Fandoms: Criminal Minds/Dollhouse
Characters and Pairings: Reid/Echo, Garcia, Morgan, Topher, Paul Ballard, Adele DeWitt
Spoilers: S5 for Criminal Minds, mid S2-ish for Dollhouse
Warnings: Angst, angst, het, and angst
Disclaimer: Dollhouse and Criminal Minds belong to their respective creators, who are not me.
A/N: Written for library_of_sex for help_haiti
Summary: Spencer Reid discovers someone uncannily familiar while on a case in California. He has to find her again, but isn’t expecting things to go so far…
Four days later, L.A. Near Flower Street
Reid knew it was not surprising that something as secretive as the Dollhouse was well-hidden. It would also not be surprising that asking around about it, close to its likely location, would likely get him in a world of trouble. Assuming he would even have the time to call Morgan or Hotchner for help, they wouldn’t be able to aid him from the other side of the country.
Hotchner had granted Reid’s request for a week of vacation with little fuss. Only a penetratingly knowing look.
“I hope you’ll have time to wind down,” was all he said. But the silent ultimatum on the end of that sentence was very clear to Reid. Hotchner suspected something, and he was very close to breaking some of his unwritten rules and asking Reid point-blank what was wrong. And for Hotchner to be ready to do that, things had to look pretty bad.
He had to find Alecia, and soon.
Reid had forgotten how hard it was to locate someone who didn’t want to be found without FBI resources. Garcia had gotten everything she could, and Reid didn’t want to risk another foray into the Dollhouse servers to get a more precise location. He was on his own, hoping against hope that since someone had tipped him off to this area in the first place, Alecia would find him here.
And on his fourth day haunting the sea front walk near Flower Street, she did.
Reid was walking down by a secluded part of the walk, an area screened somewhat by shorter bushes, when he saw the van. The black van that had taken Alecia away was right there in the park. And Paul Ballard was standing beside the open side door, talking with someone inside.
It had to be her. It had to be.
He quickened his pace, almost running the last half block, and Ballard turned away to meet him in the path, stopping Reid dead with ridiculous ease. They were fifteen feet from the van, and now Reid could see the vague outline of a woman in the shadows. He knew her just from the way she moved; it was engraved on his memory from Berkeley.
“Alecia!” he called, trying to get around Ballard.
“Wait,” the ex-agent warned. “Just wait, she needs some time to get herself together.”
“What happened to her?” Reid asked, restlessly sliding from one side to another, seeking a path around Paul. It was like trying to get around a brick wall, like Morgan at his most stubborn.
“She’s working through a fresh imprint, and we don’t have a lot of time to spare. Let her get herself straight, so she can talk to you,” Ballard said, persistently keeping Reid at bay. Like he was guarding her. Like a pimp keeping undesirables away from a prostitute.
“Do you know who she is?” Reid asked sharply. “Do you know what she’s being asked to do, what’s been done to her?” The urban legends of the Dollhouse were undoubtedly exaggerated wildly, but the kernels of them, what had the most likely probability of being true, made his blood run cold.
“I know-,” Ballard started.
“How can you do this? You used to investigate the Dollhouse,” Reid demanded, over a month’s worth of frustration coming to a head. “Prostitution is a fourteen billion dollar industry in America, and that is not counting the services your new employer offers. Most of it coming from exploiting women with few other choices.”
Ballard flinched, reddening at the bald statement, but didn’t relent.
“I know her. She’s Echo, and I would never hurt her,” he said through clenched teeth. “Damn it, I’ve been trying to set up this meeting between you two since you landed in L.A.!”
Reid stopped and pulled back a bit, hesitating. Paul Ballard looked back over his shoulder and turned to Reid again.
“I was obsessed with her too.”
Paul’s words froze Reid in his tracks, and he forgot how to breathe for almost thirty seconds.
