Word Count: 1,602
Spoilers: through 1x07 - "Echoes"
Summary: A particularly stressful day drives Adelle into the (figurative) arms of a bag of potato chips. Unfortunately, she just so happens to get caught in the act.
Author's Note: Oh, y'all, if there is one power I have on this earth, it is to inject mindless fluff into everything. 'Everything' apparently meaning even Dollhouse, a show that is all, 'What up, I am seriously screwed up and inherently disturbing!' My response? 'TEEHEE, DRAWER OF INAPPROPRIATE STARCHES.' It's just how I roll.
Also, may I just say that I personally am incapable of experiencing those fascinating pickle-flavoured potato chips, because for some inexplicable reason they put dairy in them. (Dairy? Really, universe?) I love pickles. I love potato chips. I think, in theory, they sound ingenious, yet controversial. Right up my alley. I am a staunchly pro-black licorice. Sadly, there are some gustatory truths I will never know. What, then, can I do but write? (Ooh, shivers! That almost got deep.)
Under normal circumstances, Adelle DeWitt is not one to succumb to stress. Such weaknesses can’t be afforded in a profession like hers – it’s that simple. Whenever she feels the momentary temptation to collapse, explode, or throw something (be it at the wall or the nearest bystander, depending upon the level of said stress), she recognizes the irrationality of this impulse and she quashes it. There. Done.
Today, however, is far too disastrous for simple stress-quashing.
Echo defying protocol, again. The client turning out to be some sort of cleverly concealed lunatic, again. Any second now, Mr. Dominic will surely burst through her office doors with his routine ardent suggestion that Echo be sent to the Attic. Adelle is beginning to harbor the feeling that she is trapped in some endlessly looping cartoon, something with myriad cliffs and banging noises and a crafty roadrunner and a very, very stupid coyote.
She cannot shake the depressing suspicion that she is the coyote.
And so she does the one thing she had vowed never to do.
She opens the drawer.
The bag crackles temptingly as soon as it comes into contact with her fingertips. She feels a powerful flash of combined guilt and anticipation. This is not something that she normally does. This is not something that she ever does. But – well, for God’s sake, she’s alone here. It’s not as though anyone else will ever know. She’ll only have one. Two. A couple.
A modest handful.
She’s opened the bag and stuck her hand in when—
“Ms. DeWitt—” The door flies open, and in comes Mr. Dominic. Right on schedule.
She jumps. The bag falls to the floor. “What?”
Well. Perhaps that hadn’t been quite poised.
Sure enough, he stops right in his tracks. “What are you doing?”
She feels a flutter of annoyance. She’s his boss, for God’s sake. Since when does he have the right to question her actions?
“I don’t believe that’s what you came in here to speak to me about, Mr. Dominic,” she replies, still sounding inconveniently strained. “Please. What you were saying.”
He stares at her for a few seconds more. His brow furrows just the slightest bit in what is no doubt bemusement. It’s a bit disorienting. She is used to exactly three facial settings from Laurence Dominic: Professional Stoicism, Professional Smugness, and Professional Frustration With Occasional Varying Degrees of Somewhat Suppressed Anger.
“All right,” he continues at long last. “Echo’s been wiped, and even though she looks bad, Doctor Saunders says that there aren’t going to be any lasting injuries from the fall. As long as she takes it easy for the next week, her ankle should—”
Now, then. He’s talking. No doubt he’ll talk a great deal more. He’s probably more wrapped up in what he’s saying than how she’s reacting, in fact. It’s the perfect opportunity to sort out this little mess. And so as he talks, she surreptitiously attempts to prod the bag back towards her with her foot. She’ll put it back into her desk and all traces of evidence will be erased. No harm done. Unfortunately, she does not anticipate exactly how loud said bag is.
Obviously the wrong course of action.
Mr. Dominic trails off. Ah, there’s the furrowed brow again. “Ma’am—”
“It’s nothing. Go on.”
He doesn’t. It’s a wonder this place functions at all, considering the respect her employees pay her. “Are you all right?”
“Of course. Why? Aren’t you?”
“I’m fine,” he replies quite politely. That doesn’t cancel out the inarguable unspoken end to that sentence, which is but you are clearly not.
“How lovely,” she says briskly. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“Thank you(?).” It’s there, that slight lilt, that maddening hint of a question mark. No doubt he is beginning to think her truly unhinged.
Oh, might as well just own up to it and get it over with. It is, she determines, the most efficient way to escape from this ridiculous situation.
She steadies herself, taking a second to recall that she does indeed hold the power to fire him, then says – blurts (oh, dear): “They’re crisps – chips, whatever you call them over here.”
