“When things really mattered
And we really cared
And simply being was easy
Just having you there.”
-Anna Ternheim; “No, I Don't Remember”
They had been in this elevator for way too long. Of course, maybe that was the point, to be trapped in an elevator for eternity.
“I hate the quiet,” Dominic commented suddenly, if only to break the silence.
“Well, Mr. Dominic, you should be glad there's no elevator music,” said Echo, who was leaning against the back wall of the elevator.
“God, that would be a nightmare, wouldn't it?” Dominic said, glancing at her, and Echo laughed.
“I'm glad you're finding something to laugh about,” he said. He turned back to face the door. “Mr. Dominic,” he mused. It had been a long time since he'd been addressed so formally. He looked at her, shaking his head. “It sounds weird.” Out-of-place. This situation was anything but formal.
Echo paused. “You're right, I don't normally call you that, do I? Just Dominic, then,” she said decidedly. “Or I could always call you Laurence.”
Dominic laughed. “Not many people call me that.”
“Really? Not even your mom?” Echo said, teasing. When Dominic didn't answer, she said, “I could call you Larry if you want.”
“Oh, God, please don't,” Dominic said in sudden alarm. As Echo laughed again, the elevator pinged and came to a halt.
“Oh, finally,” Echo said. Dominic tensed, not sure what would be waiting on the other side of the doors, but when they swung open, they only revealed a dimly-lit hallway. A bright, flickering blue light came from a room at the end of the hall. They made their way slowly towards it, Dominic flicking his gaze around the hall, watching for Arcane.
The room at the end of the hall was a computer lab. A man sat at one of the computers, the screen lit up by a primitive computer game. The man seemed transfixed by it.
Echo ran to the man immediately, touching him on the shoulders. Dominic followed her cautiously, keeping his eyes on the door.
“Hey!” Echo said to the man. “Can you hear me? Can you come with us?”
The man looked at her blankly. “I'm playing a game.”
Echo knelt next to him. “No, it's not real. None of this is real. You're in the Attic, you have to get out! If you come with us, we can help you!”
The man's face lit up. “Would you like to play, too? I'm about to beat this level!”
Echo looked up at Dominic, who shook his head. This guy was no different from any of the other poor saps they'd encountered – too far gone to be called back. Somehow he and Echo were lucky enough to be awake. If you could call this luck at all.
Echo stood up and leaned against the wall, crossing her arms in frustration.
“What?” said Dominic. Echo shook her head and didn't answer. “What?” he pressed her.
“It just seems so...” Echo paused, letting out a huff of air. “Pointless. I know you're real, and you know I'm real, but do you ever think that this is just a new nightmare the Dollhouse has constructed for us? You and me, chasing Arcane around the Attic, trying to wake people up, but failing, every time.”
She made a good point. Dominic paced the room for a moment before answering. “Okay, if this is our nightmare, then how come they let us find each other?”
Echo shrugged. “I don't know. To screw with you.” Dominic must have looked confused, because she clarified, “Because you hate me.”
“Come on, I don't hate you,” he scoffed, turning away. He pulled a chair out and sat down, facing Echo. “When have I ever given you reason to think that?”
Vague amusement crossed Echo's face. “You tried to kill me. More than once, if I remember correctly.”
Dominic grimaced, looking down quickly. The things that had happened before he'd been put in the Attic felt so long ago that at times they hardly seemed real. “Sorry.” He shook his head and looked back up at her. “I don't want to kill you anymore.”
“Good to know,” she said, still grinning wryly.
The man sitting at the machine next to Echo let out a yelp, as a bolt of electricity emitted from the fraying wires at the back of the computer. Dominic stood up immediately. “What's going on?” he said sharply.
“I'm losing,” the man said plaintively. He frantically tapped the keyboard, intensely focused on the screen.
Understanding he was going to get nothing out of this guy, Dominic turned to Echo instead. “Arcane?”
“That'd be my guess.” Echo straightened up and walked to stand next to Dominic.
The light from the computer went off, plunging the room into darkness. When it came back on, Arcane was standing in front of them.
