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Breaking Ground
By Demeter


It's for the story that Cindy goes back to her former prison, but it's also for closure, to see for herself what it's been like and leave it behind. She's infinitely grateful to have Lindsay by her side because as they ride in the elevator, she already feels like the air is getting thinner. It's just an illusion, but it's pretty powerful.

"Are you really sure?" Lindsay must have asked this a few dozen times. Sure she could have gone alone to get those files Cindy needs to piece together the time during which she's been on 'engagements,' but she can't back down. The Dollhouse is still her biggest story, after all. That, and she suspects that Lindsay needs the company just as well.

They get a full tour for free in the house of horrors. And indeed, it was, because while Cindy has been in a merciful state of oblivion, there was a serial killer going around in here. She can't bear to think about it now. It's bad enough as it is to realize what was mostly a part of those 'engagements.'

Lindsay just squeezes her hand tighter as if in understanding. Cindy wonders if she will ever talk about her part of this sad story, and if oblivion maybe wasn't the better deal. She didn't even have the concept of the two of them being together; the part of her that would have missed Lindsay so badly it would have hurt... Wasn't even there.

While her body was out there, with other people... Men. Would they find out who? How many? At this moment, Cindy wants to hide from the world, gripped by the cold fear that maybe Lindsay hasn't considered all the possiblities. If she had, would she still be here, holding Cindy's hand?

"You can always stop if it gets too much." Lindsay sounds too hopeful. Maybe it's too much for her as well, but Cindy can't spare either of them now. She came for the truth. This time, no one is going to stop her.

The tour continues, and they get to the sleeping area and the pods. If it didn't concern her at all, Cindy would probably be amazed by the utter evil that is behind designing a place like this, treat human beings like they owned them. Lindsay turns away sharply.

"Don't," Cindy whispers. "It's okay now. You got me out, that's all that counts."

Lindsay doesn't either protest nor agree.

They get to see the huge hall with the actives' clothes next. Cindy's jaw is practically dropping when she sees all the outfits that were there for her. The jeans, boots and leather jacket. The red dress and the high-heeled shoes. For some reason, it makes her uncomfortable, so she turns away to take a look at the others, only to be flabbergasted again.

"Whose are these?" she asks in disbelief. Not her size, but the style is unmistakably hers. Pants, blouses, vests, a few dresses that all look like something she'd wear. Had worn, in fact.

"They were Echo's," Boyd explains. Cindy tries to grasp the significance of this; Echo has helped Lindsay infiltrating the Dollhouse. Why would she be sent to… She staggers for a moment, and Lindsay catches her swiftly. "Echo? Why?"

"They wanted me off the case, so they sent her," Lindsay explains. "Fortunately, she was able to override the programming."

"Programmed as... Me? What sense would that..."

She breaks off when all of a sudden, all the implications come to her, of Echo being her, slowly taking over everything, her job, her life and... "No." She shakes her head. "That can't be possible."

Lindsay's pained look is enough of an answer though. Helping with the case isn't all that happened. In a time of which Cindy has no real memory at all, Echo has been her, completely.

It doesn't help to remind herself that Echo had just as little choices as she had and maybe the same is true for Lindsay, but Cindy can't approach this rationally now. "When were you going to tell me?"

"I don't know." At least, Lindsay is honest about it. "Maybe at a time when this would be over."

Cindy tries an ironic smile, but her facial muscles don't obey her, instead her eyes spill over again. "But that's the point, Lindsay, isn't it, it will never be over!" She can't stand to be in this place for a moment longer, confronted with everything it has taken from her. Run is the only impulse left, and she's giving in to it.

By the time Lindsay finds her on the park bench just a block away, the worst of it has passed. "At least now I know that you really love me for my inner values," she says when Lindsay sits beside her. Irony still doesn't work so well.

"I love you," is the simple answer.

Once upon a time, she would have said it back without hesitation but this moment, her mind flashes on memory fragments, the voices and touch of faceless people. She thinks of the woman once named Caroline, Echo really, beautiful Echo sharing case files, laughter and kisses with Lindsay.

"Would it be okay," Cindy asks, "If I need to be alone for a while?"

The End

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