Word Count: 4,262
Summary: If you try to woo Adelle DeWitt, Laurence Dominic might actually kill you. Like, for real. (A tale of classy British imprints, vexed Heads of Security, and Dollhouse behaving in an overall disquietingly romcom-esque fashion, complete with fabulous gay guy interlude.)
Author’s Note: For oltha_heri, who requested that this exist!
I have been watching tons of Gilmore Girls lately. I feel like, somehow, that explains a lot about this. The Dollhouse = Stars Hollow, kinda, right? Oh, those zany kids!
Also – at the beginning of this season, the thing I was like the most excited about was the introduction of Franklin, The Sassy Dollhouse Wardrobe Guy. I wanted that man around forever! This, then, is my tribute to him. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know his name was Franklin until imdb told me. Thanks, imdb!
Anyway. This is tremendously nonsensical & silly & random, not to mention verging at all times on total OOCitude. However, I sort of feel like I get some weird pass in this scenario, since tomorrow will no doubt be soul crushing, and therefore we should obviously prep for it with ~utter fluffsome nonsense~!
“Might you care to explain, Mr. Dominic,” Adelle DeWitt says, staring with mild distaste down at the splotches of blood darkening her little black dress, “why you just shot my date in the head?”
And, well, when she says it like that, it seems like maybe he went a little overboard. But there are reasons. And circumstances. And – now she’s doing that eyebrow thing.
He begins, as best he can, to explain.
A Few Weeks Earlier
Sierra’s movements are elegant as she climbs out of the chair.
“Will that be all, then?” she asks in a crisp English accent, smoothing her tanktop.
“Yep, you’re good to go, Ginny.”
She gives Topher a Look. An undoubtedly capitalized Look.
“Virginia,” he amends with a nervous giggle.
The Look will not be vanquished.
“Ms. Winters,” he says to his shoes.
“Thank you, gentlemen. I expect I’ll see you again come Monday.” She allows Hearn to escort her out.
Topher stares after her. “Does she seem familiar to you?”
“What do you mean?” Dominic asks impatiently.
“Seriously? She’s DeWitt.”
“Uh, if by ‘ridiculous’ you mean ‘ridiculously the total and absolute truth,’ then yeah, I’d be inclined to agree with you there, Lorenzo.”
Dominic scowls. “She’s not DeWitt.”
“Are you kidding me? She’s so DeWitt. I mean, not technically. It’s not like I busted out the DeWitt backup wedge and dumped it into Sierra’s sweet little noggin. But I thought something seemed familiar while I was putting the personality together – likes tea, and kicking your self esteem where the sun do not shine with one well-placed remark – and wouldn’t you know, that’s what it is. She’s DeWitt.”
“She’s not DeWitt.”
“Oh yeah? Let’s break this down. I’ll even go slowly, just for you. She is British. She is classy. She can do that thing, that eyebrow thing, where she just looks at you and sends you spiraling down into self-loathing— but in a way where you kinda like it. Yeah. You know what I mean.”
“I don’t know what you m—”
“Oh, please. She That Things at you way more than anybody else.”
“She does not,” Dominic mutters.
In the end, he lets Topher “prove it” (quote unquote), because things are a little slow today and there is genuinely, literally, actually nothing more important he could be doing. If he wanted a sandwich from the kitchen, that’d rank higher than bearing witness to Topher’s new crazy. He just doesn’t happen to be hungry.
Topher’s expedition takes them down to wardrobe. Franklin gives them a snitty little mock-wave and then goes back to telling Echo, “Honey, your tush is divine in that! Seriously, girl, that thing is the assquivalent of Babs bringing home the power note at the end of her Main Event/Fight medley—”
Dominic rolls his eyes. “Why are we here again?”
