Summary: There's a new Active in the dollhouse.
Characters: Echo, Adelle DeWitt, unknown.
Original story: Romeo Haunted by emmademarais
Notes: Thank you xturncoatxiii for betaing! I'll probably do a more comprehensive post about the process on my journal, if anyone's interested.
Saint-Seducing Gold (The Natural Minor Remix)
The new friend is tall, but not very tall. Victor passes him by, and stands taller. The new friend is all gold like Sierra's hair and not so stretched out. "Hello, Echo," says the man with the new friend. "This is Romeo."
The new friend has pale green eyes. They are very pretty.
"Hello, Romeo," Echo says.
Romeo looks at her and does not say anything. Echo says, "I'm going to paint now. It helps me be better."
"Being your best is important," says Romeo.
"Come along," the man says to Romeo, and then Romeo and the man walk away. Echo starts walking to the art area. She will paint birds with soft white wings today. Maybe Romeo will like them.
"I don't want anyone fucking with my head."
Adelle waited patiently as the scruffy man with the wild eyes and the handsome face got up and paced again. His eyes roved continuously from one corner of the room to another, as if seeking out something that only he could see. Whatever event had driven him here, it had left permanent scars in more areas than he would let on.
But that wasn't Adelle's business. She took a sip of tea and watched him push off from the table, the wall, and back again. Eventually he sat back down again.
"Your memories and sense of self will not be tampered with," Adelle said, once he calmed down enough to listen. "They will be saved until your time is up, and then they will be returned to you. Your criminal record will be erased. No one will know who you are. You will be free to go."
"Go where?" her potential client asked, and then he was up and pacing again. "Home? Don't have one. And there's not an angel in heaven who would take me in now." He paused, and laughed. It sounded forced, or at least extremely bitter. "Okay, maybe one."
Romeo sleeps in the place where Victor used to sleep. But he doesn't get up right behind Sierra like Victor used to. Romeo stands up first and looks up at the ceiling. "It's empty up there," he says.
"We're down here," Echo replies.
But Romeo keeps looking up. "The light isn't so bright anymore," he says.
"I'll forget everything?"
The potential client was back, wild-eyed as ever, and gritting his teeth when he thought Adelle wasn't watching. Occupational hazard, most likely. Whatever his life was that he spent so much time flirting with oblivion, it didn't just hurt him mentally. But then again, the scars and bruises Adelle glimpsed told that story before.
"Yes," she said, and made certain not to smile or otherwise give away her amusement. "Everything that makes you who you are will be carefully removed and stored away, waiting for you."
"And then I'm free to go."
"Precisely." Adelle did smile, then; a slow satisfied curve of the mouth that made Topher wince whenever she used it on him. The man before her now didn't seem intimidated. He looked ambivalent.
"In five years' time."
"That is the standard agreement, yes."
The man closed his eyes, set his jaw, and shut down. "I can't do that. There's a war coming…" He spoke so softly, Adelle could only barely understand his words. But it took him longer to reach this point than it did last time. Within a few more meetings, the dollhouse would have him. Whatever war was coming, it wasn't one this man was going to win.
Vicky wipes her forehead, feeling the beginnings of sweat pricking at her pores. "Look, how much longer do we have to wait here?"
Next to her, leaning against the sun-heated concrete wall, Derek shrugs. "As long as it's gonna take," he says. "She's not supposed to show up for another thirty minutes, anyway." Then he grins that mischievous grin of his, the one that gets most of the girls and some of the guys staring.
Vicky rolls her eyes. "We're not going to make an ice cream run."
Derek sighs over-dramatically and opens his mouth to say something, but then pauses. Or no – he freezes, staring away to their left, where a man with two dogs has rounded the corner. They're big dogs, dark brown and muscular, and one is snarling at another dog, across the street.
"Since when are you afraid of dogs?" Vicky asks, and keeps her tone light and teasing.
For a moment, Derek doesn't say anything, and his hands, once rested against the wall, scrape against the rough concrete as they close into fists. Then he squeezes his eyes shut and slowly relaxes. When he turns back to Vicky, his face is pale and his eyes are wide. "I'm not afraid of dogs," he says.
He was back again, sitting down, slumped. Defeated. But Adelle couldn't say for sure who had defeated him. "Why do you want me?"
Adelle didn't answer right away. First, she sipped at the cup of tea before her. Then she placed it back on the table, and rearranged herself, slowly settling her hands, lacing her fingers together. Only then did she look back up at the man on the other side of the table. He wasn't perfect – a few scars, and a traumatic past and present that would doubtless make itself known in his subconscious – but he would do. Let him wonder why he was special – it would do him no good to know that the only special thing about him was that he kept coming back, kept delaying the decision.
"Because you would be an asset," Adelle said instead, and he met her eyes then, head jerking up a bit as she finally spoke. "We need you, and others like you."
"And for five years, I won't remember a thing. The hell I've been through"
Adelle smiled, and played her card. "You won't even remember you had a brother."
The poster asks, Have You Seen This Man? The face beneath these letters is pretty, with clear, intense eyes, sculpted nose, full mouth. He looks vaguely familiar, like Anita has seen him crossing a street or on a bus or somewhere else she wouldn't really notice him.
"I'm sorry," she tells the man holding the sign. And then, because she's not quite late to her ride home, she asks, "Who is he?"
"My brother," says the man, and his shaggy head droops just a little bit more. "He just vanished about a month ago."
"Could it be that he's just not staying in touch?"
The sign-holder shakes his head. "No. He'd never do that. After – after Dad died… we're all each other has left. And now he's missing." The sign wavers, as he looks her over, searching for some kind of sign, maybe. Anita wishes she could help. "You haven't seen him anywhere, have you?"
"No dice," says Anita. She's got to run, anyway, or else she really will be late for her treatment. "I'm so sorry. Good luck finding him."
"Thanks anyway," says the man with the sign.
Adelle read over the papers her latest soon-to-be-Active had signed, and saw what she expected to. Vague replies, outright lies, huge omissions in his stories. She wouldn't have noticed the lies and omissions, had she not also acquired a copy of his criminal record, to examine before she erased it. Rossum couldn't risk someone in a position of authority recognising one of their Actives.
"You are quite the enigma, Dean Winchester," Adelle said, turning away from the railing. "Welcome to the dollhouse."