Author: Jacqui, wily_one24.
Prompt: #025: Business
Word Count: 926.
Spoilers: Everything screened in the US.
MR. BENNET'S NEW GUN
Mr. Bennett was nice to Elle.
Sure, he was there sometimes when she was tested to her limits, he had seen and sometimes caused a lot of her pain, he had those big owlish eyes that seemed to know what she was thinking before she'd even thought it and he always knew how to strip her confidence down with as few words as possible so that she melted into the background of a room.
But she'd overheard the arguments he had with her father (arguments she wasn't supposed to know about) regarding her wellbeing, when she was younger he'd kept smiles for her that he'd given without reservation or cause, sometimes his praise would leave her preening in ways that she never did alone, now and again he would lay a heavy, warm hand on her shoulder (despite daddy's repeated warning that unwarranted and unnecessary contact was a dangerous thing), and she was fairly sure that he was directly responsible for the sudden and complete disappearance of Orderly Joe after that incident when she was fourteen.
(Fourteen and very well developed, but too inexperienced to say no with any force or understand how to stop a larger, meaner, threatening hand without breaking the rules and leaving third degree burns up and down a ribcage, breath caught sticky and sickly in her throat and nerves that wouldn't stop shaking for hours afterwards).
When Mr. Bennett first began taking Elle out on practice missions, she could barely contain her glee.
Granted, they weren't dangerous or even remotely risky and the closest she ever got to using her power was to stand in the background and spark in a sinister manner while he talked, but it was something. She got to go out in the real world and see real people and hear real conversations and, sometimes, when he was feeling particularly generous or proud of her for what he called a job well done, he would let her go into a convenience store and overload on candy and frozen slushie drinks and everything else she never got at the company.
He strung her out on her two favourite vices, sugar and praise, until she paced the uniformly colored hallways of the company on the weeks he was gone, nerves stretching and crackling for release, salivated at the thought of maybe one day being involved in a real mission and of being some real value.
Mr. Bennet had a daughter.
Elle knew it on an intellectual level, a little check box ticked under the basic information she'd squirrelled away, but one day when he was driving and she was sitting in the passenger seat idly playing with the radio dials (Elle, leave it alone, a bored, practiced fatherly voice), his cell had rung. The change in him was instantaneous and obvious, his voice deeper and warmer and familiar in a way that wrapped itself around her midsection and squeezed. It made her ache in ways that left her dizzy and unfocused so that the meeting had definitely not been one he'd praised her for.
She'd found him in her father's office one day, hefting a ridiculously pompous stuffed teddy that he'd defended, at her puzzled and inquisitive glance, by telling her that it was for his Claire-bear. A slip up, no doubt, because his face had flickered and shut and he'd gruffly brushed around her to talk to her father and Elle was left to glare at the toy. She didn't really get nicknames. Shortened names she understood, because it made sense to economise even with words and phrases, but there really wasn't anything short for Elle and she couldn't quite grasp how Claire-bear was short for Claire. It was a stupid, insipid, childish pet name anyway and who could possibly want to be called that?
By the time he'd returned, the big, brown satin bow was smouldering beyond recognition and the bear's right arm was singed and smoking.
On the rare practice missions that did require some force, Mr. Bennet had warned her to stay in control and let him handle it. He had his armory of guns and he wasn't afraid to use them when necessary. His aim was crystal clear and his hand rock steady. She would watch with interest at the smooth, practiced way he'd grab the gun from its holster, fingers finding the trigger by rote, the quick efficient way he would cock it and shoot and reholster before the target could ever really blink.
And when they got back into the car, he would get the carefully stored kit out of the glovebox, the special cloth, he would smooth and shine the barrel of the gun, clean the workings. He kept it pristine. He kept all his guns, all his weapons pristine. Look after your tools, he'd told her on more than one occasion, and they'll look after you when you need them.
Then he would pat her on the shoulder, tell her if she'd done a good job (but never facetiously, he never said it when he didn't mean it and she appreciated him for that), and advise her to have a good meal (eat up all her spinach) and a good sleep, and somewhere deep, if she squinted hard enough or closed her eyes, she could maybe believe it was concern for her welfare, like he would have for a coworker, or a friend or even a family member.
But he already had a family and she knew exactly where she stood.
Elle was nothing more than Mr. Bennet's new gun.