down the hierarchy, become something exchanged in smirking whispers between handlers and drivers, one employee to another, until everyone from Boyd Langton to the bloody masseuse has heard about the boss’s new tendency to drown her sorrows. The driver knows better than to betray discretion.
If there is one thing that everyone at the Dollhouse knows very well, it is that Adelle DeWitt mustn’t be crossed.
How looming, how monstrous she’s become. A good thing. It aids in keeping up at least some semblance of order. (She did not set out to become this way, an accomplice, heartless and polished as she sits behind a desk and twiddles her thumbs, turns a convenient blind eye to atrocity after atrocity. God, but she has damned herself quite nicely, hasn’t she. She’d never meant to. She does believe in the good of it, this work. Rescuing a mad girl from the cage of her own tortured mind – surely, surely there is no bad in that. In peace. And if Echo is her particular darling, well, Sierra has always been, objectively, the loveliest of the group. Swanlike, exquisite, and if Adelle has slipped, has found beauty in the romance of their blankness from time to time – well, she’d dare anyone not to, with Sierra. Sierra, who moves with the grace of water and turns short, easy words to poetry.)
When she goes home, she kicks her shoes off and climbs the stairs slowly, feeling clumsy and very much like a child intruding in some unfamiliar place. How cavernous it seems, this big lovely house by the water, hers thanks to Rossum. She can always hear the sea. She feels sluggish, imagines tar or bile pushing its way through her veins with every heartbeat. She thinks of Topher, young and stricken, finally waking up. She does feel for him. She envies his jovial unconcern sometimes. Occasionally it serves as inspiration, in fact: she draws from it, makes it her own, replacing puns with crisp witticisms. Perhaps the cups of tea ought to be viewed as the distant genetically improbable cousins of his juice boxes.
She takes off her dress, oddly aware of the brush of her own hands over her skin (but ‘her own’ seems such a redundant notion, it seems an age since she’s been touched), and climbs into bed wearing her slip. Her sheets are wonderfully cool. She stares at the ceiling. She is tired and impossibly awake. Sleep seems very much like death right now; how similar the actions are, how brave and hideous. To simply let yourself slip away, not knowing what awaits you.
She must fall asleep, even though she does not realize as much, because she looks and all of a sudden, someone sits at the foot of her bed. A man; it’s all she can tell in the dark.
Roger, she thinks, and then reminds herself that there is no Roger. Believing in Roger makes her, she is quite certain, just as bad as Nolan Kinnard. And so instead she says, “Victor?”
What a pathetic, quiet sound. She wonders what she’s become, that she can’t even stand the sound of her own voice when it’s soft, not even in her own bedroom at night with no one real to listen.
The man in the dark shifts a little. “Victor? You think so? Really? Wow, you must be hitting the bottle even harder than I thought.”
“Oh,” she sighs, settling back. “It’s you.”
“It’s been awhile. Thought I’d stop by. Thought maybe you could use a talking buddy.”
“Talking buddy,” she repeats wanly, drawing out the syllables.
“Yeah. You know. Spill out the secrets of your tortured soul. That kind of thing.”
She sits up and arches an eyebrow as he comes close enough for her to make out his features.
“Come on,” Mr. Dominic says. “You know that’s what you’ve been thinking. Whaa whaa, poor me, I accidentally took part in something marginally eviler than usual.” He’s smirking. “I could offer you a handkerchief. Maybe even a hug. Just as long as you promise not to get too handsy, Miss Lonelyhearts.”
“Were you always this annoying?” she asks, sitting up taller and wrapping the sheet around her shoulders. “Or has my memory of you simply faded a bit since I sucked your brain out and left you to rot?”
“Eesh.” He feigns a shudder. “Can I offer an unprofessional observation?”
“Seeing as you’ve been replaced by someone considerably less duplicitous, that seems fair enough.”
“You, Ms. DeWitt, are one scary bitch.”
“Oh, now, let’s not be dramatic. You brought all that on yourself.”
“By conspiring against your upstanding organization? Please. I was a good guy.”
“Yes, because the NSA is pure of motive and of heart. Every action taken for the good of puppies and small birds and little girls with blonde pigtails.”
“And you were sloppy. Perhaps if you’d been more careful, I’d be none the wiser and you’d still be in possession of a job. And a body.”
“Why? You miss me?” He is entirely too smug. Still, she cannot help but find an odd relief in the sight of him (in shirtsleeves and without a tie; shockingly informal, for him, and the shirt is blue and it makes his eyes all the bluer; it has always been here, this inconvenient awareness that she has never quite surrendered into calling attraction). Relief, too, in the weight of him on the bed next to her. She has always so liked him next to her. She has been so tired since.
“I don’t believe I’ll dignify that with a response,” she says.
And then, peculiarly, his expression softens.
“On a first name basis, now, are we?” she retorts, to show it doesn’t shake her.
He has the nerve to pay no mind to her defenses. Instead, he looks at her as though he can see clean into her. “You didn’t know.”
She feels herself go brittle for a moment; then something snaps or fades, and she gives up. “I didn’t. I didn’t have the slightest damned idea.” And then, because perhaps it has been hiding in her head all day, determinedly ignored until this moment: “Would you have?”
“What does it matter?”