“I can eat potato chips, Mr. Dominic. I’m not some sort of robot who’s eclipsed all need for sustenance.”
“I wouldn’t suggest it, ma’am.”
“I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”
He just stands there in silence, as though he has given up hope trying to reason with her (as if she needs to be reasoned with!) and instead will simply wait until she regains her senses. It’s very irritating.
“They’re Topher’s,” she adds, because she cannot shake the feeling that his quietness is very sneakily demanding some sort of explanation. “I stole them, while we were all …” High as bloody kites seems somehow indelicate. “… compromised.”
“Ah.” She notices the smallest twitch at the right corner of his mouth.
For some reason, this makes her—
“They’re pickle flavored,” she tells him. Lightly. Conversationally. Dear God, she thinks she may actually be babbling. “I wasn’t aware they made those. They’re getting very inventive, these potato chip people, aren’t they?”
“I think there are lime ones, too,” he valiantly responds.
“I thought so.”
They sink, then, into wickedly, searingly awkward silence.
It goes on for a very long time.
“We all did things that were less than professional during the drug incident,” she finally says, with as much clipped authority as she can possibly summon. “I just so happened to steal a bag of crisps.”
“Yes, from Topher. Why on earth does that matter?”
“It doesn’t.” He is openly smirking now. “The way I see it, anyone taking anything from Topher is great. Fantastic. Well done.”
There is a flicker of amusement that she can’t quite suppress. “I don’t suppose you’re enjoying this thanks to your little rivalry with our programmer?”
“That,” he replies, “would be less than professional.”
Translation: of course he is.
“Heaven forbid you do anything less than professional.” Offhandedly, she adds, “Before Sierra was wiped on the day of the drug fiasco, she happened to mention that you apparently became quite immersed in nuzzling your own jacket and likening it to a kitten.”
“Yes. Well.” He clears his throat. Twice. The supreme, exquisite embarrassment looks as though it might melt him altogether. She expects he may blush. At last, he meets her eyes again and grumbles, “Touché.”
She allows herself a smile. Now that the power balance has been restored, work seems entirely more tolerable. “Sit down, Mr. Dominic. Tell me what you came in here to tell me.”
“Of course.” As he takes a seat in the chair on the other side of her desk, she leans down and retrieves the bag of crisps properly. She opens her desk drawer and feels a fleeting pang of regret. She takes a kind of satisfaction in ignoring it, and drops the bag in.
Mr. Dominic chooses this precise moment to make things complicated. “I won’t mind if you ate while—”
“No, no.” She waves a hand. “Forget about it, please.”
The drawer isn’t closed yet. The bag of crisps insists upon being so excruciatingly present.
Damn all inappropriate starches.
“Perhaps I’ll sneak a few,” she amends, making sure to sound lofty and professional and not at all as though she is in any way the slave to a snack food. “In light of our situation today, I happened to miss lunch.”
He nods. “Lunch wasn’t really a top priority, what with the—”
“Attempts at murder and falling off very tall buildings?”
They go momentarily quiet, looking at one another with a kind of shared relief that things hadn’t gone as badly as they’d threatened to for awhile earlier. She’s not one to need constant support or companionship – if she was, this certainly would have been a disastrous line of work for her. But on occasion, sharing a moment with someone else who understands very well the sheer madness of what they deal with on a daily basis can be … pleasant.
“Have you eaten?” she finds herself asking him.
He looks a bit surprised by the question. “No, actually.”
She takes the bag out of her desk and holds it out in his direction. “Please.”
He gives her a slight smile. Unsettlingly, it’s enough to make her want to smile back. She does not quite refrain as he stares into the bag. “Pickle flavored, huh?”
“You wouldn’t think it, but it works.”
“That, I’ll have to try to believe.” He reaches for a handful.
“By all means.” She smirks. “Be careful not to get any crumbs on that suit, by the way. We wouldn’t want to compromise its softness.”
“Ha ha.” Decidedly lacking in brilliance, as far as retorts go, but she thinks she may like it. It’s been quite sometime since she was properly conversational with anyone who wasn’t about to pay their establishment millions of dollars. (She cannot in good conscience deem her exchanges with Topher properly conversational.)
He doesn’t like the crisps and cannot believe that she does; he insists that she must have stolen something else of superior quality. (“Ruffles? Some of those little crackers shaped like goldfish? Come on.”) There is a dangerous, dreadful split-second in which she’s tempted to mend the situation by suggesting they go out for dinner. In order to ensure that the thought gets banished, buried, erased completely, she shifts the discussion to work. And there it remains.
So surely it can be classified as a business lunch. Of sorts.