Title: Two People
(I added a bit after you saw it, though)
Characters: Priya, Adelle, Tony, Topher, Harding
Warning: very brief mention of surgery
Spoilers: general spoilers for s1 and s2 up to 2.10
Word Count: 1,519.
Written for: Otahyoni
Prompt: touch, safety; Victor(Tony)/Sierra(Priya)
Summary: AU: DeWitt cuts them loose, and Priya gets them to shelter
‘Only shut down the two, Adelle.’ The order had a certain sense to it. One of the group mind had been observed schooling with the third person in the car. Schools stick together, after all, a fact borne out in many Houses.
Normally Adelle disobeyed that sort of order. Better not to chance the school scattering to the four winds, she reasoned on those occasions.
But just this once, she complied. Adelle watched the screen which displayed the vital statistics of Caroline and Anthony – entering paralysis at this very moment – and of Priya, whose pulse was skyrocketing.
“Best you recover our lost Dolls, Selena,” Adelle said to Selena Ramirez, Anthony’s handler.
“They’ll be back before midnight,” she told Adelle.
“With bells on, no doubt.”
I wonder if I was ever programmed to be a soldier, Priya Tsetsang thought to herself as she hauled Tony up one terraced hill after another. That would be ironic, since I used to be a military brat.
Her grandfather used to take her hunting in Gippsland – trips her father tried to use to convince Priya to enlist in military service. Had I joined up, I would never have known Anthony. She avoided breaking branches and stepping on loose sand. She knew the Dollhouse can send trackers. Was I ever one of them?
Drawing strength from deep within herself, Priya told Tony, “Onward and upward.”
‘Unless he’s thinking, a man’s deadweight,’ Priya’s father had always said. Though normally it was followed by ‘and him having foolish thoughts is worse.’ Been a while since I thought about Dad. I think he’d like Tony.
“Come on, Tony,” Priya said as she pulled him up the hill, keeping their profile low to the ground. “Be okay, please be okay.” One of her heels slipped an inch down the hill. “Not as packed-down as it looked,” she said to herself.
By the time she got him to the crest of the hill, it was hard to hear anything over the roar of blood in her ears. But even then, she had the presence of mind to not stand up when she looked down the hill to check the road. “Dust rising,” Priya said to herself. That spelled car – and it didn’t matter if it was a random tourist or if it was the Dollhouse, either way, they had to keep moving. And I have to figure out how to get the tracking devices out of us.
Priya awoke, her fingers cramped, in the shade cast by a cathedral of bone. Thousands of years ago, a mammoth had died here so they would have shelter. The ground had washed away from one end, leaving her and – she shot out one hand to feel, and touched the familiar form – Tony in ribbed light.
We’re safe, Priya thought to herself, relieved, opening her eyes slowly in in anticipation of pain after all the educated guesswork late last evening – Grandfather had caught all the rabbits, but he made sure I knew how they were put together. The blood from inflicted cuts and bleeding fingertips, still sore from all the thornwork and use of… pretty sure that stone was obsidian, had caked dry.
She slid her shirt back over the dried blood on her neck, and Tony’s over his – if she had done that last night, their shirts would have stained, marking them out. Making it harder to get help.
“We need to get moving soon,” Priya told Tony, wishing he would wake up and afraid that, now that she had removed the Dollhouse’s devices, he could be like this forever. No! “We’ll get out of here together,” she promised Tony. No matter what happens, we don’t part company.
Rising first to a crouch, Priya then rose very slowly to her feet, her eyes taking in everything, coming to rest on a church on the horizon.
“Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Brink, that, even without any of our equipment inside him, that we can still exert our influence to bear over Tony?”
“Uh, kinda, and not really,” Topher said to Adelle. “See, both Tony and Priya have their original memory sets, and it works best with that… Although -”
“Right. Explaining. Without any of our stuff in them, all we can still hit ‘Reset’ on a former Doll, and…” Seeing that his boss’ attention was on the lifesigns monitor, Topher finished, “Tony wakes up, none the worse for wear.”
