She trusted him.
Those words echoed through his mind, warring with Paul Ballard's words. He didn't have to look in a mirror to know his eyes had revealed too much when Ballard accused him of not agreeing with what the Dollhouse was doing. He hadn't responded, though, and he had to work on tightening up his feelings if he was going to make it in this job.
He found Echo where he'd left her, just in time it seemed as he heard Dr. Saunders calling her. The tone in her voice revealed her distress.
Alpha had her, judging by the brief view he'd gotten on DeWitt's screen before leaving her office. It bothered him that DeWitt had kept Saunders here knowing she was a risk in this type of situation. She was a doctor, should have wanted to protect the dolls from harm. And yet to save herself based on her past run-in with Alpha she was willing to turn Echo over to him.
He was glad he wasn't too late.
"Echo," he whispered. "Come with me," he said, offering her his hand.
She ignored Dr. Saunders as Boyd expected she would and took his hand, following him. He liked to think it was because she wanted to instead of feeling she had to. Following his orders wasn't part of her programming any longer.
Whatever was going on inside was not really his concern. He'd signed up to be a handler, security detail hadn't been on his mind. Echo trusted him to keep her safe and he would not violate that trust. No one else mattered, he wasn't sure how he felt about that line of thought, but he'd dwell on that later. Once he knew she was safe.
The Dollhouse was full of distraction and chaos now, a state he had never seen it in to this degree. With Alpha and Ballard on the premises things were bound to get tricky. Alpha more than likely had gained access to the building's design so he knew things about it Boyd didn't.
He did the only thing he could think of doing to keep Echo safe.
He left with her.
Being head of security netted him some benefits. One was the ability to gain access to passageways and tunnels that only he and a few select others knew about. Echo was now one of them as he led her to his civilian vehicle parked where it always was.
It was surprisingly easy to get out. He realized that was probably part of Alpha's plan. Paul Ballard was just a stooge, a distraction, a tool he used to get in and out with Echo. Only thing was, Alpha wasn't counting on Boyd Langton being there.
And Boyd wasn't going to let Echo go anywhere with Alpha.
He checked his rearview mirror a time or two once they turned off Flower Street to ensure they weren't being followed. He doubted they were really, because it would be his team who sent someone after him. And his team was occupied with Alpha and Paul Ballard at the moment. And he didn't think Alpha would be that quick to realize he'd been outsmarted at his own game.
He eased down once they'd gotten about a mile away from the Dollhouse and he saw no signs of a tail.
"You're nervous," she said, breaking the silence. They'd both been quiet as mice since leaving the Dollhouse.
"I just want to be sure you're safe."
He glanced at her from the corner of his eye, saw her run a fingertip along the armrest by the door. Her fingernails were free of polish tonight. He liked her this way. No glamorous getup, just her naturally.
"You keep me safe."
"I know that."
"Yes," he said since her statement was in part a question, as if reassuring herself she was recalling correctly.
"And I do the same for you."
He chuckled lightly. "Sometimes," he said amused. Leave it to her to have the one or two memories that involved her saving him instead of the other way around.
He supposed it was possible for Alpha to have Boyd's information. As much as he doubted it, he didn't think staying here for very long would be wise. Put together a change of clothes or two and he'd get her somewhere safe where Alpha would never find her then call DeWitt and let her know he had Echo.
He pulled into his garage, closing the automatic door behind him before getting out. He opened her door for her, whether she waited for him intentionally or not he didn't know. Her soft-spoken "thank you" suggested she may have.
The place was low-key, nothing fancy. He wasn't here much as it was a place that the Dollhouse knew nothing about. He wouldn't put it past them to have cameras installed and he liked his freedom too much to be watched every second of every day. He came here from time to time to think or just get away from the idea of work.
"I'll be right out," he said, walking toward his bedroom.
He gave a slight wince when he reached up to the shelf in his closet where his larger travel bag was stored. Agent Ballard hadn't held back anymore than Boyd had, and he was currently feeling the effects of being used as the frustrated agent's punching bag.
"You're hurt," she said, observing him from the doorway. She looked so natural standing there, shoulder against the doorframe. He'd never really pictured her being here, it was out of the realm of possibility.