“I was FBI. But I guess you already know that by now.” Ballard sighed. “I wasn’t smart enough for the BAU, but I was persistent. I’d been looking for the Dollhouse for years, off and on, but I hadn’t exactly been getting anywhere fast. Then some anonymous source sent me her file. This college student who had disappeared from the face of the planet, named Caroline.”
Reid’s eyes strayed to the shadowed, long-haired figure in the van, but Ballard put out a hand to stop him from getting any closer.
“Just listen,” Ballard said fiercely. “She wanted me to warn you, okay?”
Reid took a quick calming breath and backed off slightly. “Okay.”
“Caroline wasn’t the only one. There were others who had just vanished, but you know the statistics for finding missing people. Their files had almost nothing on them, no leads, almost nothing to follow up on. So I had to get creative. The Dollhouse was supposed to be for the rich, so I found a mob peon who was willing to rat out on his bosses’ entertainments. And for once I thought I was getting good intel, things that were actually getting me closer to finding the place, and finding her. Even my next door neighbor was helping me out just by listening…
“I persuaded a friend to look up Caroline’s files on the FBI databases. And they were there, for maybe ten whole seconds. And then I watched them get deleted right in front of my eyes. Not long after that, my mob guy set up a meeting between me and what was supposed to be one of the Dollhouse contacts.”
“It was a trap,” Reid stated.
“I had to kill three people and walked out with a bullet in my side,” Paul said solemnly. “I thought I had just gotten too close and they were trying to warn me off. Mellie, my neighbor, she was the one helping me out after the FBI suspended me for going off on my Dollhouse search alone. I thought she was my only friend after I was out of work.” He paused for a second, and his expression twisted in pain. “She was a Doll. A sleeper agent that they could turn into an assassin with a code phrase. And my informant? Also a Doll.
“I got a little too close for comfort, and the Dollhouse turned everything against me. My friends, my job, and I didn’t know who to trust. I’m just damn lucky I don’t have any close family, or I don’t think the Dollhouse would have hesitated a second in using them against me too.”
Reid shuddered, his too-vivid imagination painting the scenario his closest friends and teammates unwittingly reporting his findings, or a Doll nurse being put in charge of his mother’s care. He worried about paranoia now, considering his mother’s illness, but how would it be if everyone were truly out to get him?
And to think a month ago he would have dismissed the entire scenario as the byproduct of a psychotic break.
“You’re a hell of a lot smarter than me, with most of the pieces of the puzzle. I had to join them and work from within to have any chance of helping Echo. I don’t know what they’d do to you,” Ballard said.
“Paul?” Alecia – Caroline – Echo called from the van. “I’m ready.”
Ballard pointed firmly at a bench set facing the sea, and Reid reluctantly sat. When he did, Echo finally emerged from the van. She was wearing a pink sundress and her hair was carefully pulled back, looking as far from the professor Reid had met at Berkeley as he could imagine. But there was an expression on her face that he recognized immediately, and she moved exactly how he remembered.
“We don’t have much time,” Ballard warned her, and took a few steps away to give them the illusion of privacy.
Echo crossed the distance to join Reid on the bench, unexpectedly hugging him, pulling him into a tight embrace before he could protest. She was stronger than she looked, and smelled like salt air.
“I missed you,” she whispered. “I’m so glad you came to find me, Spencer.”
Reid forgot to breathe so long that Echo had to thump him on the back to remind him of the rhythm.
“I tried to get here earlier,” he managed.
“It’s ok. I know how hard you work,” Echo said earnestly. “It’s important, and I get it, I really do. Spencer, Paul told you-.”
“I understand.” That was said more than a little desperately. As much as Reid sometimes wanted to be like Morgan and break down doors to get things done, he knew his strengths. He could not put his friends or family in danger to immediately rectify Echo’s impossible situation. She clearly had some kind of plan.
“But if the Dollhouse could get to my team, could we try to go higher instead?” he asked. It would be very difficult for the Dollhouse to imagine who he might contact, if he was clever about it. And they could not compromise someone who they could not predict.
