Father of the Year

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. R/R.

Noah Bennet has lost count of how many times he's been in undesirable situations. He knew there would be risks when he chose to work for The Company. He knew he would be asked to do things that were shady at best. At first, Bennet was okay with that but as the years went on and the dirt kept piling up he began to resent certain parts of his job.

"Tell Bob ta get his arse in gear and take care o' her," orders Claude as he desperately tries to drown out the noise by sticking his fingers in his ears.

"Bob's in a meeting," reminds Bennet, his voice almost lost in the wails and moans coming from behind the closed door. Elle was always rather loud after her tests.

"Lucky sod," says Claude as he tosses something to Bennet, "Slip that inta her IV. I'm gonna get some sleep or at least bloody try ta."

"Wait, why can't you do it?" asks Bennet as he catches the metal cylinder, "You could just go invisible and sneak in."

"You're the bloody family man," retorts Claude, "Ya know I'm terrible with kids." Bennet sighs as his eardrums are treated to another assault courtesy of Elle's abnormally strong lungs. He punches in the code on the lock and quietly walks into the rubber room. He had learned early on why it was best to approach Elle with caution at all times. Though she was only thirteen, Elle was already well versed in the art of making grown men cry. Bennet himself had been on the receiving end of her shocks more than once until some genius had come up with the idea to make her wear rubber gloves at all times unless instructed otherwise.

"Elle," says Bennet calmly, "You know that won't get you anywhere. Just calm down before you hurt yourself."

"I want Daddy!" whines Elle hoarsely, "Tell him to make it stop!" Bennet sighs again, his heart becoming heavier and heavier. Having a daughter changes a man. Bennet was formerly not one prone to bouts of sympathy but now he has Claire and as much as he hates it he can't stop thinking about Claire every time he sees Elle.

"If you promise to calm down and be quiet then I'll stay with you," offers Bennet, "Just don't zap me." He knows how to placate her. Elle's level of maturity is about the same as Claire's even though she's over twice the Bennet girl's age. Elle hates being alone and will do almost anything to avoid it.

"Okay," says Elle as Bennet sits down in a chair that's beside her bed. They had to strap her down extra tight tonight for reasons Bennet can't fathom. He figures that's what Bob's meeting is about. Elle's either doing something very right or very wrong but Bennet can't say which is true. Just looking at Elle makes him want to throw up. Bennet may not consider himself a good father but he at least knows the basics. Good fathers don't turn their daughters into lab rats.

"Will that make the pain stop?" asks Elle as she sees Bennet tinker with her IV, pouring something new into it.

"Yeah, it'll be okay soon," assures Bennet as he runs a hand through Elle's hair, "I have a daughter too. Did you know that?"

"What's her name?" asks Elle as Bennet finishes his job and returns to his chair, "Is she pretty like me?"

"Very pretty like you," assures Bennet, knowing that Elle is fascinated by pretty things, "Her name is Claire."

"Nice name," comments Elle in a far away tone, "When's Daddy coming back?"

"Very soon," replies Bennet as he strokes her cheek, "You just rest and be a good girl until he gets back."

"Why does he hurt me?" asks Elle as she sniffles, her eyes red and swollen from all the crying, "I'm always a good girl. Why does he keep hurting me?" Bennet feels his heart break a little and consequently wants to break one of Bob's body parts. Any of them will serve the purpose of explaining to him the proper methods of childcare.

"I wish I knew," says Bennet quietly as he sees Elle's eyes start to get heavy and knows the tranquilizer he put in her IV is starting to work. Bennet can always count on Claude to come up with painless solutions to tense situations. He just wishes this particular situation never occurred and didn't have to keep occurring on a regular basis.

"I wish Daddy was nice like you," mumbles Elle before her eyes close and the drugs take her down into the depths of sleep where the pain can't reach her.

"If you were my daughter I'd die before letting this happen," whispers back Bennet, "I swear it." The door quietly opens and Bob steps into the room along with the mysterious, young man from Haiti.

"The usual stuff doesn't work anymore," explains Bennet, "She's too wired for it to have any effect so Claude thought up a more effective solution."

"Temporary at best," replies Bob, "I was in a meeting with Thompson about seeking . . . alternative treatment methods. It's actually good that she's out now. It gives us easier access to her subconscious." Bennet's been down this road too many times and knows he'll go down it many more times in the future. The Haitian is always Employee of the Month when someone has secrets they want to hide.

"Thank you for taking care of my daughter," says Bob.

"Don't thank me for doing your job," retorts Bennet with venom in his throat, "You can't seriously suggest using him on your own daughter."

"You've used him on your wife," reminds Bob.

"That was a last resort and I did it only to protect the interests of this company," explains Bennet, "What you want to do is assuage your own guilt over what you've done to your daughter."

"Do you see any better options?" asks Bob. Bennet can think of a few. He can think of how many bones he can break by connecting his fist with Bob's smug face. Bennet's done things he's not proud of but he loves his children. This man standing in front of him knows nothing about loving his daughter. If Bob did then Elle wouldn't be here at all.

"Tell Thompson I'm checking out early tonight," says Bennet as he moves past Bob and The Haitian, "You do whatever you want, Robert, but you can't hide forever."

"Neither can you and neither can your daughter," retorts Bob.

XXXXX

Noah Bennet arrives home from work early that night. He kisses his wife and plays with his children before dinner. He lets Claire stay up a little later than usual and reads her favorite bedtime story to her. He tells himself it's the least he can do considering all the secrets he's kept. He tells himself he's a good father because at least he doesn't keep his daughter locked in a cell and so drugged up she can't think straight. He does keep secrets though and he uses questionable methods. While he might be more humane than Bob, Noah Bennet knows they are in the same boat and that vessel is rapidly sinking, dragging them all down into Hell. He tries not to think about it too often but sometimes it creeps into his brain and won't go away.

Noah Bennet goes to bed with his wife after making sure his beautiful daughter is sound asleep and for the first time in a long time having sex actually feels like making love instead of just relieving stress and tension. It feels good. It feels normal. Yet in the quiet stillness of the night, Noah Bennet just can't stop thinking about Elle Bishop, the little girl who wants to believe in her father but can't. Noah Bennet can't help picturing what it would be like if he had to watch Claire lying there strapped to a gurney and having her memories erased. He shudders as a pit forms in his stomach. Noah Bennet has done questionable things. He knows he's not a saint but he assures himself that as long as he can breathe he will never let them know about Claire. He will never see her strapped to a gurney like an animal. He will never look in the mirror and see Bob's arrogant face staring back at him. Noah Bennet isn't a saint but at least he knows what a father should be and he intends to live up to that idea no matter what it may cost.