He didn't like the fleeting thought that crossed his mind just then of how nice she looked there, as if she'd been at home waiting for his return. He wasn't blind to the attributes that made her a popular quantity at the dollhouse. He just preferred not to think of her in that way. Some assignments had been more difficult to do that with than others.
"I'll be all right, Echo." He wanted to reassure her that he would be able to keep her safe.
"It's nice here," she said, her back to him now as she looked at the rest of his place. She was being kind. There was nothing nice about this place. It wasn't a hole in the wall, but it was sparsely furnished with just the essentials he would need in the event he had to make a quick get-away. A basic supply of clothing and the like.
"It's nothing much, certainly not compared to what you're used to. I don't have a pool or a gym or anything."
"It's quiet. There are no other people. Do you ever get lonely?"
He brought the bag to his bed, pausing at her question.
"Sometimes, I guess. I try to keep busy so that I avoid that."
"The people who live with meÖ"
"Yes," he prompted when she stopped.
"They're not really my friends."
Again, the tone in her voice reflected a question more than a simple statement.
"No," he answered simply. "No, they're not."
She turned to face him then, concern on her face when she witnessed him struggling even to reach down to pick up a sock that had fallen to the floor.
"What about help for you?"
He winced a little, knowing he really should get looked at. He didn't have the time for that, though. Not until he had Echo safely out of Alpha's reach.
"I'll be fine," he said, trying to dissuade her from being concerned for him. It should have bothered him more than it did that he'd left Dr. Saunders to Alpha. She was a human being after all, deserving of protection. He knew, though, if he'd let Alpha get his hands on Echo she might never come back. And that would be bad.
For the Dollhouse.
He'd heard Dr. Saunders calling Echo to her and had known who was really asking for her. What was Alpha's interest in Echo? He'd left her not just alive but unscathed in the bloodbath he'd left upon his escape.
Deep in thought he hadn't caught her closing the distance between them. He gave a hiss that sounded more like a groan when she touched his side. The wound from the arrow hadn't completely healed yet and he'd taken some blows to the area again tonight.
"I can help," she said. And without much effort on her part or resistance on his she managed to get his shirt out from his pants.
"I'm fine, really."
"You have first aid supplies?"
"Yes, of course," he said. "Under my sink."
She went to the sink and grabbed more than was necessary, but she was thorough he had to give her that. She regarded him then, pulling out bandages and gauze and tape setting them on the top of the dresser beside her. He knew when her eyes landed on the not quite healed wound to his side because her eyes widened. In recognition?
"I remember this," she said, circling the puckering area that was the seemingly endless remnant of his encounter with an arrow with a fingertip.
"So do I," he whispered with a hiss as she touched the area.
"You were shot trying to save me." She scrunched her nose as if thinking on that. "Someone was trying to kill me."
"Yes," he murmured.
"You were there," she said, peeling off his shirt he imagined in an attempt to get a better look at what needed attention.
"And there've been other times," she said, sounding as if she wasn't certain but felt it was true.
"I will always be there."
Her hand moved away from the wound, touching him in places that ached horribly from being used as Ballard's punching bag. He didn't mind, though. He would take the pain if it meant a minute of her touching him as if she was meant to.
"Echo," he said, knowing this was wrong on so many levels. She shouldn't be touching him and he had no business letting her. Enjoying it. Not wanting her to stop. Wanting to touch her back. Wanting more.
"I like the way you say my name."
"No one else says it the way you do."
"How do I say it?"
She shrugged. "I just know that you say it as if you mean it. That you care."
He cared probably too much and that was dangerous. He'd tried to hide it but hadn't been overly successful.
He took a deep sigh as her agile fingers started examining his ribs. He'd thought for sure he was going to lose her tonight. Agent Ballard while not physically imposing was younger and had entered the Dollhouse prepared for combat. Boyd hated to think of himself as getting soft, but perhaps he was.
When he saw Ballard stooped over Echo's pod, talking to her as if he knew her. As if he had a right to look at her let alone speak to her. Well, it took every ounce of control he could muster not to shoot the agent there and then. He was sure DeWitt or someone would have found sufficient means of justifying the death and covering it up. He was trespassing, after all.
"I'm safe with you."
"Yes," he said simply. "Yes, you are."
"I know that somehow. That other man," she said.
"I'm not safe with him."
"No, you're not."