He never comes here, if he can help it. And wouldn’t you know, usually he can. Between all the clothes and the Actives in various states of undress and the fact that Milais, DeWitt’s personal shopper, is usually down here when he’s not out clothes-hunting for DeWitt, and the accompanying fact that for some reason that Dominic will never get and does not want to, Milais seems to consider Dominic his role model – well, it all just adds up to He’d Rather Be In The Armory.
And that’s without even taking Franklin into consideration.
“Hey, this is all your fault, non-believer,” Topher retorts. “I’m giving you the chance to bear witness to the whole picture. The complete work of art. Mr. Potato Head, moustache and all. That lovable skepticism of yours will melt away in the face of my incredible correctness. You’ll see.”
Dominic’s in the middle of choosing between disparaging remarks when—
“Laurence,” Franklin says, sidling on over. “Fancy seeing you down here. Where’s our uber-fabulous queen bee?”
There’s a lot of stuff Dominic doesn’t like about the Dollhouse. The fact that what they’re doing is morally abhorrent. The majority of the people they deal with. Topher. Topher, Topher, Topher. Echo, wandering around all the time like she’s looking for something, like she has something to look for. That it’s possible to reminisce over that one time when one of their programmable humans went crazy and Jack the Ripper’d a considerable chunk of the House’s inhabitants. That somewhere along the line, Adelle DeWitt wound up here instead of some place she could actually put her considerable abilities to good use and make a difference in the world instead of just serving as a very elegant she-pimp. All the yoga. (There’s something about yoga that just freaks him out.) But there is nothing he hates more than Franklin.
“DeWitt’s in her office,” he replies with a scowl.
“You mean you made it all the way down here without her to follow?” Franklin gives a mock gasp. Dominic’s fairly sure it’s the bitchiest thing he’s ever seen, and last week he bore witness to a catfight between Echo and Sierra when they were imprinted as college coeds from rival sororities. “Branching out. Very nice. Super brave. Wow, that tie is so – you know, most people might say it’s a little, you know—” (Dominic doesn’t know. Dominic doesn’t want to know.) He mimes like he’s going to vomit. “—but I think it’s cute that you’re trying.”
It’s at moments like these where Dominic is really, really extra aware of the fact that he carries a firearm. And wouldn’t really hate to spread that knowledge around.
Apparently, Topher’s somehow picking up that vibe, because he points and, with an enthusiasm that verges on demented, says, “Hey, look, it’s Si—DeW—Gin-Vir—Winters.”
“Is that like one of those celebrity baby names?” Franklin asks, wrinkling his nose.
Dominic ignores him, and looks at Sierra instead. She’s wearing a grey pencil skirt and a ruffly purple top, and her heels manage the feat of being both classy and formidably high. Her hair is meticulously curled.
“Oooh,” Franklin gapes, awed. “Talk about queen bee.”
“I didn’t expect to see the pair of you again so soon,” Sierra remarks, resting her hands on her hips as she approaches them. “I do hope something hasn’t gone wrong.”
“Oh, no,” Topher says quickly. “Me and Dom here, we were just checking up on you. Ya know. Makin’ sure you’re ready for your big weekend.”
“How terribly considerate of you and Dom,” Sierra smirks, making a truly elegant mockery of the last word.
“Yep, well, what can I say?” Topher throws an arm around Dominic’s shoulders. Franklin snickers. “We’re a pair of do-gooders, do-goodin’. Just looking out for the well-being of impeccably dressed females with very pointy shoes. Right, buddy?”
“I will shoot you in the face,” Dominic says.
Topher yanks his arm away.
“Your joint chivalry is very sweet,” Sierra deadpans. “But unfortunately, I have somewhere to be, and I’d hate to keep Mr. Reardon waiting.”
“I bet you would,” Topher bow-chicka-wow-wows.
Sierra arches an eyebrow at him.
“… because it would be rude, and you really just radiate manners,” he finishes, throwing in a garbled little laugh just to make his backtracking extra-painfully obvious. “I bet you sip tea with your pinkie out, don’t you?”
