"But when someone is genuinely exceptional--"
"This is not about you!"
Bob hung his head, partially from the weight of all that was happening to him, partially from genuine shame. If he could only go back fifteen years, to tell his young self what he knew now. If he could go back just a couple of months and tell his old self what he knew now. What would have been saved, what would have been spared. . . Bob felt himself heave a sigh, but he could barely percept the rising of his chest and the heaving expulsion of air. He felt the salt of dry tears on his face and felt the pain of the loss of his family all over again.
What could have been saved.
This time Bob hung himself backwards on the electromagnets. His head was tilted back and he stared at the blue-tinted, metallic ceiling. What architect designed a place like this? Well, if Buddy invented rocket boots when he was twelve, Bob supposed there was no reason he couldn't design a fortress when he was twenty. Twenty or so. Who knew? At the sound of approaching footsteps, Bob shifted a little. They were far off, but approaching, no doubt. A light metallic ring was soon audible with each step, and Bob raised his head. Syndrome.
"Well, well, well! Look who's awake!" Syndrome grinned, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he stood in the doorway. Bob waited for a couple of guards, or Mirage to appear, but after a moment he realized that there was no one. No one but Syndrome.
"What do you want?" he asked through clenched teeth. He clenched not so much to fight his anger as to fight his shame. Syndrome watched him but didn't answer for a moment. Bob's teeth unclenched when he saw the casual expression on Syndrome's face.
"Just to see if you were real, I guess," concluded Syndrome. He shrugged, and his arms were no longer folded behind his back. "See if I really had Mr. Incredible."
"Yeah, well, you got Bob Parr, not Mr. Incredible."
"That's a lie!" Syndrome shouted quickly. He looked less sure of himself now, but pressed onward. "Bob Parr is who you invented when you realized that the world would ask more of you than just to be Mr. Incredible."
"Bob Parr is who I was born as. Mr. Incredible came la--"
"You're lying!" Syndrome's brow darkened. "'Bob Parr' is the name you were given. It was up to you what to do with it. I saved you, Incredible. I saved you from Bob Parr."
Bob didn't say anything. He wasn't sure where Syndrome was going.
"That's right! I saved you from what you were becoming. Oh, Mirage told me. She couldn't even tell it was you, when she first saw you, do you know that? She called you 'the fat guy'."
Bob's eyebrows raised slightly and he felt his face burn in shame. Syndrome smirked at the twitch of Mr. Incredible's mask that indicated a raise of eyebrows. So he was surprised to hear that, huh? "That's right! You were so fat and so old that she couldn't even tell who you were. Because you weren't Mr. Incredible anymore. And I brought him back. Me!" Syndrome's chest swelled with pride. "I brought Mr. Incredible back from the dead. But so that I could do what? Kill him?"
Bob was growing steadily more uneasy. Syndrome had thought he had destroyed Mr. Incredible before. Wasn't that what he wanted? Syndrome wasn't watching Bob anymore, though. He was lost in his own thoughts, staring off into space. Suddenly his blue eyes sparked and his gaze shifted back to Bob. "No. Not to kill you. I thought that's what I wanted. I was wrong." He walked up to the console and turned off the electromagnet. Bob fell to the floor, managing to catch himself with one hand.
Syndrome watched the motion deftly then continued. "When I thought you were dead, do you know what I did?" His brow suddenly creased and he shouted, "Do you know?!"
After a pause, Syndrome scoffed in disgust. Bob thought for a moment that the scoff was directed at him. He then realized that it was directed at Syndrome-- it was full of self-disgust.
"I almost told her to call it off," the villain continued, now pacing the floor as Bob watched nervously. "Because I wanted to prove that I could do it. I don't want to prove it to the world. What do they know?" Syndrome glared toward a wall as though it represented the world and all of the oblivious people living their mundane lives upon it. He tapped a toe with a metallic click-click-click on the floor as though waiting, thinking, waiting, then resumed his pacing once more. "No. I wanted to prove one person. One." He stopped again, his back facing Bob. He turned slowly then repeated in a much lower tone, "One."