She worked her way up to his face, which was probably the worse for wear. Really, a good dose of soap and water with a washcloth would probably do wonders but he couldn't break away.
Her eyes met his as she dabbed some ointment on the worst of the abrasions. She was gentle in her touch and she was adept at what she was doing.
"How do you know what you're doing?"
She paused, eyes flicking away from his for the briefest moment.
"I don't know," she shrugged, meeting his gaze again. "I just do."
"You know more than you should," he whispered, not meaning to say it aloud.
"No one knows," she replied. "Except you."
"And I'm not telling."
"Why haven't you?"
"I donít know."
The ointment was doing its thing. The abrasions were aching less and less. Not that he was incapacitated by them but he definitely knew they were there. And hoped that Agent Ballard was currently in worse shape than he was. Of course, he had Echo cleaning him up where Agent Ballard had nobody so that was a given.
She touched his lip with her thumb then and he breathed in sharply as she touched a spot where it had been split open.
"No ointment there," he said.
She lifted her eyebrows in question, though her lips rose in just a hint of a smile.
"It would taste awful."
"You speak from experience?"
He nodded. "I do."
He did the unthinkable then. One of those moments in his life where he knew he was about to embark on something he should stay far away from, but he couldn't stop for the life of him.
He kissed her. She gave a soft gasp as his lips met hers. It was soft at first, barely a touch of lips. She responded though and all that did was make him want more. He had to have more even if he'd have to live with the consequences later.
He gave a soft groan when he felt her fingers sliding over his shoulders and around his neck, drawing him to her. Her lips parted and he accepted the invitation, deepening the kiss. He was very glad as he guided her to his bed that he'd chosen to bring her here over the home the Dollhouse knew about. He could just imagine DeWitt or someone on his security team choosing this moment to spy on him. Assuming anyone even realized he was missing yet.
He imagined this was inevitable as he worked the few clothes she wore off, dropping them to the floor. She was different from the other dolls from the get-go and she'd progressively become more and more her own person as he'd gotten to know her. Maybe it was his fault? His doing she was coming into her own as Echo. He didn't know, couldn't claim to understand and didn't want to dwell on it just then. It wasn't really important anyway. He hated thinking of the others she'd been with, though it wasn't Echo who had been with them.
He did know that he could do things for her they couldn't. He wasn't buying her attention, her love. He had simply earned it for whatever reason. And she his in return.
She responded enthusiastically as he kissed her everywhere he could find on her. So thorough he was he found a ticklish spot on her ankle when he grazed it with his tongue. Her giggle was heartfelt and sincere so he did it again, moving to the other ankle to see if she was ticklish there as well. She was, but it wasn't as intense a reaction.
"Are you going to finish undressing?"
"Eventually," he said. He wasn't in any particular hurry. There was no way Alpha could find them here. This apartment wasn't under his name. So they were, for the moment, safe even if he didn't want to stay here long just in case. And that gave him plenty of time to give her what he imagined no one else thought to give her.
He slid between her legs, parting them enough so he could taste her again. This time he had no intention of continuing his exploration along her body. His focus was all here on teasing and tempting her until he brought her to completion.
And she did that so well, humbling him with her reaction as she pulsed and quivered around his tongue. He thought he just might be able to do this all night.
Eventually, after beginning to learn the intricacies of what made her get off fast, slow and most intense he shed the rest of his clothes. He was more than ready, had been for some time, so when she moved her hand as if to touch him he pushed it away, almost roughly. He didn't need to embarrass himself by finishing too soon, and her touching him right now would more than likely cause that.
She grabbed his hand, clutching it with the other at his hip as he entered her. Thoughts of right and wrong, should and shouldn't hadn't been part of the equation for a while now. When he felt her warmth welcome him, her hips arch off the bed to take him in deeper it was hard to believe there was anything to dwell on as to why he shouldn't be with her.
When her whispered "Boyd" broke through the wordless sounds she'd been making until then it was more than he could take. His deep kiss matched the last deep thrust inside of her as he finished.
She didn't release his hand or move her other one from his hip. They stayed like that, him on top of her, bodies entwined, allowing their breathing to return to normal. He brushed a kiss along her neck, shifting a little so he wasn't too heavy on top of her.
"I never bandaged your ribs," she said, reaching to touch him there.
He gave a sharp bark of laughter. "I think I'll be all right."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com