Author: Faith Harris
Summary: Bobby Denton's transformation into a Big Daddy, as he can remember it.
Notes: Written prior to Bioshock 2. Original Characters
He's bad at judging time.
Bobby Denton remembers smiling at the pretty betty behind the registration table. She's one of Steinman's nurses; they'd met once before, when Bobby's mom had gotten a mole removed. This nurse, she was the sort of girl that stuck in a guy's mind. A couple of years ago, back when Bobby hung out with a different bunch of guys, he'd have called her a sweet piece. Small waist, long, slender legs under the white nurse's skirt, curves where curves were supposed to show. A short little blonde bob peeking out under the white nurse's cap.
His mom, when she'd been sitting in the doc's office, wondered out loud why Bobby hadn't met himself a nice lady like that and was still messing about with those tramps down at McDonaugh's. The pretty blonde nurse had blushed and looked back down at her paperwork. The embarrassment hung in the air for the rest of the visit.
Pretty nurse doesn't seem to recognize him though, without his mother at his elbow. She smiles back and crosses her ankles demurely, and it takes every gentlemanly bone in his body not to stare.
"So what's this here, eh doll?" He definitely smiles at her, a beaming bright smile while he puts his hands on the table she's sitting behind and leans forward. "Some sorta petition?"
She rolls her eyes a bit; she's seems amused more than irritated, so Bobby doesn't move. There's at least two guys behind him, but they could just sit and spin for all he cared. "Not exactly."
"Well, ya gonna let me in on the little secret?" Bobby chuckles, looking over towards the man next to him, signing another nurse's clipboard. He jerks his thumb over at the stranger. "Or is this the sorta secret club only a schmuck like that gets in on?"
Without answering, she points with a manicured nail up at the banner hanging overhead. Bobby glances up. PROTECT THE ONES THAT NEED IT THE MOST. Good Samaritan types, Bobby thought to himself. Just the sort of lady that his mom would want him talking to. Do-gooder gal thing aside, for once, Bobby was in agreement with the sentiment.
"Which ones of you's looking for protection?" Bobby responds.
"The most innocent of Rapture," She says, and it sounds practiced, even to Bobby's ears. So a mothering type. "We're signing up volunteers for Rapture's new security team. To protect the little ones from..." The nurse trails off for a moment, and her gaze refocuses past Bobby. He glances over his shoulder, past the line of frustrated young men, to see what she's looking at. A woman-- maybe old, maybe young, she is too strung out on Eve for it to be clear. Not as far gone as most, maybe, but the nurse's implication is clear.
Bobby isn't a splicer himself, but he's had a few buddies that've tried the stuff. Long as they took their time, it was good for a laugh; torching some trash dumpsters, levitating some punk in a bar, that sort of thing. He's even considered trying it, except his mom, she's liable to throw a fit if she ever saw him taking the stuff. He can see it now (could see it?), her wailing on and halfway to speaking in tongues.
Still, not everyone got how to keep it to a minimum. Not a month before, Bobby recalls finding an acquaintance of his, looking like a charred mass of stupidity, lumbering about on wobbling, addict's legs, screaming at the gene bank to give him a little taste. Getting spooked made sense.
"So what, you sign here, do a bit of babysitting, that sort of thing?"
She smiles, and it's a small, flirting smile. Not quite the smile of a dame that spends her nights at McDonaugh's, but the type of girl that maybe mother wouldn't like so much. "You'd be doing a great service, Mr..."
"Denton," Bobby says, extending a hand to shake hers. "Just call me Bobby, though. Mr. Denton was my father." Instead of shaking his hand, she holds out a pen for him, placing the clipboard on the table and pushing it towards him. VOLUNTEERS, it says in big bold letters, SIGN UP HERE. He chuckles at her. "If I sign this, you's gonna give me a bit more conversation?" He's already taking the pen from her.
"Maybe," she answers, and smiles widely.
That does it. He leans over a little more and scribbles his name and phone number onto the list. He is number fourteen. "That smile you's got on you is heaven-sent, you know that, don't you?"
She laughs. "Of course not. I'm a Steinman original."
Look! Look! I drew you a picture Mr. Bubbles!
Months, maybe longer after that, he's making his way through the tangled greenery of Arcadia. In certain moments, like this one, he remembers how much he hates the stuff. He was young when he came to Rapture, but he remembers enough to know that he's always been a city kid. The ground shouldn't squish underfoot, and the walls shouldn't be soft and leafy.
It ain't natural, he thinks, and in the moment where he remembers he hates this sort of thing, he almost chuckles to himself.
But he doesn't. He crouches down, viewing the scribbles on the floor quizzically. It takes him a moment to piece it together. An angel, a halo of fire, a dark shadow scribbled out furiously. A beautiful little piece of art. He'd smile, if she could see it. So he reaches out with a large, cumbersome hand and places it gently on her head. After a beat, he lifts it, and then pets her head. She beams up at him, the sweetest smile he can ever remember seeing.