“Move!” Dominic ducked a blow from Arcane as Echo dove out of the way.
Dominic saw Echo run back to the man at the computer out of the corner of his eye as he threw a punch at Arcane. Knowing Arcane would go for the man, Dominic stepped quickly in front of him, hoping to hold him off for awhile at least. Arcane caught him with a punch to the jaw and he stumbled backwards, tripping over a chair. He picked it up quickly and swung it at Arcane, but he disappeared before Dominic could hit him. More electricity began to crackle from the wires attached to the computer.
“Is everything okay over there?” he shouted to Echo.
Before Echo could respond, Arcane hit Dominic in the back of the legs and he fell to the ground hard. He cursed at the pain, but scrambled to his feet and lunged at Arcane. He managed to get a couple solid blows in before Arcane disappeared again. Dominic whirled around, searching the room quickly. Arcane didn't reappear.
Guard still up, he approached Echo. “What's going on?”
“I don't know,” Echo said. “I can't get him to focus on anything but this game!”
As she spoke, a bolt of electricity emitted from the computer, hitting the man through the hand that was touching the mouse. The man let out a scream, then lay still.
“No!” Echo seized the man by the shoulders, shaking him hard. Then Echo convulsed as another bolt of electricity coursed through the man's body, hitting her.
“Echo!” Dominic started to grab her, but hesitated, not wanting to risk getting electrocuted himself.
Another bolt of electricity hit Echo; she let out a cry of pain and fell to the ground, curling up as the electricity crackled through her body. Dominic grabbed the man's arm and quickly felt for a pulse. He was dead. Dominic swore loudly. He checked Echo next. Her pulse was faint, but still there.
He picked her up, looking around the room quickly, hoping he could get them out before this guy's mind collapsed. What was he afraid of? On a whim, Dominic reached out and hit the button to turn off the computer. The room went dark.
The next thing he knew, he was standing in a street, surrounded by a crowd of rioting people; they were all yelling and carrying weapons. Several people bumped into him, nearly knocking him over. Dominic shoved his way through the crowd towards a side-street, out of the way of the rioting. Some nightmare.
He carefully laid Echo on the ground, hoping they'd be safe where they were for a few minutes. He patted her on the cheek and shook her gently. “Echo! Echo, can you hear me?”
Echo's eyes flew open and she gasped. She slowly sat up. When she looked at Dominic, she seemed strangely calm. “Did I fall asleep?” she said, quietly bewildered.
Dominic drew back, gripped by a sudden horror. He pushed it away impatiently in an effort to remain calm. He put a hand to her cheek. “Echo, hey! Are you with me?” He shook her again.
Echo tilted her head. “Shall I go now?”
Dominic stood up quickly and backed away from her. “If you're messing with me, you need to knock it off.” He clenched his jaw and it occurred to him that he wasn't sure if he was addressing Echo or the bastards who ran Rossum.
Echo rose to her feet and serenely walked towards the main street, where the rioting was going on. Her brow furrowed. “Everyone's so angry.”
Dominic closed his eyes, taking a moment to compose himself, then followed her. “Don't try to go out there.” As if reasoning with a Doll would work.
“Why not?” Echo said curiously.
Christ. He turned away, running a hand over his face. Dominic had forgotten how much he hated the Actives in their Doll states. Grown adults reduced to the mindset of children. It was disturbing, and he could hardly stand to see Echo like this.
He glanced back towards Echo, and saw her walking into the crowd. Dammit. She'd be trampled in no time. He ran after her, trying to get to her before she got hurt. Just as he reached her, the crowd knocked her to the ground and she let out a cry of pain. Dominic grabbed her by the arm and yanked her none-too-gently back to the alley.
He released her as soon as they were safe. “How'd this happen to you, huh?” he snapped. “Is this your nightmare?”
The Doll cringed away from him, pressing herself against the wall. She sank to the ground and curled up like a frightened child.