“I’d like to, but we found out Rossum is running the Dollhouses, and they’re compromising people in the government, trying to twist things for their own benefit. Paul and I are trying to figure out who and how. Once we know who’s safe…”
“Then you can move on Rossum,” Reid finished her thought, easily following her line of thinking. The Rossum Corporation was only the latest in corporations who attempted to influence the government, though apparently they had the most frighteningly effective tools at their disposal: the human mind. “What can I do to help?”
“You know people. You know their motivations, and what makes them tick. You know when something’s wrong,” Echo said, meeting his eyes, her own gaze intense.
“But if these people are imprinted to believe something different… The beliefs will have changed and I should be able to pick it up,” Reid said, answering his own question.
“It doesn’t have to be an obvious change.”
“It would be better for Rossum if it wasn’t.”
“You understand.” Echo smiled, relieved at his immediate comprehension. She had kept an arm around him as they talked, her fingers entwined with his, whispering in his ear like they were flirting lovers. It was probably so any bystander watching would be fooled. But Reid held her hand tightly in his as they talked, and she squeezed back, muscles shaking.
“Echo! We have to go,” Ballard said in warning.
Echo turned towards Ballard with an entreating expression on her face, and he backed off reluctantly.
“He has something for you, Spencer. Take it. After three weeks, use it. It’ll give us a night together. We need the time to talk,” she said quietly.
“Three weeks?” he protested.
“So they won’t suspect anything. Please, I want to see you again.” She leaned in and kissed him softly before he could protest. If he would have protested.
“I’m- sorry,” Reid gasped when Echo finally pulled away. He touched her temple when he said it, and she understood instantly. She covered his hand with her own.
“I’m not, Spencer.” She looked back at Paul, and got up to go back.
“I believe in you,” Reid blurted, not wanting to lose her again when he’d spent so much time trying to find her. She smiled at him and slowly pulled her hand away.
Ballard strode forward and shoved a packet of papers into Reid’s outstretched hand as Echo got back in the van. Reid was still staring after them when they drove out of sight. Only then did he look at the gift Echo had given him.
L.A., inside the Dollhouse van, a few minutes later
“Echo, are you sure?” Paul asked for the twelfth time.
“Paul, I have a few psychologists, a serial killer, a thief, a fanatic, a chef, a few girlfriends, and a midwife in here. Of everyone, Spencer is the only one who’s been quiet and let me do my own thing without getting pushy. When I say I know him, I mean I’ve crawled around inside his head and he’s let me use everything he has to keep everyone else in line.” Echo closed her eyes and hugged herself hard. “And he understands. He knows. And he still came to find me, knowing that I know everything about him. What does that say?”
Paul sighed and turned into the underground garage.
“Three weeks?” he asked.
BAU, Quantico, Garcia’s office, two and a half weeks later
“She wants to meet me, and the only way I can do that is to be a client. She’s monitored too closely for me to see her outside of her engagement times, and I can’t get inside the Dollhouse without getting caught,” Reid explained quickly.
“Reid-.” Garcia was looking over the packet he’d been given in L.A. with increasing dismay. It contained everything someone needed in order to pass a Dollhouse inspection of its clients. The records Garcia could fake, the exorbitant fee Reid had promised to pay, but the last item on the list… “You have to have a face-to-face interview with the head of the Dollhouse.”
Reid went quiet.
“They’re going to be monitoring that room, I guarantee it. And if for some reason they don’t, this person is going to see your face!”
Which would essentially have Reid either on tape or with a witness showing he was essentially hiring a prostitute. It wouldn’t matter if Reid were engaging an “active” just to talk; lives and careers had been destroyed with less. And Garcia knew Reid was well aware that with that destruction went any chance of helping the mysterious Echo.
“What else can I do?” Reid asked softly. “I need to see her.”