I made it for you!
Bobby finds out the nurse's name is Sandra, her friends all call her Sandy, and that she likes orange soda pop the best out of them all. He hadn't expected to get a second date with her, never mind a third and a fourth and more after that, but she's got a great laugh, and well, he's got a lot of time to spare in between all the weird fitness tests and injections he gets from the doctors.
At first, he was pissed, feeling duped into being a lab rat. But Ryan and his ilk paid nicely, and really, as long as they weren't splicing him up, what did Bobby care? He still got to look good with the pretty lady at his arm, while all the halfwits still scrambling to make a day's wage moaned. Far as he was concerned, they could have been an old door hinge for all they moaned.
Sandy, though, she was a real treat. She looked as good in her nurse's outfit as she did in her civvies, and looked even better out of both. They weren't serious or anything, but they were getting pretty up close and personal for the time being, and that was the way that Bobby liked it.
Lately, they haven't been able to make time for a real date. Steinman's got her busy all the time. She's one of his personal nurses, the ones that help him in his surgeries. When she's not busy down in his surgery room, she's busy in his office, making appointments, being a walking and talking advertisement for his genius. She loves her job, and her job's made Bobby love her.
He thinks about this as he watches her pull on her stockings. It's her place, not his; she's not too keen on doing the nasty up in the medical pavilion, no matter how much Bobby tries to tease and charm her into it. "I'm no good girl, but I've got my limits," she tells him, her finger tapping against his chest. "Anyways, it's one thing if the docs all suspect we're canoodling. It's a whole different party if they know."
"What, are the nurses all off-limits?" he kids, slapping on the ass as she saunters over to wear her dress is. She smacks his hand before pulling the blue dress on. "All the good docs wanna gather you's all up for themselves? Not that I blame 'em, but that ain't exactly fair now, is it?"
She scoffs, shimmying her outfit over her curves. Bobby leans back in the bed, still in his boxers and an undershirt, admiring the view. Sandy takes in how she looks in her mirror. "It's not the nurses that are off limits, Bobby-boy."
"Oh, what, am I off limits, then? That asshole Steinman tell you not to play nice with me?"
"Steinman is a great man!" Sandy counters, glaring at him scoldingly. "And not Steinman. That mega-creep, Suchong."
"The oriental guy who does my testing?" Bobby makes a face. He doesn't like Dr. Suchong. The man is too sharp and too short. Bobby thinks that the guy needs a pop to the jaw. Suchong keeps calling him a test subject. Bobby isn't a subject, he's a goddamn volunteer, and the brainy types like Suchong keep forgetting that. "What's he care about whatever bird I'm seeing?"
Sandy shrugs. "I don't know. All I know is that Dr. Steinman and Dr. Suchong both don't like it when you guys start having 'relations,' " she rolls her eyes at the term. "Peggy went and got herself a boyfriend, you know, Marshall Winters, and suddenly Peggy found herself out of a job."
"Well then," Bobby says, "Guess you and me'll just have to be a forbidden sort of arrangement, won't we doll?" Talking about the docs wasn't the conversation to have when lying in bed.
Sandy walks back over to the bed when her dress is done up and gives Bobby a quick kiss on the lips. "Guess we have to."
There's a quick, light tug on his finger. A tiny hand that can wrap around his whole finger and pull with about all the strength of a little bird. He stares down at it, and then at the body that comes along with it.
Come on Mr. Bubbles!
He doesn't know where he's being dragged, but he doesn't mind. There's no place for him to be, after all, not with the little one right there with him. He just follows where she leads, his feet moving slowly and steadily behind her. For every one of his steps, four or five of her tiny, speedy ones.
This ground doesn't squish under his weight, but it does creak. It's an improvement, but the water's leaking in. There's a moment of panic; a fearsome image of the water overtaking his little one, but the danger isn't real, and he's able to push it aside. There are more real worries at hand.
He quickly looks this way and that, stopping for a moment, sure that he's heard something. The little one stops, looking up at him expectantly. He slowly shakes his head, and she grabs his finger again, tugging.
"Hey, Sandy, you's in there?"
Bobby hasn't seen Sandy in days, and the nurses have clammed up. Won't tell him nothing about nothing, and there's a panic in his chest. He's thinking the worst. There must have been a Splicer attack, she must've gotten herself hurt. Or maybe she just up and found herself a new man, one that she didn't have to hide around with. Maybe she found herself a guy who isn't slated to be shoved into a permanent diver's suit.
Sure, they've talked about it. They've seen it happen to some of the other guys, shoved up into those suits like stuffing a teddy bear or something. Whenever Sandy talks about it, she gets real quiet, and reaches out and holds Bobby's hand. At first, he thought that she was just looking from comfort from him. More likely, though, is that she's making sure there's still a human hand there to touch.