Bob suddenly realized that he was still crouched. He stood up straight and squared his shoulders. "I know that you can do this, Buddy. You don't have to prove anything. We can stop it now."
"Well obviously I canNOT do it if I allow you to convince me to stop, Mr. Incredible," sneered the red-headed figure, turning around to face Bob fully. "And my name isn't Buddy! It's not Buddy! When, Incredible, WHEN will you understand that my name! Is not! BUDDY!" Bob, standing with his shoulders still squared, did not move as Syndrome captured him with his zero-point energy. Seeing this, seeing Mr. Incredible's unwavering, hard gaze, now even more cold through the teal reflection of the zero-point energy, Syndrome felt a stinging at the corners of his eyes, and try as he might, he felt that his chin might just be trembling. "You're. . . you LIED to me!" cried Buddy, feeling his cheeks grow hot and his eyes sting. Mr. Incredible's expression did not, could not change, as Buddy's gloved hand pointed at him accusingly. "Saying you were anything but Mr. Incredible! You're a liar!" He dropped his hand, and Bob's expression was changed. His brow was creased in a worried concern. Buddy looked up at his face defiantly then suddenly looked back down and closed his eyes in anger. "I hate you!" He beat a fist on Incredible's chest, to little or no effect. "I hate you!"
'He's like a child,' thought Bob to himself, as the man-sized fist beat against his chest. 'He's like a child that's been punished.' Out loud, he said, "Buddy, it's okay."
"No," came the thick, choked reply from the down-turned head of orange hair. "No."
Bob felt the sort of guilt he had felt when he had once punished Dash, and Dash had thrown a similar fit. He felt this a bit odd, but, strange feelings (mingled with pain as the loss of his family came back to him) aside, he decided that it couldn't hurt to try and calm Buddy the same way he had calmed Dash. 'Dash, what would Mom say if she knew you did this?' "Buddy, what would Mirage say about this?"
"She probably wouldn't say that, Buddy."
"Ha-ha." The weak fist beat more listlessly against Bob's chest, with no real conviction this time. Bob wrapped his larger hand around Buddy's wrist and put it at his side. Buddy jerked it faintly, an echo of the evening that Mr. Incredible had pulled the smaller, younger Buddy Pine to the police car.
"Buddy, what you're doing is wrong." No response. "You see that, don't you?"
"Yes," muttered Buddy, tracing the edge of his gauntlet with a couple of fingertips. "Yes." His brow furrowed. "Why do you suppose I'm doing this, Incredible? Because it's a kind gesture that'll fill the world with cheerful harmony and justice for all?" He glared up at Bob suddenly. "And you're treating me like a child."
"Don't give me that!" Syndrome sighed and motioned as though he was tossing Mr. Incredible's words away, and began pacing, but Bob was certain that he detected a lack of any real rage now. No alarm bells were going off in his head. Syndrome continued, "You're treating me like I'm a little kid having a temper tantrum. I'm not a kid, and I'm not Buddy. Not anymore." He glared at Bob. "While you were so happily falling apart at the seams and raising a family which is gone now, I might add, I was doing something with myself. I was making something of myself." His glare contained venom and Bob fought back the tidal wave of emotions that threatened to break over him.
"H-. . . how can you do these things? How can you say these things, Bu--. . ." Bob didn't even bother to correct himself, and simply stopped short instead.
"How can I say them? They're the truth. That's how." Syndrome smirked a bit as he saw Bob's composure falling away. "That's right. It's upsetting. Why wouldn't it be? But there it is. You fell apart while I built a new me. . . Bob."
"You used to want to help people."
"Yeah, well I used to think they wanted to help me." Syndrome suddenly pointed an accusing finger at Bob again, and Bob realized that this time, Buddy really was accusing him.