Garcia looked closer at him, seeing the prominent shadows under his eyes, and the way his clothes hung on his too-thin frame. Frowning, she made her decision. Reid had been working himself into a wraith these last few weeks, both on the case and off of it. When he wasn’t with the team helping to track down murderers, he was watching political shows or traveling to D.C. to sit in on any public political function. Too much more of this and he’d just collapse. Hotchner had been angling at her for some kind of handle on Reid’s odd behavior, and Morgan had been all but haunting Reid’s desk. And those two were just the most obvious. J.J., Rossi, and Prentiss were no less worried, and even Kevin knew something was going on.
“Ok, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get back into the Dollhouse mainframe – don’t you dare interrupt me, Boy Wonder – and I’m going to co-opt someone who’s otherwise elsewhere so you can pose as them and don’t have to go into this den of snakes,” Garcia said firmly.
Reid shut his mouth on his protests. “Thank you,” he said with profound gratitude.
L.A. Dollhouse, Topher’s office, a little while later
A tiny kitten appeared on Topher’s desktop. He looked at it with bemusement, wondering if Ivy had put it there as a joke. Then the kitten looked at Topher and batted at his chat program icon. Topher paled as he remembered the signature of the person who’d invaded his files two months ago. But if that person was looking to do the same thing, she wouldn’t have wanted to talk. He clicked.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: I don’t know you, other than you have an amazing set of firewalls protecting some pretty heinous stuff, but you’re going to talk to me anyway.
ChairGod: !! You didn’t actually get stuff out of my system. >:-(
Bluff, Topher, bluff! he told himself frantically
QueenOfAllKnowledge: Sweet pea, don’t kid a kidder. You caused a few minor problems, but I got what I was looking for.
ChairGod: What do you want now?
Topher delicately set up a few search strings to try to find the location of his mystery FBI hacker.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: Stop trying to backhack me, or I will rain down fiery electronic death upon your motherboards.
ChairGod: Not if I get to you first! :-P
QueenOfAllKnowledge: I’d love to throw down threats all day, but I have things to do.
ChairGod: You think I left that info in the same place?
QueenOfAllKnowledge: You think I’m after the same info?
Topher considered what another intense cyber-battle would cost him. He didn’t think he could bluff Adele a second time. Maybe there was still a way to get out of this with dignity intact.
ChairGod: If you’re not too greedy, I might give you one for free, so you don’t have to go looking for it.
Looking for it, and bashing through the rest of his systems to find it… Topher shuddered at the thought.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: So sweet! ;-)
ChairGod: It’s not for nefarious purposes, is it?
QueenOfAllKnowledge: You’re one to talk.
ChairGod: We’re just talking about info.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: I’m sure you are…
Topher looked nervously down at the exposed panel to the guts of his computer under his desk. He’d been trying to update the Dollhouse computer security since the attack, but the imprints usually needed his attention first. He was still repairing damage from QueenOfAllKnowledge’s last invasion. His last-ditch efforts to protect his data had been a little too strenuous. The idea of having to explain to Adele DeWitt why the Dollhouse servers had been compromised by the FBI filled him with dread. Not to mention showing weakness to another hacker could be suicide, professionally and socially. And Topher didn’t have so much of a social life that he could afford to give it up.
ChairGod: Tell me what you want.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: I want to set up an engagement. So who’s not using their privileges?
ChairGod: Don’t try a sting, FBI, it won’t work. That’s heat you don’t want.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: Not business, strictly personal, and not like that, you pandering perv.
Topher considered the wisdom of what he was doing even as he was doing it. Queen’s accusations had stung, but it was either one FBI agent getting his dreams fulfilled, or a full-on attack on the Dollhouse servers. One engagement, if the active was prepared to defend herself against capture along with anything else the client wanted, might be possible, and would spare him the Wrath of Adele.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: Don’t sulk, you know what’s going on in there.
He knew. He wasn’t an idiot. He just damn well wasn’t going to send something to her without seeing what he could get in return.
ChairGod: Who’s your chosen active?