Dominic cursed and turned away. It wasn't her fault, anyway. Maybe this wasn't even her nightmare; it could just as easily be his. Trapped in the Attic with a Doll? That was definitely not something he had ever wanted to happen in his life. He looked back at the woman curled on the ground, hugging her knees tightly to her chest, terrified. He made a mental note to do very bad things to whatever freak was in charge of Rossum as soon as he got out of this place.
He could just leave her here. That might be the easiest thing to do, to just go on by himself instead of trying to babysit her. He'd gotten along just fine for a long time before she'd shown up.
But now he'd gotten used to Echo's company. Having her there to share the nightmare with made it much more bearable. The thought of being alone in this hell – honestly he'd rather die.
There was a scream from the main street; Dominic turned his head towards the sound. He couldn't see exactly what had happened, but something had redirected the rioting mob's attention, and it appeared they were heading towards the alley.
“Shit,” he muttered. He turned back to Echo. “Okay, we've gotta go.” The Doll didn't move. “Do you hear me?”
She was practically hysterical. He wouldn't get her to go anywhere if he didn't calm her down. Dominic knelt next to her, running his hand over his chin. Dammit. He placed a hand on Echo's shoulder. She flinched slightly but turned to look at him. “Um.” Dominic cleared his throat. What was the phrase? “Everything's going to be all right.”
Echo didn't respond right away. She tilted her head, her eyebrows knitting together like she was confused. “Now that... you're here,” she finally said, slowly.
It was sick, the way they were programmed to do that. But he couldn't bring himself to leave her, and he didn't know how else to get her to come with him. “Do you trust me?”
“With my life,” Echo said, replying with less hesitation this time.
Dominic stood quickly, trying not to feel too disgusted with himself. Now she trusted him. Because she was brainwashed and programmed to. Christ.
“Okay.” Dominic held out his hand to Echo; she took it and he pulled her to her feet. “We've got to get going before the mob gets back here.”
“What happens if they get back here?” Echo asked.
Dominic rolled his eyes, trying to keep his patience. “We get dead, probably. Come on.” He grabbed her hand again and yanked her down the street.
They rounded a corner and Dominic spotted a door at the back of a building. Finding it unlocked, he shoved it open and pulled Echo quickly inside.
The room was a ceremonial hall, where a woman stood at the end of an aisle, looking at notecards. She looked up at Dominic and Echo fearfully. “I've been practicing my speech. But I don't think they're going to like what I have to say.”
Dominic looked at the windows, where the rioting people could still be seen. “You know, I don't think they are.”
He sat Echo down in a chair and started to turn away, but stopped when he saw a dark bruise forming on her cheek. “Hey.” He knelt next to her and gently ran his thumb across the bruise. It must've happened when the crowd had knocked her down. “Does this hurt? Are you okay?”
“It's sore,” Echo said.
Dominic met her eyes, searching for signs of life, the real Echo, not the Doll.
“You're touching my face,” Echo observed.
Dominic dropped his hand and stood up. There was nobody in there. “Stay here,” he said gruffly.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Just making sure we're safe.” After years of working in security, his instincts kicked in, even here.
The back door that he and Echo had come through was locked; for good measure Dominic pulled a chair in front of it, jamming it under the handle.
He strode over to the woman with the notecards. “Is there another way out?” he asked sharply. “Somewhere safer?” The woman didn't answer. “Can you help me with her?” Dominic gestured to Echo. He didn't know what was to be done about Echo, but maybe if he had a computer... He almost found himself wishing Topher Brink was there, but he quickly discarded that thought. The only thing worse than being trapped in the Attic with a Doll would be being trapped in the Attic with a Doll and Topher Brink.
The woman still didn't respond. Dominic grabbed her by the shoulders. “Can you hear what I'm saying to you?”
There was another pause. “Do you want to hear my speech?” she finally said.
Dominic fought the urge to hit her. He stalked away to the front doors of the building.
“No!” cried the woman. “Don't open the doors!”
“I wasn't going to open -” Dominic started, annoyed, but then he paused, turning back towards her. “That's what you're afraid of, isn't it? Going out in the crowd?”
