This story is inspired from "Company Man", as well as some things I heard on the commentaries from the episode. My little drabble about Claude and Bennet and their partnership. It also includes some theories I have about who Claude was protecting, how he survived getting shot and the Haitian's orders. Spoilers contained so be warned. Also, reviews are most welcome. Bennet is going to be featured to favorably, but favorably enough.
I don't own Heroes. Pity me.
15 years earlier…
Bennet walked down the hall, eyeing the man next to him warily. Claude, as he'd introduced himself as, moved with a jaunty stride, but with an expression that could only be described as….invisible.
"How long have you been like this?" Bennet asked. Claude turned pale blue eyes towards him.
"Since I was about 17." Claude answered. "I was living in London and going to school there." He suddenly chuckled. "I was with a girl after hours and needed to hide. Suddenly, I was able to. I think I scared the girl more than I did myself."
Bennet couldn't help but laugh.
"After that, I just started learning how to master myself." Claude said. "Took me quite a few years, but it paid off in the end." Claude stopped walking and Bennet stopped as well.
"Why so curious all of a sudden?" Claude asked. "You know, you start to get close to someone in this business and you run the risk of not being honest."
Bennet realized he was right.
"Just curious." he answered. "I imagine I'm going to need to learn a lot more about 'them' in order to serve the company better."
Claude's reaction to 'them' was an almost unperceivable twitch of his brows.
"Come on, mate." Claude said merrily. "Let's bring you up to speed."
The pair moved further down the hall to Bennet's new office.
Claude came home that night to his small apartment. Small was what the manager had called it. The space he occupied was twice the size of the home he'd shared with his family in Lancashire. He smiled wryly to himself, wondering what his mother would think about her son's occupation. As far as the company was concerned, both parents were dead. He'd needed to cut all ties for their protection. He would not have his parents being brought in and examined like lab rats.
"Run the risk of not being honest." he muttered to himself. He pulled a beer from the fridge and sat down to watch television. He laughed heartily when he came across Claude Raines in The Invisible Man, but made himself comfortable to watch.
14 years earlier…
Claude and Bennet exited the car outside the small home in Texas. They'd been informed of a young woman with pyrokinesis, a firestarter, living here. The routine was simple enough. Just like always. Claude would become invisible and Bennet, posing as some door-to-door solicitor, would get him in. After that, it was simply a matter of time to get her to manifest and Claude would inject her with the sedative.
What they didn't count on was the child.
The baby's cries caused Claude to jump in alarm and, as a result, he knocked over a large teddy bear. The woman looked up in fear as she recognized her peril. Claude materialized and Bennet prepared his own tranquilizer. The woman began to panic and the baby continued to cry. The stress became too much for the mother as sparks of flame few in every direction from her. It hit the walls, floors, shelves and the baby's crib. Claude panicked and moved a second too late before the child was covered in flames. Claude removed his jacket and put out the flames.
"Claude, get the baby out of here!" Bennet shouted. Claude hesitated only a minute before gently scooping up the child and running out of the house. Bennet stayed a moment more to try and continue to sedate the mother, but he couldn't get near enough. There was no choice but to run out of the house. They stood outside as the flames became an inferno around the house.
"Is the baby safe?" Bennet asked. Claude looked at him uncertainly and removed the jacket. He stared in shock at the baby's twisted, crying face which was unburned. Bennet breathed a sigh of relief.
"Looks like you moved pretty fast, partner." Bennet said. "Good job."
Claude smiled at Bennet as the roof collapsed on the child's mother. Claude did not say the child had been burned. Very badly. And he did not intend to. It hadn't been pleasant to go all the way to New York for this meeting, especially while carrying a child. But that was where the contact was. So, they'd boarded the plane immediately and had arrived by 9 am that morning. The child had slept the entire time.
"Happy Father's Day." Claude said in nearly flawless Japanese, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief. Bennet smiled back and looked closely at the little girl. Blue eyes, blonde hair and a tiny little smile as she reached up to poke at his chin. Then she began to cry. Bennet inwardly jumped, not sure what to do. He looked around nervously for any sign of aid. Claude laughed at his confusion, but took pity.