It isn't like they are planning to get married or anything. It isn't going to work out, not the way that things were supposed to work out for people. They didn't even love each other, not like that. Even so, Bobby still gets struck a little dumb every time he remembers she says she'll stick around until then. There isn't much for them once Bobby's in the suit, but there's enough time to make the most of it.
Anyways, she always says jokingly, it takes a lot of work to train a guy to make the bed nice and proper.
So maybe Bobby worries that she's up and left. He's not sure where she'd go, not unless she gets real desperate and tries to get Fontaine and his men to help her out of Rapture. But if she gets out of the medical pavilion for good, gets out of the job, she damn sure doesn't need to see him around anymore. And he wouldn't blame her.
"Sandy!" He calls her name again. The apartment is trashed, her mirrors broken. Shattered. Bile builds up in Bobby's throat, and he grabs a knife off her counter. "You's here? Where are ya?"
"...away..." It sounds like Sandy, but it's a choked sound. A thick sound that reminds Bobby a little of how she sounds whenever they mention the suit, but worse. Scratchier. Thicker. "..se..."
Bobby follows the broken sound into Sandy's bathroom. He notices the shattered mirror before the figure in the shower, curled up and shaking. He knows the silhouette well, knows every curve and every inch, having made sure at some point or another to touch every bit. Her bob falls over her face, her head dropped on her knees.
He crouches down next to the tub, but has enough sense to know not to touch a broad when she's huddling like that. So his hand just rests on the edge of the tub as he watches to see if she's going to move.
"G'way...bby," Her words are half lost in tears and rasp.
"I ain't goin' nowhere, Sandy. What happened?" He's not good at the white knight bit. Back at McDonaugh's, he was the first guy out of there when a dame started spinning a sob story. Of course, back then he wasn't so good at spending more than two nights with a girl at best. "Someone do somethin' to ya?"
She shakes her head, keeping it low. She sniffles a few times before whispering, carefully, "Why? I was already perfect, he'd said so himself. One of his favorites."
Perfect. Favorite. The bile grows. She is talking about Steinman. If Bobby wasn't so worried, he'd spit, just to get the taste of that cult speak out of his mouth. All of Steinman's nurses did it. Bobby wasn't looking for natural; he knew how much of Sandy probably was Steinman's handiwork. At the same time, Steinman's bullshit about perfection always made his skin crawl. Something Steinman would swear he could fix, if given enough time with a scalpel and a stapler gun, Bobby was sure.
"Why what, babe?" Her ramblings didn't do anything but add to the twisted lump that was serving as Bobby's stomach. All the sense he'd had two seconds ago gets buried under a fear that was spreading like disease, and he reaches his hand out to brush her shoulder, to push back a bit of her hair because he needs to see if she's been crying.
And lightening quick, she recoils, a gasping, horrified noise escaping her throat. She scrambles, even in the small space of the tub, to the furthest corner of the porcelain basin. Bobby's breath catches in his throat, because while it's only for a second, he sees, sees her face, and he knows.
There's a moment where he's frozen in place, staring back at her shuddering, shivering form in its fetal position. The bile in his throat becomes his lunch, and as much as he hates himself for it, he finds himself vomiting in the toilet. The sound of his retching makes Sandy cry harder, and he hates himself almost as much as he hates that doctor that did this to her.
His hand that had brushed her shoulder aches, it's fingers feeling like they need to hold something, anything. He clenches it tightly into a fist, and then wipes his mouth with the back of it.
Sandy promised to be with him until he was in the suit, and those words echo between his ears as the bile rises again.
Look, Mr. Bubbles. An Angel.
For a moment, he has shards of what, laughably, could be called himself. Pieces of Bobby Denton leaking out of the suit, like a crack in the glass.
Panic rises and then falls when he's consumed for a second by the thought of a torrent of water shattering a crack in the glass and drowning the little one in front of him. So many little worries, unreasonable and reasonable, large and small, all overwhelming when they hit, leaving him oddly hollow when they subside.
Hollow. He can imagine himself hollow, the way that he can feel the suit tugging on him. It's a constant tension, pressure, like hair being yanked back too tightly, on every inch of his body. The pull is a pinch with every raise of an arm or a leg to walk. He doesn't lay down to sleep anymore; laying the suit against anything makes it rub and tug along with his skin. Instead, he stands, finding comfort in the momentary stillness and settling of both his skin and fabric.
It's so beautiful.
The stillness is momentary, and the permanent ache shoved to the side at the sound of her voice. It explodes beautifully into his mind, shards of Bobby forgotten as he watches his ward. She is so proud, beaming and smiling, and distantly, Bobby wonders if this is fatherhood.