“I – I don't think they're going to like what I have to say,” said the woman, looking anxiously down at her notecards.
“I know,” Dominic said, starting towards her. “But listen to me, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to -” He was cut off by a painful blow to the center of his back that knocked him to the floor. He rolled onto his back to see Arcane standing over him. Dominic raised a hand to defend himself, but, uninterested in him, Arcane turned toward the woman. “Look out!” Dominic yelled, scrambling to his feet and shoving the woman away from Arcane.
Before he could react, Arcane seized Dominic by the throat, lifting him into the air. Dominic clawed at the hand around his throat, struggling to breathe, but Arcane kept his hold, squeezing tighter. Darkness began creeping into the corners of Dominic's vision; he felt himself slipping into unconsciousness.
Suddenly he found himself on the ground, gasping for air.
“Dominic, on your left!” someone shouted, and instinctively he rolled to the right.
He looked around wildly, and saw Echo fending off Arcane. Moments later, Arcane disappeared, and Echo ran to Dominic's side, helping him to his feet. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said hoarsely. He rubbed his throat as he stared at Echo. “You're... normal?”
She tilted her head. “Was I ever normal?” When Dominic kept looking at her, she nodded. “Yeah.”
Relief swept over him in a wave, the strength of it surprising even him, and before Dominic quite knew what he was doing, he had seized Echo in a tight hug.
Echo returned the hug with some bewilderment, patting him on the back. After a moment, she cleared her throat. “Hey, Laurence, you good?”
“Yeah.” Dominic released her immediately, stepped a respectable distance away, and folded his hands behind his back, trying to cover his embarrassment. “So, you're, uh, you're okay, up here?” He gestured to his head.
She nodded again, smiling slightly. “As I ever was. It's all coming back, in sort of waves.” She winced and put a hand to her temple. “Kind of hurts, actually. Like a treatment but without the chair.” Suddenly she cried out in pain, doubling over.
Dominic went to her side immediately, his hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right?” he said.
“Yeah,” she said painfully. “There are a lot of people in my head. Hard to control when they're all coming back at once like this.”
Dominic furrowed his brow, and he couldn't keep the thought of Alpha from crossing his mind. “Everything okay?”
Echo gave him a look that told him plainly she knew what he was thinking. “There are no psychopaths up here. Well, one,” she amended as she straightened up. “But don't worry. I'm no Alpha.”
Dominic nodded, his hand lingering on her shoulder for a moment to make sure she was steady. “I know.” And somehow he did believe her. He'd spent so long thinking she was the next Alpha, but now, after actually knowing her, he was sure she wasn't.
“Hey.” She clapped him on the shoulder. “What about you? Arcane almost had you there. Not getting sloppy on me, are you?”
“Of course not,” he said, a little indignantly, then felt foolish for being offended; she'd saved his life. “Thanks. For taking care of Arcane.”
“Don't worry about it,” Echo said easily. She sat down in one of the chairs. “It gave me something to focus on while everybody woke up in here.” She tapped her head.
“How'd that happen, anyway?” Dominic asked. He wasn't eager for this to happen again.
Echo shrugged. “Hell if I know. I guess it was the computer. When I got electrocuted it must've fried something in my head.”
“Yeah, speaking of that, that was really stupid of you,” Dominic said. It had just occurred to him that he was angry with her.
“Excuse me?” Echo said with a small, skeptical laugh.
“As soon as that guy died, you should've gotten away from the computer. Who knows what could've happened to you? You were lucky this time, but -”
“Hey,” Echo snapped, standing up. “I was trying to save him. Isn't that what we're trying to do here? I know you've spent years in here hunting Arcane, and that's your whole dealio, but I want to help people. You think we can just leave them here? We have to get them out!”
Dominic scowled. He put so much effort into keeping them safe, and she would disregard all of that to help all of the hopeless souls trapped in the Attic. She was right to do it, and she wouldn't really be Echo if she didn't, but Dominic didn't like the danger she put herself in. However, he had no good argument against her. He exhaled sharply and looked away. “You are something else.”