There was a long pause.
Topher pulled the files Queen wanted as fast as he could. Too much was going on with Echo these days. He just knew he didn’t want to be on her bad side if things went down.
QueenOfAllKnowledge: Well? Yes or no? Don’t make me get virtual.
ChairGod: ;-) [File Attached. Connection Terminated.]
Back in Quantico, Penelope Garcia scanned the files to a fare-thee-well before opening them. The only anomaly she found was on the last page. It was an invitation to a weekly World of Warcraft instance.
L.A., Mondrian Hotel, Two days later
“Remember, you’re Conrad James, and you’re already checked in. He visits this area of town a dozen times a year, but has his assistants handle all the details. No one should recognize you.”
Garcia’s words were Reid’s last warning before he had boarded the plane, his last connection with his team. He’d taken more vacation time, granted by a particularly stone-faced Hotchner, and had to bear a gauntlet of worried glances from the rest of his friends when he’d left the building. That was the last support he’d had, barring many worried voice mail messages from Morgan and everyone else.
If things went well, he might be able to explain himself to them after this trip. If things went poorly, he thought he might not be in a position to tell them at all.
Reid paced the rich rooms of the penthouse suite once to get a feel for the space, before sitting down in one of the chairs in the outer room. He didn’t want to go into the bedroom, didn’t even want to mention it. He’d agonized over the decision to come, wanting to see Echo (it was amazing how easily he’d accepted her name as Echo despite knowing her as Alecia for so long) warring with powerful ethical and moral questions.
Despite her implied assurances that she would remember him no matter what imprint she was given, he had nightmares about her walking in the door with no sign of recognition on her face, having been wiped clean and made into the girl of Conrad James’ expectations.
Or worse, with her walking in with his own personality in full force, making him confront himself in a way he wasn’t prepared for.
But he owed it to her. No one should be forced to deal with his memories of schoolhouse bullying and constant isolation because of his intellect. No one else should have to face caring for a sick mother or endure his father leaving.
Another part of him was whispering reassurances through the worry and fear. He’d seen with his own eyes how together Echo was, how determined and strong her personality, even under the overlay of dozens of other minds. And though she wasn’t him, she still understood everything about him as deeply as a person could. Better than Hotch, better than Morgan. She understood why he’d put his mother into care, and why he wrote daily letters but couldn’t bring himself to visit.
She knew why at times he was almost frantic to distribute knowledge to his teammates, because there was always that lurking fear that one day he wouldn’t be able to. That he’d be sunk too deep in paranoid fantasies to recognize his friends.
He didn’t want to be one of her clients, someone who wanted something real without having to work for it. Reid didn’t want to her to look at him and see just another greedy soul. He couldn’t be that.
Someone knocked on the door, interrupting his reverie. Reid jumped up to answer it, moving quickly enough that he could ignore his shaking hands. Peering through the peephole, he saw Echo, alone, in a frighteningly short dress for his peace of mind. Logic asserted itself a second later; she would have to arrive dressed as Conrad James’ usual girl. Taking a deep, steadying breath, he opened the door.
Echo stepped in and closed the door behind her, throwing the deadbolt before turning to face him.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi,” he managed back.
Echo looked even better than she had when he’d seen her by the ocean, confident and knowing. And beautiful.
The opposite, as Reid expected, was not true of him.
“What the hell have you been doing to yourself, staying up for five days straight?” Echo asked.
Reid actually laughed weakly at that. “It’s been hard,” he acknowledged obliquely. “And I’ve been working a lot.” He led her to the coffee table where he had stacks of folders of his results. Senators, representatives and their staff. Agents, officials, and officers. All of them background checked and profiled as best he could, looking for changes in their behavior.
Echo flipped through them briefly at random, shaking her head in wonder.
“You didn’t have to do all this. Spencer, when did you sleep?” she demanded.
“Infrequently, I think.”
“You didn’t have to kill yourself to do this.” She looked acutely distressed at the magnitude of what he’d done.
