‘til we crumble to dust and are crushed - Dollhouse ; DeWitt/Dominic ; 1,200 words ; PG ; set during the Epitaph One flashbacks era. “Aren’t you supposed to be hiding out in a hole somewhere?” Or, Dominic and Topher have a heartwarming chat.
“Boyd exploded,” Topher says instead of ‘hi.’
“I heard,” Dominic answers shortly. He’s laid up in the clinic room with a busted leg, and all he wants to do is get the hell out of here again. Or at least, that’s what he’ll tell you if you ask. He got separated from Ballard and Echo two days into their trip back to L.A., showed up a few weeks late with the shit beat out of him as a result. So he’s not really in the mood for catch-up chitchat with the Dollhouse’s resident madman.
“No, you don’t get it,” Topher insists, like the fact of Dominic’s not getting it is giving him a migraine. His fingers flit to his temples. “Boyd went boom. Boyd’s gone. Boyd lied and facilitated the apocalypse, so he kiiind of deserved it, but the fact remains: boom.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be hiding out in a hole somewhere?”
“Doctor Saunders.” Topher’s face goes a weird shade of Whaa, my middle school school crush won’t look at me and I want to smell her hair considering his middle school crush shot his girlfriend in the head. “She’s not so good. That was Boyd, by the way. Are you worried about her? I’m worried about her.”
“She does her work. Stays quiet.” Lower, but not low enough, Dominic adds, “Doesn’t sleep in a hole.”
“You gotta be nice to her, man,” Topher half-shouts, half-whimpers, and for an awful, taking-it-to-the-grave second, Dominic’s actually afraid of him.
He shakes that off. “I’ve been fine to her.”
He means it, too. Claire Saunders might be a sick-joke excuse for a human being, courtesy of Rossum, but she’s easier to tolerate than anyone else down here. Claire Saunders might be a sick-joke excuse for a human being, courtesy of Rossum, but at this point, who isn’t.
“Not her,” Topher says, frustrated. “Her.”
Adelle, he means. Dominic gets it, just like that, and doesn’t want to examine why. He hasn’t seen much of her since he got back. She’s stopped in once or twice, but he’s not sure she’s looked him in the face, and it’s always to talk business. Serious apocalypse business. Once he woke up and she was leaning against the doorframe watching him, but he was pretty doped up on the pain meds they’ve got left and it wouldn’t be the first time she showed up in his head without actually being there.
And so he plays dumb. “What do you—?”
“We all thought you died,” Topher says, “when you didn’t come back with Paul and Echo.”
Join the club, Dominic thinks. He still doesn’t completely trust his own aliveness. Not after what it took out of him just to crawl back here. Literally crawl, toward the end. “Yeah, well, I didn’t.”
“Yeah, well, she thought you did. And you can’t – can’t be mean to her, okay? She thinks it’s her fault.”
“Well, she was the one who asked me to go Caroline-hunting, so technically—”
“No. The world. Thoughtpocalypse. She thinks it’s her fault.” He looks so pitiful.
The silence gets annoying. Unbearable. Dominic throws a bitter laugh into it. “Do you expect me to argue?”
Topher gives him this look like he can’t believe what an idiot he is. Topher, who cries at the sight of apples and sits on the floor and talks to ghosts named Bennett. “It was all of us, okay. Boomy Boyd, and her, and Echo and her magic spine, and you. You were a freaking spy, Domingo; you coulda done better at the whole not-getting-caught thing. But mostly it was me, it was me – no, you know what, let’s face it, you guys couldn’t have pulled it off without me, not to brag. The damned spot is reserved for these here hands, okay, and the rest of you can get in line. But she won’t – she won’t go there. And that is why – you need – to be nice to her.” His hands slice through the air to underline his words. “You’re her second in command.”
Dominic grimaces. “I’m pretty sure I’ve been demoted.”
Topher squints at him, that stupid expression of I’m the smartest person in this room mock bewilderment that hasn’t changed at all. “Have you, though?”
Dominic doesn’t get the chance to answer. Adelle interrupts them, wearing a loose grey sweater and a panicked expression.
“There you are,” she says to Topher, putting her hands to his face like he’s a kid she just lost at the supermarket. “You can’t just run off like that, Topher.”
“Where am I going to go?” Topher says, the smartass.
“Good point,” Adelle says after a moment, her hands going to her hips. It’s not quite the same as the impeccably dressed days of old, but it does the job. “Perhaps I overreacted. And how is our patient?” She looks Dominic’s way, meeting his eyes.
“Diagnosis: grumpy,” Topher reports.
“What a surprise,” Adelle deadpans, looking amused at whatever Dominic’s face does in response.
“I need to get back to work now,” Topher announces.
“I think a nap might do you more good,” Adelle cajoles. “Or we could have a bit of lunch, would you like that?”
“No, no, no,” Topher insists, stepping out of range of her maternal kindness bubble. “Sometimes I just need – faces, you know. To strike the match. I’m good now. I’m burning up. Epiphanies spilling out my ears. I just need to – work—”
“I’ll walk myself back,” Topher says, “if you don’t mind. Don’t worry. I’ll look both ways before I cross the street.”
“I know,” Adelle says. She tousles his hair, and he throws her a look of puppyish devotion before shuffling out.
“Shit,” Dominic says as soon as he’s gone. There’s not much point in waxing poetic.
“Spare him, please,” she says with a sigh that’s somehow weary and pissed off all at once. “And me, while you’re at it. You can’t imagine how he feels.”
She suddenly looks like she might break apart into pieces. In a neat, precise, British way, but still.
“I wouldn’t say no to lunch,” Dominic forces himself to offer. There’s not much point in staying enemies down here, he reasons. And he can only hold her at gunpoint so many times before it just gets predictable. “As long as you’re buying.”
“Very well,” she agrees without missing a beat, like it’s the most natural suggestion in the world. Never mind that she sucked his brain out and covered his body in evil saran wrap, and he lied to her for three years and shot her in the gut. Water under the bridge. “I’ll see what I can dig up in the kitchen.”
“We can talk about this Safe Haven idea and why it’s a bad one,” he adds, so she knows that it’s still strictly serious apocalypse business.
She rolls her eyes. “How heartening.”
“You don’t know what it’s like out there. Really being out there, with no handy dandy spa bunker to duck back down into.”
“You don’t know what it’s like to stay down here. Better to go down fighting than to rot like cowards. Especially if there’s some flicker of hope to be found.”
And, well, he is only second in command. “If you say so.”
She half-smiles and goes. He waits for her to come back.