Yeah, a little late, but whatever.

Disclaimer: I own nothing

Topher didn't like him, and it wasn't just because the ex-FBI agent had tasered him. The tasering definitely had something to do with it, though. He had a lot of plans for that evening, and none of them involved being passed out on his couch. Okay, he didn't have a lot of plans, but he had some. He was going to ask Adelle something, not that he remembered what it was in light of recent drama, and then jump on his trampoline and think.

He didn't get much time to think. Sure, he thought about work, and that took a lot of brain power. Work brought constant puzzles to him, and he got to figure out how to correctly put together a person. Immoral or not, it was really cool. But he didn't get too much time to come up with new ideas; he usually just had to work with the old ones. And he did it well. He was a freaking genius, after all.

But that night, there was nothing planned. He was going to jump on the trampoline, and then go to bed at a reasonable hour. Reasonable for him anyway. Usually he pulled all nighters. All nighters every night, right up until Claire had threatened to drug him, in a quiet, hateful way, so he could get some rest. So he started going to bed by two in the morning, because it had felt nice to be cared about. Even if it was only so he wouldn't pass out and screw something up. That night, he was going to go to sleep at midnight, because there was something poetic about that.

For a genius though, he could certainly be stupid, couldn't he? Walking up to people he didn't know, and if he didn't know them they shouldn't have been there, and saying that he didn't recognize them? Truthfully, he was pretty much asking to be tazered. What he should have done was turned heel and sounded the alarm. Or tricked them into coming with him. Or screamed. Or anything but what he did. Maybe if he had, Victor's face would be okay, and Alpha would have been caught.

Or at the very least Echo would still be safe, and Boyd wouldn't look like someone had kicked a puppy before killing it in front of him.

But Topher was Topher, so instead of apologizing like he kind of wanted to, he just got more sarcastic. That was why when Boyd brought FBI asshole in to work with him he said what he was really thinking. Topher shouldn't have been allowed to do that. God, he was such an idiot. "You expect me to work with this asshole?" He asked, ridiculously. Of course Boyd did.

After all, the last time they had briefly spoken they had gotten on like a house on fire. Despite how proud Topher was of his clever "fireflies in jars" comeback, he didn't need a repeat.

"Of course I do," Boyd said. At least he was less of a jerk than Dominic was, although that seriously wasn't saying much.

"Boyd, buddy, can I talk to you?" Topher pulled him off to the side, uncaring of how that would look. "Look, the guys a nut job, alright? He freaking tazered me!"

"I can't blame him for doing something I've always wanted to do," Boyd smiled to take the sting off. It still stung. Topher smiled half-heartedly.

"Ha, ha. Very funny," he said to Boyd's back.

He turned back to face the jerk, plastering a smile on his face. "Shall we get started?"

"How does it feel to be the man behind the machines?" FBI guy asked scornfully. Topher tried to remember his name, because it was getting annoying to think of him as FBI guy all the time. Claude? He turned around to fiddle with the machines while thinking.

"How does it feel to be the man behind the tazer?" He sneered. "We all have our things." It might have begun with a T. Terrance? Tommy?

"You call turning people into slaves a thing?" George was scandalized. No, it wasn't George. Patrick?

Topher didn't answer. He realized that he was the easiest person to lash out at about the Dollhouse. Adelle was too untouchable and British. Boyd disapproved of it and of Topher along with it. Claire was too breakable. No, Topher was the best target. He turned people into prostitutes. He was the slave handler. Blah, blah, blah. They signed the forms, and it was a constant puzzle. There was no way he couldn't enjoy it a little bit.

Paul, he remembered suddenly, Paul Ballard. November's long term assignment, wasn't it? Topher scowled. Why the hell was he trying to rescue Echo, and not November? He had programmed November perfectly, she was lovable and sweet and perfect for Paul! So why not her? Also, the look at her brain scans before being wiped…

"November," he said suddenly. He turned to face Paul, who was looking over Alpha's papers to try to discern things Topher wasn't told about. He had kept the files about Alpha secretly, despite Adelle's commands, because he had majorly screwed up. Alpha should not have been so self aware, and generally creepy, in his doll state, and as Topher was responsible for the doll's minds, it was his fault. Everyone knew it, although Boyd was the only one who said it aloud. Topher refused to make another Alpha. "Why did you do that to November?"

"What?" Topher scored himself a mental ten points for dragging the asshole out of his perpetual angst.

"November, or Mellie I guess. When she got back…" he thought of how to explain it properly. "Okay, everyone's brain has more or less the same makeup, right? Obviously, different areas are more active than others depending on the individual, but same composition. In November's case, her depression level was pretty low. That's not saying it couldn't change, but she started out as a person disposed to be more cheerful than not. Although there was always some underlying unhappiness…" he trailed off.

"I'm not following," Paul said with hard eyes.

"How can you not be following? Just listen, okay? Alright, so she was a pretty much happy person. She shouldn't have been prone to suicidal thoughts. She could get sad, of course. She was a person, after all, but she shouldn't ever have been driven to considering suicide. She was one of those 'the sun'll come up tomorrow' types."

"So?" His voice was harsh and angry, and Topher winced in fear of retaliation. He didn't have his tazer on him, did he?

"So, um, what was wrong with her that you had to do that to her? She was a really sweet girl," he stammered. Then he flushed, and tried to backtrack. "And, um, I need to know what was wrong with her so I can learn from my experiences?" It sounded half-assed, even for him.

"That's all Mellie was to you? Just an experience? A creation?" Paul might actually hit him.

"Um, yeah, duh. That's all she was to you too, right? You just left her in that sleep pod, because she wasn't real, right?"

"Mellie never existed," he said angrily. God, it was like he only had two settings. Angry, and angsty. Topher designed people realer than that.

"Uh, yeah she did," he replied. "Sure, I engineered her personality etcetera, really well too, incidentally. But it's not like she didn't feel emotion as Mellie. And dude, you broke her heart, and that carries over in doll land." It had scared the crap out of him and Adelle too, at the time. Although, they weren't best prepared to deal with it, which might have been why it was so scary. Translation being: they were drugged out of their brains.

Paul didn't answer so Topher went on. "Look, regardless of whether I made them or not, they're still real people. Manufactured, sure, but they feel just like everybody else." He sighed. "Whatever," he threw some more charts at Paul and walked away to go pick on Ivy, because God knew that worked off some steam. "Try not to mess anything up," he said in a half-assed attempt at a biting retreat. On his way out her absentmindedly moved the castle on one of his many chess games three squares right. It would be a checkmate for the black side in thirteen moves. Score.

As always, he forgot which side he started out on. He hoped it was the one which would win. Losing a game of chess against himself was too pathetic to even contemplate.