“Is it what you’re looking for?” Reid insisted.
“Yes, it’s perfect, but-.” Echo stopped herself and pulled Reid down beside her on the couch. “It’s exactly what I needed. Thank you.”
“Anytime.” He meant that, and meant it far more sincerely than he had anything else for a long time.
“Ok. Ok, while we’re here, let’s get some room service,” she suggested suddenly, as a moment of silence stretched out between them.
Reid blinked at her in bemusement.
“Conrad usually does, and I bet you haven’t eaten today,” Echo guessed accurately. Reid couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. He’d been too nervous on the flight, and breakfast hadn’t been possible to think about.
Echo ordered for them with the ease of long experience, and then put the myriad of folders away in her enormous handbag.
“Come on,” she said, tugging him towards the table. “If you faint from hunger, we won’t be able to do anything.”
Reid thought his heart was going to stop. Something must have shown on his face, because Echo squeezed his hand in reassurance.
“I would never hurt you,” she said.
“I know.” But his heart was back to racing at her words. He knew he liked her, had been nearly obsessed with her, but he couldn’t forget what Echo had been through, and who she was carrying in her head.
Echo pulled back as the food arrived, plying him to “get his strength up” as she told him about life in the Dollhouse.
“It’s only fair. I know way too much about you,” she’d teased. Reid had taken that in the spirit in which it was given, and done as she asked. In between bites, she described the dream-like Doll state, her trusted former handler who was now the head of security, and the burgeoning romance between two of the Dolls that transcended every imprint. When she described the technician who’d invented the imprinting chair, Reid had to break in with a comment.
“I think Garcia’s been talking to him. That’s how she got James’ profile,” he interjected.
Echo grinned; she knew enough about Garcia to recognize the joke. “No wonder Topher’s been acting so spooked!”
Everything she said let him build up a picture in his mind of the good parts of her day. He didn’t need to imagine the bad parts. He’d seen enough horror in the last few years to fill in the unsaid blanks.
When the meal was just a memory, Echo subtly nudged him away from the dining room. He didn’t quite realize they weren’t doubling back to the sitting area before they arrived in the bedroom. Reid almost protested automatically, his fears about this evening coming back to haunt him, when Echo kissed him. There was no hesitancy, but also a hint of self-consciousness that made it real to him. She wasn’t being a professional, she was being Echo.
He didn’t want to stop, though he knew he should, when she guided them in to sit on the end of the bed. Echo’s hands were on him, light but sure. She knew exactly what he wanted, how to get him to relax, and paradoxically that paralyzed him.
Reid had promised himself that this wouldn’t happen. He had to remember that she’d been imprinted as a seductress many time in the past, and that now she remembered anything. He had told himself to treat her with the care and respect of a rape victim, and not to ever take the slightest advantage because she was carrying him around in her head. That wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair, and he couldn’t be someone who’d use her like that. No matter how sincere it felt, or how good.
Echo felt him pulling away, going cold in fear, and wrapped herself around him, too strong for him to escape.
“No. Stay,” she insisted.
“I can’t. Echo, I can’t-.”
She kissed him into silence, prolonging it every time he tried to speak, until they were both a little breathless.
“You can, because I want you to,” Echo said, catching his gaze and holding it with her own.
She silenced him again.
“I have a lot of people in here,” she said, tapping the side of her head. “And of everyone, you’re the only one who ever helped me keep everyone in line, instead of competing for space. You helped me, every minute of every day. If you hadn’t been there, I don’t know if I’d have been able to find myself. You helped me remember.”
That put an entirely different complexion on things.
“And if I didn’t want you here, I know sixty-seven ways to kill someone with my bare hands,” Echo added pointedly.
“Oh,” Reid said. That was all he could think to say.
Echo kept holding him as he worked it through, feeling him relax and begin to thread his fingers through her hair in wonder.
“What happens afterward?” he asked softly.