“You never had any illusions about this place,” she says. She thinks of standing there before him, rapier a pretty prop in hand, every bit the cold unfeeling creature that this organization means to make her. (She thinks of coming into this room, sitting on this bed, feeling gutted, ruined, almost dizzy with the hurt of it; of crying because it would have killed her to go a second longer without doing it, of pulling Roger’s – Victor’s hand to her face.) “You told me as much. Now I can’t help but suspect that that would be the most useful thing. To have you here. Clearly my own viewpoint is hopelessly obstructed.”
“Maybe I was a little harsh at the time,” he protests. She suspects he wants her to imagine he is laughing at her, poking fun, but it does not ring quite true. Something about his eyes. “I was tied to a chair and headed Atticwards. I’d just gotten my ass kicked by someone who, under normal circumstances, couldn’t even grasp the complexity of instant oatmeal.”
“No, you were right. Of course you were right.”
He doesn’t say anything. Just watches her, very intent and very still. It is so characteristic of him. Waiting at attention.
“Do you know, I sat exactly here with Victor,” she says, taking a breath in. “Rather more naked than we are, but otherwise it was quite similar. We’d talk. Silly, wistful conversations. A great deal of lamenting. You’d have found it nauseating, I’m sure. It’s rather a wonder that I didn’t. But, God, what a relief it was. And I’d let myself believe in him. It was so easy to stop seeing Victor in his face.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I don’t know,” she admits, and lets out a small, caustic laugh. There’s disgust in the sound. “For some reason, I always felt it had a great deal to do with you.”
He stays quiet and keeps his eyes trained on her, as though he knows better than she does that she’s not done just yet.
“I sent her to him,” she says – for ah, there’s the thing he’s been waiting for. It feels so pathetically like confession. “After all he did to her, I sent her back regardless.”
“And yet she found her way back to you.”
“I don’t care. I let it happen. For all intents and purposes, I made it happen. I gave that loathsome excuse for a man exactly what he wanted. Fitting, I suppose. We do deal in giving people what they want, whatever they want. Most good people are good because they’ve learnt to keep that in check.”
It seems spectacularly ironic somehow, to talk of wanting, of knowing better than to, and to have him here on her bed, inches from her and looking at her like that. Dead on. (Perhaps the reason she has always liked him so is because he seems – seemed – so very capable of withstanding her.)
Without meaning to, she brings a hand to his face. For the briefest of instants, his eyes flutter shut at her touch (as though it’s a kind of benediction, a thing to get lost in). “You would have gotten rid of him, I imagine,” she murmurs. “Quite neatly, too.”
“And you’re so sure Boyd didn’t?” he asks, his voice low. How well it fits the pair of them, to speak of things like this in the way that lovers whisper.
“No,” she admits. “I’m not.”
“See. You don’t need me.”
She forces a dry smile. “On the contrary, I’m afraid.”
“Well, you know where to find me,” he reminds her. “All you have to do is wake me up.”
“We both know I’m far too proud for that.” She brushes her thumb across his mouth.
“Yeah,” he agrees. There’s such softness to his voice. He sounds almost admiring. It shows on his face, darkens his eyes.
She cannot find it in herself to quell the urge, and so she kisses him. It yields a second of fierce bright feeling. She wants so much to stay inside of it, to feel consumed by this man she’s ruined, to have him against her and in her and with her. For certainly it would be a pardon of sorts. But the embrace is gone quickly, and so is he. One second he is pulling her to him; the next, nothing. Briefly, she loses even herself. There is only white.
Then she opens her eyes. Here she is in the Dollhouse again. It’s just as well; it’s become more of a home to her than that house, that bed. Still, she feels a remarkable emptiness, a niggling, as though there’s something she must do, a thing she’s left behind. Ghosts of desire thrum in her.
She stands beside Sierra in one of the pool rooms. The walls are deep dusky red-orange; the space around them is contradictory, vast and closing in on them all at once. Even their breathing does not die quietly. Everything echoes.
And then there is the water, waiting.
“Thank you,” Sierra says. She smiles; what a dreamy, perfect thing it makes of her mouth, as though it ought always to be there.
“It had nothing to do with me,” Adelle responds. Her voice takes on an unfamiliar tinge, almost a mother’s. “Happy coincidence. A stroke of luck.”
Sierra shakes her head, and still there is that smile. “You want to be your best.”
“True enough. But I’m going about it quite the wrong way, I’m afraid.”
“I can teach you.”
“Yes,” Sierra says, “I think so. First, you jump.” She tilts her head toward the water.
“Show me,” Adelle requests, forcing the words out.
Sierra does, wasting no time. She enters the pool in a perfect swan dive, going under with purpose and grace, as though it’s as simple a matter as returning to a place that’s forgotten but not quite lost. Adelle stands at the edge, wearing a slip instead of a swimsuit and doomed, she fears, to fail at this. She has always been good at elegance but knows very well she can’t mimic the thoughtless, unafraid beauty Sierra summoned so easily. She has always been a bit wary of water. It seems such easy business to drown.
In a moment Sierra rises again (God, what a relief), her hair dark in its wetness and smooth over her shoulders. She smiles. “It’s your turn now.”
Adelle finds she does not know what to say, and has the odd suspicion that no one’s yet designed words to fit the occasion.
Like some just-born thing on new legs, she takes one small step forward, then another. The water beckons, thoroughly blue, deep as a kiss.