“Damn right I am,” Echo said.
In spite of himself, a wry smile tugged at Dominic's lips as he stared at the ground.
“Anyway,” Echo continued. “What about her?” She jerked her head toward the woman. “Did you get through to her at all?”
Back to business, then. Setting aside his lingering annoyance, Dominic shook his head. “No. She doesn't want me to open the doors, though. She's afraid of the crowd. They'll rip her to pieces if we let 'em in.”
Echo walked towards the doors, peering out the window, and looked back at the woman. She was deliberately not looking up from her notecards.
“What are you thinking?” Dominic asked Echo.
“I don't know,” Echo said. “I thought maybe if we open the doors and force her to face her fear she might snap into awareness somehow, but that could be really risky, I don't know if she could handle it.”
Dominic doubted she could. He paused to think. “What if we -” The lights flickered and went out, and Dominic stopped talking to look around, instantly on guard. When the lights came back on, the room was empty except for him and Echo. Then the walls around them flickered and disappeared. “What the hell?”
The lights went out again, plunging them into darkness, and when the darkness lifted, they were somewhere else entirely. It was the atrium of the Dollhouse, and there was a snow-covered tree in the middle of it. Dominic looked around uneasily. “We've been here before.”
“Yeah,” Echo said. She walked up to the tree, laying a hand on the trunk. “This is my mind. Why the hell are we here?” She spoke quietly, almost to herself.
“You want my best guess?”
Echo turned back towards Dominic and nodded.
“They're after you, specifically,” Dominic said. “I figure, they've realized you're self-aware and they're trying to snuff you out before you can do any damage.”
“Why me?” Echo said, a hint of anger in her voice. “Why specifically me, and not you?”
Dominic smiled humorlessly. “I doubt I register on their system. I'm not important. You are.”
“Great,” muttered Echo. “That's great. I thought we were through with this!” As she spoke, her voice grew louder, angrier. “Didn't I prove already that they're not gonna scare me?”
Everything about the situation made Dominic uncomfortable. They were out in the open, exposed. They'd been transported here inexplicably; he didn't know why, or how. Every instinct told him to get out fast. “Echo, I think we should -”
Before he could finish his sentence, another voice spoke. “Prove you're not just an echo.” The voice reverberated around the room as Dominic whirled around, trying to find the source.
“Did you hear that?” he demanded of Echo.
Clearly she had; she looked more shaken than he could remember seeing her. “He was right next to my ear.” Her voice wavered, and there was a moment of pure fear on her face, before she masked it with anger. She walked to the center of the room, spreading her arms, and looked upward. “We've been through this already!” she shouted to the ceiling. “You wanna scare me? It's not gonna happen here!”
“Echo.” Dominic put a hand on her arm, pulling her back.
“Let go!” she snapped, jerking away. She didn't look at him and continued shouting. “Come on, Rossum, you bastards! You wanna get rid of me? You can't! You can try all you want,” she said with a bitter laugh, “but I'm still here! Shoulder to the wheel, right? No matter how many times you try to erase me. And you!” She suddenly whirled on Dominic, and she looked so furious that he backed up a few paces, lifting his hands warily. “Snuff me out before I can do any damage?” she said. “Is that your theory because that's what you wanted to do to me?”
Dominic didn't answer. He couldn't deny it, after all. “I'm not proud of it,” he said finally.
“Right,” Echo said. “You were just protecting the House. You know why you wanted to kill me? Why everyone wants to kill me?” As she spoke, she stepped closer to Dominic, until she was inches from him. “Because I exist,” she said. She shrugged. “That's it. Just because I'm awake in here.” She tapped her head. “So how do you think I feel?”
Dominic sighed. He'd figured that this would come up eventually. It was idealistic to think that attempted murder was something they could just forget about. “I can't ask you to forgive me. I don't expect you to forgive me.” He placed his hands on Echo's shoulders, and she turned her head away. “I just want you to know that... Hey.” He touched her chin, turning her face gently back towards him. The anger in her eyes had dulled and she looked more tired now than anything. “I want you to know that I'm with you now. And I'll do whatever you need me to do to get you out of here and to take down Rossum. Hey, you hear me?” He brushed her hair away from her forehead.