“I don’t know,” she said, but her eyes filled with a rush of liquid heat as she held back tears.
There wouldn’t be another night like tonight for a long time. It was far too dangerous to meet again; this single time was risky enough. What the Dollhouse had done to Paul Ballard would be nothing on what they’d do to Reid if they suspected he was involved in plotting their downfall. And Echo would face even more horrific punishment if she were found out. Until she had a chance to put Reid’s hard-won information into play, this one night was all they had.
He didn’t waste any more time.
Spencer was gentle. Echo knew he would be, because this was rare for him, and special. But knowing he would be was nothing like feeling it, gentle, patient, and hesitant. He was reverent with her, treating her as something precious, always looking to her to see what she liked, what she enjoyed. She was a puzzle to him, and she let him take all the time he needed to figure her out.
And he was very, very clever. Even with everything she knew about him, he could surprise her. And that was unexpectedly wonderful.
He was so thin, almost bruised-looking when she coaxed him out of his clothes, and ashamed of himself. Echo didn’t let him dwell on his fears, just urged his hands back to her flesh. Spencer was completely devoid of the personal vanity that had driven so many of her clients in the past. It was his mind that drove him, and in his mind that he lived. He was using that to love her, because he thought there was no other way he could satisfy her. His selflessness almost made her cry.
She hid that feeling of pity behind the determination that he’d have everything she wanted to give him. And more.
“You’re beautiful,” he said, only once, as if afraid words might break the spell. But his hands said the same thing, lingering and caressing her back, her thighs, learning what pleased her best as she leaned into his touch.
He wasn’t very practiced, but Echo didn’t care. She had experience enough for the both of them, and everything he was trying made her feel loved. Echo returned as good as she got, crying out when he found a sensitive spot, making him gasp when she enveloped him, slowly, so slowly, both wanting to make it last. When he cried out his release into her hair, she was there with him, as close as they could be.
The dawn light had never been more unwelcome. Echo stirred at Reid’s side, curling up close to him, keeping him warm in the air-conditioned chill of the room.
“Hi,” Reid said softly. Echo stirred and threw an arm around his chest, effective pinning him to the bed.
“’Morning,” she mumbled, opening her eyes to slits and smiling up at him. Reid hugged her close, trying to burn this memory into his mind. He wanted to be able to bring it out during the lonely times ahead. He knew there were going to be a lot of them. From Echo’s deceptively casual grip on him, she was doing the same thing.
All of that was shattered when the phone rang. Echo leaned over him to get it, and the view was… distracting.
“Hello?” she asked.
Distantly, Reid could hear the voice of Paul Ballard.
“Echo, I’ve give you as much time as I can. It’s time for a treatment.”
“I’ll be down soon,” she said shortly, and dropped the phone in its cradle.
But Echo seemed in no hurry to leave.
“I wish…” she started, and then trailed off.
“What?” Reid asked, barely audible.
“That this was all over.”
They stayed in each other’s arms for a few more precious minutes, before a reluctant sense of duty made them stir. Echo had her clothes on in a trice, and brought Reid’s folders back with her into the bedroom.
“Which ones, do you think?” she asked, fanning out the files like cards. Reid unhesitatingly picked the three most likely to be under Dollhouse influence. They’d been saving that for last, knowing it was the final thing that bound them together out of necessity. All of that was gone now, and Echo had to go.
“Spencer,” she said, leaning forward to embrace him and kiss him softly. “I won’t forget you.” It was the greatest gift she could give him, and he knew it.
“Neither will I.” Reid’s throat closed, and he could barely get out, “Echo.”
She kissed him hard, and pulled away so quickly he almost missed seeing her wiping away tears. In another minute, the door had opened and closed. She was gone.
“I love you.” The words echoed around the empty room. Spencer Reid curled up in the depression on the bed that still held traces of her warmth. He watched the sun rise over the City of Angels and hoped the next time he saw it, Echo would be with him.