Sierra smirks. And, all right, maybe it’s a little bit familiar. “Mr. Brink.”
“Ms. Winters,” Topher says, chastened.
She shifts her gaze. “Mr. Dominic.”
“Ma’am,” Dominic responds without thinking.
It is scarily ‘Did I fall asleep?’ / ‘For a little while.’
The corner of her mouth twitches, and she turns and walks out, her heels clicking purposefully against the floor.
“Whoa,” Dominic says.
Topher gives himself a high five.
Dominic’s tendency to be in DeWitt’s office with her while she meets with the clients varies. Having a suit-wearing, stony-faced guy standing in the corner of the room with his arms crossed is more conducive to some situations than others. Ransom negotiation? He’s in the room. Ordering your own custom-made version of the cheerleading captain who wouldn’t date you in high school? Yeah, not so much.
Maxwell Reardon tends to fall more in the latter category, so Dominic hasn’t actually seen the guy. He knows about him, though. Reardon doesn’t work for Rossum, but he’s provided a lot of funding over the years when he’s not busy doing whatever the hell it is rich delusional douchebags do when they’re not giving heaps of money to secretly shady organizations.
Not that he’s officially a rich delusional douchebag. But from a couple minutes of purusing his file, Dominic is pretty sure he’s got some substantial evidence pointing in that direction. Dominic, he’s good at reading between the lines.
“Is that Mr. Reardon’s file?” comes DeWitt’s voice, very sudden and very close.
He starts and looks up to see her standing over him, hands on hips. Instant Sierra flashback.
“Oh,” he says. “Um. Yeah.”
“Something needs double-checking?” she asks sardonically.
It’s not like he can tell her about this. He closes the file. “Nothing important.”
“All right, then. Do get it back to Judith when you’re done, won’t you?”
“Mr. Reardon,” Judith says dreamily, when he hands the folder to her later that afternoon. She doesn’t say ‘It’s amazing that my panties are still on’ but – Dominic. Reading between the lines. He does that.
“He was in last week, wasn’t he?” Dominic says, casual. He reaches for one of the mints that Judith keeps in a crystal bowl on her desk, so he’ll have something to do with his hands.
Apparently, this is the first time he’s ever done this, because Judith looks at his hand like it’s gone rogue. “Yes. He was.”
“What’s he like?” Dominic asks, unwrapping the mint. He feels a little weird about it, but he’s gotta commit now. The plastic makes annoying little crinkly noises.
“He’s very nice,” Judith says.
“Oh,” Dominic says.
Five – four – three – two—
“He’s so gallant,” Judith says, the words spilling out in a predictable giddy rush. “He always kisses Ms. DeWitt’s hand when they’re saying hello. You wouldn’t think anyone could do that anymore without seeming cheesy, but he pulls it off, somehow. I think maybe it’s because he looks so much like George Clooney. But, you know, a hot George Clooney. He actually stayed for longer than most of the clients tend to. I think they must have been just talking. He and Ms. DeWitt seem to have a lot in common. It’s nice for her to have some pleasant company during the day for a change, I bet.”
“I bet,” Dominic echoes darkly, and casts a glance at DeWitt’s office door.
Judith realizes her mistake after a string of awkward seconds pass by. “Not that you’re not pleasant company. I’m sure she thinks you’re—” she scrambles around for an adjective. “—…wonderful!”
“She doesn’t need to think I’m wonderful,” Dominic answers bluntly. “She just needs to think I’m qualified.”
Judith gives him a little conspiratorial smile. It might also be a little sympathetic, which is just ridiculous. “Don’t worry, Mr. Dominic. She thinks you’re wonderful.”
“I have to get back to work,” he announces.
“You can take another mint if you want to!” Judith calls after him.
And really, what kind of sick age are they living in? God forbid you ask a woman out if you’re interested in her. Get her flowers or something. Hell, no: let her know you like her by ordering a copy of her to be your programmable zombie date. That’s real nice.