"Give her to me." Claude said and Bennet did so gladly. Instantly the baby stopped crying as she focused her attention on the new individual before her. Bennet took his turn at laughing as the baby reached up and took hold of his nose.
"At least it wasn't the ears." Claude laughed. The two men went downstairs to the car. Claude sat in the back on the floor, holding the baby on the seat.
"Should we go right home?" Bennet wondered aloud.
"She needs to eat." Claude said. "Whatever else she may someday become, I'm sure that won't include a camel. Stop at that store and I'll get you what you need until you get home to your wife."
Claude handed the child back to Bennet when the car parked and got out of the car.
"I'll pay you back." Bennet said. "No tricks, okay?"
Claude glared in mock anger.
"I'm no thief." he glowered pleasantly and hurried inside.
Bennet sat in the car with his new "daughter." He hadn't been lying to Nakamura-san when he'd said he wouldn't make a good father, but even more so, he hadn't wanted to take the child because of what she might become someday. His wife had wanted children so badly. Now they had a beautiful daughter.
"How will we take care of you?" Bennet asked the child. "What's your name? How old are you? Do you have allergies? Are you on medication for something? Will you need shots or vaccines? And what if you are one of 'them?' Will you start a fire like your mom? Or worse?
"You expecting the little one to answer you?" Claude said, coming back with a cart filled with what would be needed until they returned home to Texas, including a car seat.
"You're not gonna hold her?" Bennet asked.
"Not while you're driving the car, you plonker." Claude said. "But I'll sit in the back and feed her. Father of the year, you are."
Bennet realized he hadn't called home to tell his wife. This wasn't exactly a puppy he was bringing home. He looked in the rear window and saw Claude looking critically at the sleeping child.
"What's wrong?" Bennet asked. "Everything okay?"
"Just fine." Claude answered. "You thought about what you'll call her?"
Bennet realized he hadn't.
"I'm sure my wife will want to help." Bennet said. Then he grinned. "We could call her Claudia." Claude rolled his eyes and laughed.
"Heaping the ridicule on at an early age, that's clear." Claude said. His northern accent made it out more to be…
"Claire." Bennet said thoughtfully. "I like that name."
10 years earlier…
Claude knocked on the door of the Bennet house. He shifted the small object in his hand and made it invisible just as Sandra opened the door and smiled at him.
"Claude, nice to see you!" she said happily and beckoned the man in. She planted a kiss on his cheek and smiled. "I'm glad you could make it."
"Thanks for inviting me." Claude said. "It'll be nice to have a home cooked meal for once."
"You really should think about finding a nice young lady for yourself Claude." Sandra said.
"Oh, but then I wouldn't have any excuse to sample your cooking." Claude said.
"You are a pistol." Sandra said. "But all the same, thanks for coming. It'll mean so much to Claire to have you here on her birthday."
"From what you said on the phone, not just Claire."
"He's been so distant to her lately." she said. "It's like he doesn't want to even look at her. I was hoping you could see what's bothering him. You're a good friend of his. Maybe he'll tell you."
Claude frowned. The man was cold as ice. And becoming more and more so each day.
"I'll do my best." Claude said. "But I'm no mind reader."
Sandra chuckled and led Claude into the house.
"UNCLE CLAUDE!!!" Claude caught the blonde projectile in his arms and swung her high.
"There's my little Claire-bear!" Claude exclaimed. "Happy Birthday!"
"Cheers!" Claire said, using the British term he'd taught her. Claude laughed and set her down.
"Got something for you." Claude said and held out his hand. It was empty.
"What?" Claire asked, feeling excited. Claude looked confused. He began patting his pockets.
"Well, it was here a moment ago." Claude said and then stopped. "Hang on, what's that there?" He raised a hand to her ear and snapped it. When he pulled it back, there was a teddy bear with a big red bow before her.
"Oh, Uncle Claude, thank you!" Claire squealed and crushed the bear to her. She then threw her arms around Claude's neck in a fierce hug.
"I'm chuffed you like it." Claude said.
"You spoil her." Sandra said laughing at the exchange.
"What are uncles for?" Claude said.
"You ought to stop getting her so much." Bennet said, coming into the room, open file in hand. "It'll just pile up."