“Then do it. But only for Tony.”
“Not for Priya?”
“The girl has suffered enough, Mr. Brink. And she is already awake.”
Priya was sitting, catching her breath in the shadow of a saguaro cactus, with Anthony propped up beside her, when she became aware she was being watched. There!
Big rear feet, long ears, no tail to speak of. “A rabbit,” Priya said to herself. A hare or a rabbit? she wondered. She was pretty sure America had species of both.
“You’re the first living thing I’ve come across,” she told the rabbit. Well, not counting the cacti. “Thanks.” Thanks for showing up – you’re a welcome sight. And that paved the way for questions she wouldn’t have thought of two years ago: If you’re a rabbit, can you act like a hare? Can you imprint a rabbit with something else’s thoughts? and the question didn’t leave as fast as it would have before that fateful day on the beach. Priya groaned.
The rabbit’s ears caught the sound, and the little creature tensed, every muscle ready to run.
“These days, I know the feeling,” Priya whispered. She stayed calm and still. It’s just us up here.
But rabbits don’t follow the three strikes rule – for them, one strike, one uncautious move, and they leave at all possible speed.
Leaving the two humans very alone.
Priya held Tony’s hand and rubbed it soothingly – as much to relax herself as him. “I won’t leave you, Tony,” she said, meaning every word.
“I’m not obligated to do this, Adelle,” Harding said, “but I must confess to a measure of curiosity. So go ahead. Please explain yourself.”
“Thank you,” Adelle said. “You’re aware of our difficulties with Echo,” she began, and when he nodded, she continued, “Whomever was working with Caroline and Echo, clearly is not a friend of Rossum.”
“While I agree, what does that have to do with the two lost lambs whose cords you cut? It isn’t the sort of order you comply with most days,” though most days end in accordance with Rossum’s goals, so you’ve been allowed some leeway.”
“Before her most recent exit from the Dollhouse, Echo made sure to return a Doll to its pre-Doll state. And when Echo hooked herself into the group mind of our sibling organization under the Rossum roof, she then proceeded to kill every one of the linked soldiers, w-”
“With one exception. And you feel she spared him…why? For what reason?”
“I don’t know yet – but I shall find out.” Count on it.
“But you suggest that whoever it is that considers them so important won’t be able to find them, if only we don’t look?” Piggybacking on our Houses, as it were. This is something to be dealt with, and we can afford to lose two Dolls while we do so.
“Yes, Mr. Harding, that is exactly what I am suggesting,” Adelle said.
Priya had reached the halfway point between the mammoth skeleton and the church, when Tony began to cough. “Tony?” she asked as she eased him down to the ground.
“Hey,” he said, looking up at his savior. “I know you.”
Priya smiled. “That’s good. I’m glad. Do you know your name?” Sounds less insulting than ‘Who are you?’
“Anthony Ceccolli,” Tony said. “You’re Priya, right? I’d like to say I never forget a face, but I’ve had a rough couple of days.”
‘If she’s here, it helps me to remember, it helps me to focus,’ Tony had said. Priya treasured memories like that, and not simply because such thoughts helped smother any memory of Nolan. Tony was Tony, and she was glad of his company.
They’d spent the past few days in the shelter afforded by what remained of the Santa Helena Church, eking out a hiding life – not hidden, just hiding, as Topher and my cousins would say, Priya thought to herself.
There was one thing Priya noticed above all others: how Tony’s facial expressions mirrored her own, how his accent matched hers, how his hands were doing all hers did…more yesterday than today, mind. Mirroring.
Priya chalked this up to Tony’s mind recovering from the sudden shut-down out there on the road, and from what had happened to everyone his brain had been linked to. We weren’t built for this sort of thing. As she, as she placed one hand on his, feeling his pulse, she hoped Tony recovered.
This too shall pass, and we’ll get through it together, Priya knew.