Word count: 575
Spoilers: through Stage Fright
Summary: He had friends once, before obsession and the phantom of the Dollhouse had taken over his life.
Author’s note: written for dollhouseflash challenge #003: Friend.
Paul stared out the window. Or, to be more accurate, he stared at the white plastic blinds that shut out the view of the world outside. Forty eight plastic slats, meant to be hospital pristine, but marred here and there by nicks and dents in the plastic. Some inane talk show or other played on the television in the corner, but the sound wasn’t turned up loud enough to be more than a droning hum with the occasional sibilant thrown in for extra flavor.
Two days he’d been in this hospital bed, two days of tubes and needles and the only company that of the nurses and aides who came to give him his meds or to check on his bandages. No visitors, not even the boys from the bureau to tell him again how stupid he was to keep hunting a phantom.
Once upon a time, people had cared about him. A long time ago. He had friends once, before obsession and the phantom of the Dollhouse had taken over his life. But now, those friends were gone; they’d all drifted away and he’d done nothing to stop them. His wife had left him and again, he’d done nothing to stop her. He had nothing but a photograph of a smiling girl who, if the tales of the Dollhouse were true, no longer existed, was nothing more than an empty shell, and a neighbor who baked leftover lasagna, just for him.
Closing his eyes, he conjured up the girl’s face. Caroline. No last name. A lost doll he had to find, even if it killed him. Which, judging by his last couple of days, was becoming more and more likely. He wasn’t going to stop, though. If anything, taking two bullets in the gut only reinforced his conviction that the Dollhouse was no phantom.
The door to his room opened soundlessly, allowed a rush of cooler air to flow into the room from the hallway outside. Paul tensed, but didn’t open his eyes. He hadn’t heard any noise from the hall before the door opened, and he knew there was an armed guard posted outside, so he wasn’t truly worried, but he still prepared to spring from the bed, tubes and needles be damned, if the need arose.
“Paul? Are you awake?”
Mellie. Mellie of the leftover lasagna. He didn’t even remember her last name.
She took a few steps closer to the bed and he smelled her perfume, sweet and unassuming, kind of like Mellie herself. The rustle of fabric and he knew she was right there next to the bed. “Paul?” she repeated and then sighed. “That’s okay,” she whispered. “Just sleep. If you don’t mind, though, I think I’ll sit here until you wake up. I don’t want you to be alone.”
She dragged the room’s single armchair over to the bed and sat. He thought he should say something, but he didn’t know what to say. And she said nothing more herself, just sat there beside him. Eventually, she switched off the television with the remote that was part of the railing of his bed, her hand brushing against his for just a heartbeat. As the silence grew longer, he felt the tension flow out of him. His muscles relaxed and his breathing became deeper, slower.
He didn’t know how long she stayed – she was gone when he woke – but for the first time in two days, he slept peacefully.