Echo nodded. “I hear you. Thank you.” She sounded sincere but exhausted as she pulled away from him. She went to lean against the tree, sliding to the ground, her eyes closed.
Dominic sat down next to her. “Echo?”
She opened her eyes and looked at him.
“I wanted to apologize to you,” Dominic began. “For earlier, when you were wiped, and I did that thing, the call-and-response.” He shook his head. “I always thought that was sick, the way you're programmed to trust anyone we tell you to. Especially after what happened with Hearn. So, I'm sorry for - ” He stopped, noticing that Echo was smiling. “What?”
“You really don't know how this works, do you?”
“That was never my priority, no.” Dominic had made a point, in fact, not to memorize every detail of the imprint process.
“Well if you had paid attention, you would know that I don't trust just anyone who does the call-and-response. There's a whole process,” she explained. “I'm programmed to trust my handlers. But you're not my handler.”
“Oh.” Dominic furrowed his brow. “Wait, then why...?”
“Did I respond the way I did?” Echo finished. “Because when you said that, I think you woke me up. The part of me that does trust you. And I think that's how I was able to,” she shrugged, “come back. So really, you shouldn't be apologizing. I think I should be thanking you for that."
“You're welcome,” Dominic said, slightly bewildered. “You trust me?”
Echo looked at him like he was an idiot. “Of course I do.” She grinned and added, with a touch of irony, “With my life. And I'm sorry I yelled at you.”
“Don't worry about it, I deserved it.”
Echo sighed, and he glanced at her to see what was wrong. She was clearly still in pain from the wipe; her eyes were shut tightly, her elbows resting on her knees, and her head in her hands. “Hey, come on,” Dominic said, standing up. “Let's get out of the open; you need to rest.”
“It's just a headache,” she muttered, but accepted his outstretched hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet.
“Yeah, well, you've been through a lot in just a few hours.” Dominic slid his arm around Echo's waist, supporting her weight. She leaned heavily against him, which revealed more of her exhaustion than she'd ever admit out loud.
Down the dark hallway, Dominic sat Echo down on a cushioned bench. He figured it was a safe enough place for now, tucked in a corner and concealed by shadows. He knelt in front of Echo. “Are you okay?”
“I'm fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. “It was just a wipe, nothing I'm not used to.”
“I know.” He sat down next to her. “You should try to sleep. I'll stay awake and keep an eye out for Arcane.”
Echo nodded, settling herself in the corner, leaning against the wall. She pulled her legs up onto the bench, stretching them out in front of her with a sigh. “Thanks for babysitting the broken Doll. I know it's probably the last thing you want to do.”
“You think that's how I feel about you?” Dominic shook his head. “Echo, you're not broken. I think you know yourself better than anyone else I've ever met.”
Echo smiled slightly. “I appreciate that. Means a lot, coming from you.”
“Why, because I'm a jackass who wouldn't say that to just anyone?” he said.
“No!” Echo said. She paused. “Okay... yes.” Dominic laughed, but Echo went on, “I did think that's what you thought of me. It's good to know I'm wrong. I never thought you'd have anything nice to say about me.”
“Ah. Well, you are wrong,” Dominic said with a smile, then, more seriously, “And, like I said before, I'm sorry for the whole trying-to-kill-you thing. Not really my best moments.”
“If it helps your guilty conscience, Laurence,” Echo said comfortably, her eyes closed, “I almost threw you out a window, and I'm half the reason you're stuck in the Attic. I think eventually these things start to even out.”
A nice way of thinking about it. “For the record,” he said, “I have a lot of nice things to say about you.”
“Do you?” she said, laughing suddenly, her eyes fluttering open.
“Yeah, you wanna hear them?”
Echo shook her head. “Maybe later. I think I'm just gonna fall asleep now.”