Claude's smile dimmed.
"Daddy, look what Uncle Claude gave me." Claire said excitedly. Bennet didn't look up from his work.
"That's nice, Claire." Bennet said. "Can you go in the other room with Lyle? Don't leave him by himself too long." Then he turned back to his office.
Claire nodded, but Claude didn't miss the sad look in her eyes. She was too little to understand much about grownups and their ways, but even she knew when she was being ignored deliberately.
"I'm going to finish the roast." Sandra said, looking at Claude meaningfully. "Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? Beer?"
"Beer would be just fine." Claude said and followed after Bennet.
"What's going on, mate?" Claude asked.
"You seem to be forgetting the rules." Bennet said. He looked up at him. "Don't get too close to someone or you risk your honesty in the company."
"She's just a little kid." Claude said. "She deserves love, no matter what may happen to her."
Claude looked around the room. There weren't too many pictures of Claire around his office. At least he'd been fair and had none of his newly adopted son either.
"When did you get to be such a prat?" Claude asked.
Bennet slapped the file down hard on the table and looked sternly at Claude.
"You were invited over for dinner and Claire's birthday." Bennet said sharply. "Not to lecture me on how I do things in my family."
Claude frowned but backed away. The two said nothing more of the matter the remainder of the evening. Later that evening, Claude and Claire sat in the den watching an old episode of Doctor Who. She watched with wide eyes as the Doctor collapsed to the floor, seemingly dead, only to be replaced by another man and sat up, alive again.
"Uncle Claude, how can he do that?" Claire asked. Claude grinned.
"He's not human like you and me, Claire." Claude said. "When he dies, his body regenerates. That means that it becomes new."
"That would be so cool to do." Claire said. "I want to be able to do that."
Claude looked at her curiously. His mind thought back to when he and her dad had found her. Not a burn or cut to be found, although he knew it had been there.
"That would be nice to do, wouldn't it." Claude said. "Never having to worry about being hurt. Never dying."
"But it's not real, Claire." Bennet said. Claude glanced at him, wondering how long he'd been there.
"I know, Daddy." Claire said. "But it's fun to dream about."
Bennet smiled at her and nodded.
"Time for bed. Tell Uncle Claude goodnight."
"Can Uncle Claude spend the night over?" Claire asked.
"Oh, Claire-bear, I'd love to, but I've got lots to do at home and work tomorrow." Claude said. "Besides, you don't want some daft old twit like me."
Claire shook her head and kissed his cheek.
"You're really a bit of all right." Claire said proudly. "I love you, Uncle Claude."
"Night, Claire." Claude said. Claire stood up and hugged her father.
"Night, Daddy. I love you." she said. Bennet kissed his daughters head and she hurried off.
"Watch what you say about things like that, Claude." Bennet said. "Don't give her any ideas."
7 years earlier…
Meredith paced nervously in the park. She desperately tried to keep her fire contained, but judging by the burn paths of her shoes in the grass, it wasn't working. A sudden sound of movement caught her attention and she instinctively prepared a fireball. But as the man became visible, she relaxed.
"Is everything okay?" Meredith asked. "You sounded so anxious on the phone."
"You and I have to be looking out for Claire's best interests now." he said. "I brought someone with me who can help."
Meredith stared in surprise as a young man stepped from the shadows.
"They've caught onto me." Claude said. "I was in Bennet's office today, invisible. He was told about how I was hiding someone and that he had to kill me."
Meredith gasped. She threw her arms around Claude.
"What are you going to do?" she cried. "All of this is my fault. I shouldn't have approached you. And you shouldn't have helped me."
Claude held her at arms length and kissed her forehead.
"You're wrong." Claude said. "I've never been comfortable with the abductions, even more when I found out just what they did. I don't regret any choices I made."
He motioned to the young man to come forward.
"This young man will look after Claire when I can't." Claude said. "He'll answer to just you and me about Claire."
Meredith smiled at the young man, but it was not returned. He kept his face impassive.
"Not the most friendly fellow is he." Meredith said.
"It's better that he doesn't show any emotion." Claude said. "Keeps him from being a suspect."
Meredith looked at Claude and began to cry.
