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Ain't No Sunshine
By Demeter


"They're brainwashed?" Claire asks doubtfully, glancing over where the woman Lindsay has brought to their meeting is chatting Jill up. They're laughing together like old friends, which is strange indeed but truth be told, nothing has been the same since Cindy hadn't returned from L.A.

"Yes. No. Something like that, it's hard to explain."

"And they made her to be like Cindy, to distract you from the case?"

"Not just like Cindy. She's her. In a way."

Claire studies her friend for a long uncomfortable moment. She realizes that she wants to cry. For Cindy, for Lindsay and for herself, because she suspects she's about to lose another friend. Lindsay hasn't be the same either. Not like she was during the days of Kiss Me Not even. This is worse. She follows Lindsay's gaze to their table and then looks back at her. She might still be a damn good cop, but this case, if there even is one in the first place, brought a feverish gleam to her eyes. Anything, any tiniest bit of hope of finding Cindy... But now, the way she's looking at this woman, Echo, startles Claire. Almost – calm.

"You slept with her," Claire blurts out, then slaps her hand against her mouth like in retrospect, as if she could hold the words in. Too late.

It isn't her place to criticize, Claire knows. She has her own nightmares about what might have happened to Cindy, but at least she has Ed to wake her from each of them and hold her when she cries over her friend. She has Jill and Lindsay.

Lindsay has been through hell, and if she can find a little distraction with this woman, who is Claire to blame her?

Lindsay turning away from her scrutiny is enough of an answer. "I'm sorry," Claire says. It's strange how much Echo's body languare resembles Cindy's. Or maybe not. Maybe it's very logical that Lindsay would choose a woman like her. Distraction is possibly not the plan after all. "None of my business."

"I need to find Cindy." Lindsay doesn't comment on the earlier subject . "And she's going to help me."


"By reaching that personality – or imprint – who brought me the message. That one is on our side."

Claire ponders this for a moment. She honestly can't tell what scares her more; the idea that such a place like the fabled Dollhouse exists - or if it doesn't - the conclusion that Lindsay is losing it. Completely. "I see. How are we going to accomplish that? Didn't you say they get 'wiped'?"

"Yes, but it seems like they can overcome that to some extent. There are residuals of other imprints... Hell, if I knew how this is working, I'd know a lot more."

"You think they did that to Cindy, too? Messing with her brain like that?" Is she buying into the delusion, too, now?

"What are you saying?" Lindsay asks, a hint of anger to her voice. "I just want her back, okay? Whatever. It doesn't matter what, no, of course it does matter, but--" She turns her back to Claire abruptly. "I need her to be alive. All else, we can handle."

"Lindsay." Claire lays a hand on her friend's shoulder, gently, urging her to look at her. "This is a reach. A very far reach even, but if you're right, it sounds like they undergo something like a very extreme form of hypnosis. Elements of torture maybe." The thought is enough to make her flinch; from the sad, pained look in Lindsay's eyes Claire can tell that she's been thinking of it, too. "If that is true, a way to reach the one you need to talk to would be, well, hypnosis."

"You know someone who can do that?" Lindsay asks, the fever back in her eyes.

"You keep in mind that it wouldn't be any more ethical than what they did in that place? As Echo is certainly not the personality she," Claire indicates the woman in question with a tilt of her head, "was to begin with."

"She wants to help. That's ethical enough for me."

They share a wry smile; not a secret between them that if it helps Cindy, they're both ready to cross a few lines.

"You go break the news to Jill," Claire says. "I'll have to make a few calls."

"Claire, I don't know how--"

"Save it for when we actually have achieved anything." She has to brush her off like this before her own fears and doubts are taking over. "Go."

Before Claire makes that call, she takes another look at Echo who smiles at her, the body of a young woman housing the soul of another and she is tempted, just for a moment, to cross herself.

The End

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