At least there’s no way DeWitt will ever fall for it. Dominic’s worked with her for three years now, and that’s more than long enough to know that she’d find the concept every bit as disgusting as he does.
He’s pretty sure.
“These are new,” Dominic says nonchalantly when he comes in a few mornings later. There’s a lavish bouquet of flowers on her desk. The usual red ones have been relegated to the coffeetable. He experiences a depressing couple of seconds where he feels a lot like Franklin for noticing, but hey. He’s the Head of Security. It’s his job to be aware.
“Mr. Reardon sending his regards,” DeWitt answers, looking up from her computer screen with a slight smile. “Apparently, his weekend with Sierra went very well.”
“Great,” Dominic says.
“Isn’t it?” she responds, and goes back to her computer screen.
“Really spectacular,” he mutters.
Like a week later Reardon’s back again. This time, he goes for Echo instead of Sierra, but the personality’s the same. Ms. Virginia Winters, take two.
He’s the one who shows her down to the garage, because Langton’s stuck in some drawn out conversation with Dr. Saunders. The elevator ride is all crisp silence until— “Mr. Dominic?”
“I don’t suppose you have a problem with me.”
“Why would I?”
“You keep looking at me like that.”
“Like that,” she says, a teasing smile vague on her mouth, and doesn’t elaborate.
And, well. Since she started the conversation. “This Reardon. What do you like about him?”
He hates himself a little for sinking so low – for asking a doll about their feelings – but it’s for a good cause, he figures. He doesn’t get a good vibe off this guy. He’s worried about the House, that’s all.
“Oh, Lord.” She gives a low, throaty laugh. “Shall I refrain from waxing poetic?”
“Right. Concisely, then. He’s exhilarating company. God knows that’s been in rather short supply. He’s a refreshing change from the day-to-day monotony.”
“Huh,” Dominic says.
And then one morning, he just breaks. He’s not really sure why, but he knows he can’t handle keeping this from her, not anymore. Not when it poses such an obvious risk to … the House.
“Ma’am, there’s something about Reardon that’s not sitting well with me.”
“I gathered as much, Mr. Dominic.”
“I’m touched that you have such faith in my capacity for observation.”
He ignores that. It seems like the smartest course of action. “This imprint. Virginia Winters. Have you noticed anything about her?”
“She seems to be fulfilling Mr. Reardon’s requirements very well.”
He guesses he deserves this, for naively expecting that Adelle DeWitt might ever make anything easy. “She’s British. Not to mention sophisticated. And she does that – eyebrow—”
“Eyebrow?” DeWitt repeats quizzically. While lifting an eyebrow.
“Never mind.” Damn it, Topher. “The point is, ma’am, it seems like she’s … based on somebody real.”
“It would hardly be the first time.”
“And it’s you.”
“Me?” Aaand now she’s looking at him like he’s nuts. Or – hey – Topher. Great.
She laughs. “What in the world would motivate him to do that?”
“I can think of a few reasons.”
“You’re not exactly—” He considers her reclining in her chair, making even incredulousness look deliberate and graceful. “—unwantable.”
“Why, thank you,” she grimaces.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I assumed as much, Mr. Dominic. Go on, please.”
“I think his motive here is to date you. And this is his very special wooing process.”
She stands, begins to cross the room. Never a good sign. “Oh, for God’s sake.”
“I know it sounds ludicrous. Believe me, I wouldn’t have raised the issue in the first place if it weren’t for—”
She turns back to face him. “Do you really think he’d be interested?”
“Well,” she murmurs. “How about that.”
Oh, God. She likes it.
About five of his most fundamentally held truths about life, the universe, and everything wither and die at the none-too-disgusted look on her face.
The only thing he’s left knowing is that he has to put a stop to this. Quick. “Ma’am, I’d advise you to tread carefully here. Just because he comes across as a hot George Clooney—”
“That’s a relief.”