"I don't know what to say." she wept. "You've protected me all this time and you've protected Claire. Now, you'll end up dying for it."
"Don't count me out just yet." Claude said. "I didn't get this far without learning a few tricks."
He looked at the Haitian.
"You are to look after Claire and protect her from what's coming." Claude said. "When she asks, tell her about her mother. Don't wipe any memories of what she needs to learn about her Dad and the company."
The Haitian nodded.
"And what about you?" he asked.
"If my plan works, I'll disappear." Claude said. "It's better they think I'm dead. At least then, I'm free to work how I want."
Meredith watched in sad horror as she realized the risk these men were taking for her and Claire. When she'd found Claude 3 years ago, she's been furious with him. But she'd learned fast that the man had his own agenda and was one she could trust. She hadn't been wrong.
Claude looked back at her and stroked her cheek fondly.
"You take care of yourself." Claude said. "You'll still be safe if you do what I told you. And don't worry, I'm a jammy sort of man. You can count on that."
Claude strode away, as did the Haitian. It was only until after both men were gone that she realized the entire exchange had been done invisibly.
Claude lay still on the beams below the bridge, trying to control his breathing, despite the pain. He had hoped to be able to reach Bennet and convince him to put the company's interests aside. But it hadn't worked. Bennet looked around below the bridge, waved his hand in the air above the railing and kicked out from side to side. Then Bennet began to cry.
"Claude, you idiot." Bennet said. "Why couldn't you just go with the program. You're the one who told me getting close to someone was too risky with this company."
Bennet threw the gun over the bridge in fury.
"But you were wrong. I am getting close to Claire." Bennet shouted. "She's my daughter. And I will protect her from everything the company is."
Bennet turned his attention to the Haitian as he strode from the other side of the bridge.
"We're going back to my house." Bennet said. "And we're going to wipe every trace of Claude from my family's mind."
The sound of the engine of the car grew faint and Claude relaxed. The anger of being shot had been fueled only by Bennet's orders to wipe Claude away from the memories of his family. He'd never see Claire again, but it was even worse knowing that she wouldn't even know about him.
He gingerly climbed up to the bridge rail and hauled himself over. The blood flow was slowly ebbing away. The fool had not hit anything vital. Of course the theatrics of the bulletproof vest and fake blood did help, but Claude knew he would be sore for weeks.
"Nothing for it now." he thought to himself and made his way across the bridge. It would be a long trip to New York. Good thing he had the time off of work.
3 years earlier…
Bennet watched as his sleeping daughter hugged one of her many teddy bears close. He recognized it as the one Claude had given her on the last birthday he'd been around for. It had been easy enough to fill in the gaps of memory with his own actions, but couldn't help feeling pleased at Claude's attachment to the family still. Roast on Sundays. Claire even sometimes used a little British slang she wasn't sure from where.
"Daddy?" Claire asked.
"Sorry, sweetheart, I didn't mean to wake you. I just wanted to see how you were doing." Bennet said. He knew she'd taken the news of adoption hard.
"I'm okay." Claire answered. "I had a funny dream about a man who did magic tricks with my bears."
Bennet laughed. "Okay, no more David Copperfield for you."
Claire laughed. "I love you, Daddy."
"I love you too, Claire-bear." Bennet said. She drifted off to sleep again.
"Father of the year, you are." Claude's words came back to him.
"Maybe not." Bennet thought. "But as long as she loves me, that's all I need. And I won't let her down by destroying her."
Bennet closed the door and sighed. But for how much longer could she stay safe?
Claire looked back at her adopted father as he weakly stood and drove away. He would go to the hospital first.
"Will he be alright?" Claire asked.
"He will be fine, I think." the Haitian answered. "He has done this to protect you from himself."
The Haitian turned to face her.
"Now, we will go see your other protector."
The Haitian did not answer but simply drove away in his own car. New York was a long way off. It was a good thing he'd gotten the time off of work.
What do you think? It's a little long and got a little weaker towards the end, but not too bad. Sad part is I'll never get my other stories done if I keep getting brainstorms about other shows. Oh well. Let me know what you think about it and maybe I'll come up with more.
Stay cool! From here on in, this will be fun!