“About time,” Dominic said. “You need to.” He started to stand up, but hesitated. Echo looked at him, waiting for him to say what was on his mind. He reached out a hand and stroked her cheek, then kissed her softly on the lips. She tensed in slight surprise for a split second, but relaxed quickly, her hand moving to rest on the back of his neck. Her lips parted slightly, returning the kiss. Her fingers curled gently into the back of his jacket, tugging him closer, which surprised Dominic. But then again, he thought absently, maybe this had been a long time coming.
He was aware that Echo was exhausted, though, and he didn't want to push it, so he pulled away, and Echo smiled. “Were you going to let me sleep, or what?” she said teasingly.
“Sorry. Yes, I am.” Dominic stood and started to turn away, when Echo seized his hand.
“Hey,” she said, her fingers tightening around his. “You know I was only kidding there, right?” She met his eyes, a flicker of uncertainty in hers. “I didn't mean...”
Dominic squeezed her hand reassuringly. “I know.”
Echo released him and settled back against the wall. “Wake me up in a couple hours, okay?”
“Okay,” he said softly, smiling. His hand lingered on her cheek for a moment before he dropped it to his side.
Dominic was starting to nod off himself, when he heard footsteps behind him, and he turned to see Echo approaching. “Hey, you're awake,” he said.
“Yeah. Anything happen while I was out?”
Dominic shook his head. “No sign of Arcane. Or anything, for that matter.” The quiet did nothing to help Dominic relax; if anything, it put him more on edge.
Echo glanced up and down the hallway, looking pensive. When gaze passed over Dominic, she seemed to snap out of deep thought. “You okay?” she asked, looking him up and down. “You look tense.”
“No more than usual,” he said tersely. They'd been in the same place longer than he'd like, but with Echo in the state she'd been in, it had been a necessary risk. “We should go. If you're up to it, that is.”
“Absolutely,” Echo said. “What now?”
“I think that should be your call,” Dominic said, meeting her eyes. “It's your mind we're in.”
Echo grinned wanly. “In that case, I'd like to get out of here.” She turned and pointed down the hall. “That way, I think, the same way as before. Through the imprint room.”
He gestured ahead of him. “Lead the way, then.”
As they walked down the hallway, Dominic stole a glance at Echo, looking for signs of lingering exhaustion. Echo noticed his looks and smiled.
“Hey, if you're thinking I'm not up for this,” she said, “you can quit worrying. I've got a doctor or two up here in my head. They all say I'm fine.”
“Yeah, but however many doctors are in your head, it's all you at the end of it,” Dominic said. “You'd say you were fine to keep going if you were on your knees coughing up blood.”
Echo laughed. “So now you think you know me?”
“Am I wrong?”
Echo rolled her eyes good-naturedly, unwilling to answer. “No,” she finally admitted. “You're not wrong.”
“So I know you a little bit, at least.” He doubted he'd ever really know her. Echo could take a thousand years to figure out, and that was before you even factored in the countless other personalities filling up her head. Frankly he was surprised there was room for them.
They reached the imprint room. Echo eyed the chair warily. “Are you ready for this?”
Dominic took a breath. “We get out through the chair, right? Is there a way we can go together? You can't find your way back if you get lost.”
Echo circled the chair, running her hands over it. “I think if you just hold on to me it should be okay. That's how it works, isn't it?” She looked up at him for confirmation.
“That's how it's worked in the past, yeah,” he said with a touch of impatience, not willing to trust that it would be the same every time. “If we get separated, though, I just -” He stopped and thought about what he was trying to say. “I don't want that to happen. Having you here – it makes it easier. To not just slip back into the nightmare.”
“Hey, don't get mushy on me, Laurence,” Echo said sharply. “We're going together.” Then she added more gently, “But yeah. It's nice to have an anchor.”
Echo sat down in the chair, taking his hand as she did so. Dominic shifted his weight uncomfortably, feeling once again like one of the Dollhouse's handlers. She tightened her grip. “Hey, everything's going to be fine,” she assured him. Her voice distorted and started to fade. In a moment of panic, Dominic thought he was losing her, but her tight hold on his hand never loosened as the world around them disappeared.