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Title: Burden of Proof
Fandom: Dollhouse/Angel
Characters/Pairing: Topher, Fred
Rating: PG
Word Count: 660
Prompt: [character] needs a lawyer

“You know,” she says, leaning back and pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose, “I think what you’re doing here might be just a little bit evil.”

Topher, hovering over her shoulder just a tad too closely, looks truly shocked by the suggestion. “What?” he replies incredulously, stepping back so she can move. “No way! We totally avoid the evil here. We’re helping people. We give people what they need.”

Fred smiles but looks unconvinced. She gestures to the imprint chair. “You brainwash people and then sell them by the hour. Sometimes into really dangerous situations.”

That’s a simplified explanation at best, but he can’t really argue the overall point, especially in light of recent events. “Okay, maybe a little morally ambiguous,” he offers. “And anyway, this was not my fault! It was a completely unforeseeable error, and the client signed off on the risks. There’s nothing I could have done to prevent it!”

“I’m not the one you need to tell that to. My boss is still upstairs with your boss. I’m just the science girl.” She stands and turns to look over the imprint file on the computer behind her, so she misses the grin he gives her. “And I didn’t say it was really evil. As long as you’re not doing something like ritual sacrifice or breaking interdimensional drug trafficking laws, we can probably help you. Wolfram and Hart’s represented a lot worse.”

Topher stares for a second before shaking his head. DeWitt told him not to ask too many questions about these guys. They were the best at what they did, and they had long ties with Rossum; that was all he needed to know. “Well, if we’re doing any of that, it’s not in my department,” he says instead.

Fred frowns as she leans over his computer, and Topher tries not to stare, but she’s smart and beautiful and she’s wearing a lab coat and glasses with thick frames. She’s standing in his office, and her hair is pulled back in a loose bun. Topher forces himself to look away until she says, “Can you tell me what this section right here means?”

She straightens as he comes to stand beside her and explain the machine’s readout. “This isn’t really my area,” she admits when he finishes. “I’ll have to bring the rest of my team in for a more thorough analysis later. They’ll be excited; the cases we get don’t usually have us front and center.”

“Domestic?” Topher guesses.

She mumbles something that sounds to him like, ‘mystical.’

Eventually, she takes a step back. “I think I’ve got all I can get for now. I’ll bring my computer guy in next time.” She hesitates for a moment. “And if you wouldn’t mind it?” she begins. “I’d like to learn a little more about how this all works when there aren’t any unforeseeable errors.” After all, they come across their share of demonic possessions. She can’t help but think that, maybe with a little magical augmentation, the wiping process might be able to be harnessed for such a purpose. It’d be worth running by Angel at the very least.

Topher’s grin in response is wide and eager, and she can’t help but smile back. “Yeah, no problem,” he says.


They win their case, and the next several months pass slowly and without excitement. When the tall, brooding, unusually pale man who’d interrogated them all seeks them out again, it takes Topher a moment to place him.

But he recognizes the girl right away, even if she’s lost the coat and the glasses and there’s something strangely and imperceptibly different about her – a sharpness to her and a cold distance in her eyes.

He’s under orders not to pry again from DeWitt, so he bites his tongue and gets her into the chair for the initial wipe. All he can do is search her scan for the abnormality the man insists is there.

The ending broke my heart a little