“My point is, it’s weird. This guy is weird.”
“If I’m understanding correctly, the basis of this man’s weirdness is the fact that he allegedly considers me attractive?”
“No, ma’am,” he says automatically. There’s a span of terrible silence, and in that silence, he realizes that all right, technically … “Yes, ma’am.”
“Noted, Mr. Dominic. You may go.”
By the time the next weekend rolls around, Dominic expects to see Echo leaving the House in another distinctly DeWitt-esque ensemble. When he catches sight of her sauntering out dressed like a cowgirl, thumbs between her belt-loops, spurs and all, he’s confused.
“Echo’s engagement isn’t with Reardon?” he asks DeWitt.
“No, Mr. Dominic, it is not.”
“I thought he’d decided he liked her better than Sierra.” In all her convenient brunetteness, he adds silently.
“As it so happens, Mr. Reardon didn’t schedule an engagement for this weekend.”
“He didn’t.” And then it hits him. “You’re going out with him.”
“Do be careful. If you’re going to jump to conclusions that rashly, you’re bound to sprain something.”
“Sorry.” He’s not sorry. He’s too busy being horrified. But even now, he knows what the job requires.
“And yes,” she continues, “I will be seeing him on Saturday night. We’re going to the opera. Don Giovanni.”
“Yes, it will be, I think.”
“Isn’t there some rule against dating clients?” If there’s not, there should be. More than one. Ten rules sounds about right. Maybe twelve.
“I wouldn’t call it dating, necessarily. And I certainly don’t see anything wrong with spending a pleasant evening with one of our corporation’s most valued benefactors.”
“You are very thorough,” she agrees, and there’s no way that glint in her eye isn’t mocking him.
For the record, he is very thorough.
Which is why he pulls some intel on Reardon: enough to find out where he lives, where he spends his time. He gets a few members of the security team to keep tabs on him. As long as they’re quiet about it, there’s no need for the information to get back to DeWitt.
Sure, she’ll be pissed as hell if she finds out, but she won’t find out. He’s gotten good at keeping things from her for her own benefit.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t go as smoothly as, say, concealing one’s identity as an NSA agent.
Turns out, Reardon’s got a girlfriend who comes by his place daily. It doesn’t surprise Dominic to find out that the scumbag is capable of two-timing; in fact, he’d kind of expected it. Still, he wants to witness it firsthand. That way, he’ll know what he’s talking about when he tells DeWitt. He’ll have seen it with his own eyes.
The more he finds out, the more he starts wondering what Reardon’s up to. The girl’s in her early twenties, blonde and vapid and scantily clad. She spends a lot of time at malls. Not exactly a refined British beauty.
This is when he starts to think Reardon’s after something else from DeWitt. And this makes him worry, and he’s been off his game to begin with lately, and this is how he gets himself caught.
He wakes up tied to a chair in a dark room with the kind of headache that should only accompany being forced to listen to Topher talk for five straight hours.
Reardon grins down at him. Dominic doesn’t see what the big fuss is about. You know who’s a hot George Clooney? George Clooney. “You’re DeWitt’s man.”
“We just work together,” Dominic replies blearily, because he’s feeling a little lightheaded. And heavyheaded at the same time. It’s an interesting combination.
“That’s what I meant,” Reardon says with a confused frown.
“Oh,” Dominic says. “Okay. Yeah. That’s me.”
“It’d probably be very wise of me to get rid of you, then,” Reardon muses. “From what I’ve heard, you’re inconveniently attentive.”
“I’d say it’s a flaw of mine.”
“It’ll be much easier going without you in the picture.”
“What’s your game, Reardon?” Dominic growls.
“When I donated to Rossum, I did it with the understanding that I’d be privy to certain aspects of the developing technology. Have dibs, if you will. It only seems fair, considering the staggering generosity I’ve shown. But now, Clive Ambrose doesn’t seem willing to make good on that particular agreement. I’d say losing one of his most esteemed House heads might help to change his mind.” (Dominic, who’s heard things about Clive Ambrose from Adelle that she doesn’t tell anyone else, knows better.) “Although I wouldn’t mind a detour to the bedroom first. She is gorgeous, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, she’s gorgeous,” Dominic snarls, “and you’re a jackass if you think you’re getting anywhere near her. Actually,” he amends, after a moment’s consideration, “you’re a jackass either way.”
“Much as I’d love to bask in your witticisms all night,” Reardon says, “I’ve got an opera to see.”
He hits Dominic one more time for good measure. Maybe there’s some slight passing out. Before the blackness sets in, though, at least he has the savage satisfaction of knowing that he was so right about this guy.
Dominic escapes without too much trouble, and takes out Reardon’s security with relative ease, especially considering his whole headache situation. He calls up Topher, who does a lot of yelping and gibbering and chuckling and slurping (he’s drinking a Caprisun. Pacific Cooler. Apparently, this is stuff Dominic needs to know in the midst of this pressing life-or-death situation) before finally letting him know the coordinates of DeWitt’s phone.
The opera’s been over for about twenty minutes. He catches up just in time to see the pair of them turning into an alleyway. He follows, he aims, and he shoots. Blood spatters. Reardon crumples.
“That’s one way of interrupting a moonlit walk,” DeWitt observes dryly.
“Ma’am,” he says, breathing heavy.
“Might you care to explain, Mr. Dominic, why you just shot my date in the head?”
And so he does.
“You didn’t seem particularly disturbed,” he finishes, staring at her. It goes without saying that Adelle DeWitt’s hard as nails, but walking arm in arm with some guy one second and having him dead on the ground the next – it’s not so much an expression of weakness as an expression of sanity to react to that with some alarm.
“Honestly, what you said got me thinking. I could tell there was something a bit off. He made for very charming company, of course, but there was nothing underneath. And just before your approach, I was getting the sense I might have made a very foolish misstep. Nice men don’t often lead their companions down dark alleyways. Laudable timing, by the way.”
“I’m just glad I got here at all. I was afraid it might be too late.”
“One of the pitfalls of having to rely on Topher for essential information.”
“All the same,” Adelle says, glancing down at the body, “you do realize that you just shot a man in the head in a dark alley?”
“I’ll take care of it, ma’am.”
“Yes,” she agrees, giving him a slight smile. “I suspect you will.”
He’s about to go for his phone, start calling in help to clean this up, when—
“You are,” she tells him, “on occasion, quite wonderful.”
“Thanks,” he says gruffly.
She steps in close to him, until there’s just a couple inches between them. For a second he thinks – well, he’s not sure what he thinks. But then her hands go to his tie, beginning to straighten it. “Just because you narrowly avoided being murdered by my psychotic date doesn’t mean you can’t look your best,” she offers in wry explanation.
“I thought you weren’t calling it dating,” he reminds her.
“Well.” She glances briefly back up into his eyes, an uncommon sheepishness to her expression. “Perhaps I wanted it to be, just a little. It’s been awhile.”
They’re standing in an alleyway with a dumpster spewing out bags of trash, and still, he’s struck by how nice she smells. It’s the sort of thing that should be scientifically impossible.
“Thanks,” he says, a little stupidly. “For the – tie fixing—”
“That’s twice now,” she points out. “I’m quite sure I ought to be the one thanking you.”
Echo and Sierra, he thinks in some distant unchecked corner of his brain, had nothing on the original. “Just looking out for your best interests.”
“You always do,” she says fondly. She tugs at his lapel: a tiny, careful, unimportant movement. Then she gives him one last smile and turns.
He watches her walk away, even lovelier than usual in evening dress and moonlight. Once she turns the corner, he shoots one last glare down at the body that was Reardon (douchebag), then pulls out his phone. He’s got a couple calls to make.