When he is fortunate, there are two of her to protect.
He knows the order is wrong, but the next thing he remembers is spitting in the oriental shitbag's face the night before Suchong is found in his lab, bloodied and impaled. Suchong's death is the only reason that Bobby knows that the scientists have successfully figured out what they were trying to with the rest of the lab rats like him. Now, instead of just the three or four walking scuba suits, they're speeding it up, shoving a guy in one a week.
And it's more than just the suit now. Bobby see Freddie Michaels, only knows it's him because only one guy got stuffed into the suit recently. But Freddie doesn't answer to his name. Heck, he doesn't answer to any name. Just sluggishly follows after the little creepy girls. Little sisters, his brain tells him.
Bobby gets scared. He gets real scared.
He's changed his mind. Fuck the agreements. Sue him, he doesn't care. It doesn't matter that his head jerks up from his own drunken miserable thoughts at the sounds of the little sisters. He doesn't care his head aches something awful when he starts worrying about where they are. He wants out.
He wants to tell them all this, and comes up with a sweet little speech to throw Ryan's way, if the bastard showed himself in the labs. He's got a separate one for all of them, from the nurses, to the janitors, to Dr. Suchong.
He's got a fist for Dr. Steinman, and he throws it at the sick bastard after storming into Steinman's operating room. Or at least, he plans to, but then he gets a look at the man's face. Just like with Sandy, he knows, but this time, he knows that Steinman's brain and genes are as spliced up as his nurses faces are sliced up, and he knows now why Ryan and Suchong stopped bringing up Steinman's name without a little sneer to compliment it.
They should put the good doctor down, he thinks, but out loud he finds himself laughing. This is before, as Bobby later finds out, Steinman kills the rest of his nurses, but Bobby is pretty sure that he would have laughed even if it had been after.
Doctor Steinman goes on about how Bobby's too ugly to lay a finger on him. Bobby's got to dodge his plasmids in order to get out, but that's easy enough, considering Steinman gets himself distracted by the pictures of distorted faces he's thrown everywhere.
Sandy hangs herself two days before. When Bobby can, he still laughs about it.
When he is alone, without a little one, there's peace for maybe twenty, thirty minutes before his spine starts crawling. He starts to look at everything out of the corner of his eye, every movement maybe being a little one. Horrible possibilities play themselves out behind his eye lids when he blinks. He cannot sleep unless he's sure where she is.
He lifts his arm slowly and bangs on the hole in the wall. If she is in there, she can hear it. He looks into the darkness of the hole for a glimpse of her eyes, and sighs deeply when she's no where to be found. The empty hurts more than anything. He bangs on the hole again. Maybe she can't hear him.
There is skittering on the ceiling above him. Waiting, watching, but he knows what it is. He does not look up; the spiders don't matter. She's not in the hole, so he lowers his hand and drags his feet down the hallway. The skittering stops, and there is a beat before he hears the spider dropping to the floor behind him. He keeps walking.
It jumps at his back. He turns, and his drill skewers the tiny spider. He shakes it off before starting on his walk again.
Maybe she's in the pipes down the hall.
A white light overhead blinds Bobby the moment that he opens his eyes, and even if he were the religious, praying type, like his mom was, he still wouldn't have thought that it was heaven.
It's been two weeks since he was allowed contact with his mom. He doesn't put it past Ryan to tell the old Mrs. Denton that her son's dead. Bobby's been considering it for awhile now.
He groans, and tries to lift his arm to protect him from the light, but his arms don't move. They are strapped down, heavy leather straps. He tugs at them, but they don't move. He curses, but if anyone's around, they say nothing and he can't see them anyway. Bobby's wrists and ankles and waist hurt, and he guesses he's been strapped down for a while now.
Bobby's groan becomes a shout, and then a protest. Something covers the light, blots it out. As the darkness moves into place, he knows what it is. Wants to recoil, wants to scream, wants to run, wants to die.
There is searing pain that comes next, pain that doesn't stop for a very long time. His skin feels like it's melting, then freezing, then melting again. Every cell feels heavy, thick, rough. Every attempt to lift his head is met with dizzying heavy, and he can't conjure up the energy to lift his head.
It hurts, and he wonders if Sandy'd had any drugs to numb the pain when Steinman played with his scalpels all over her face. He remembers the grotesque twisting patchwork that had become her cheek, her nose, half her mouth. He remembers each piece as if in a million different places on her face all at once, because that's what it seemed like. A jigsaw puzzle when a child forces unmatched pieces into place. He'd turned Sandy into a square peg in a star hole.
This imagining is as vivid as the pain, and he screams from both.
Here, in the medical pavilion, is where his memory ends. Or, rather, it circles back onto itself, spiraling and exploding into a million moments.
Her hand, still so small, stretches upwards to meet his, and in an instant becomes a woman's hand, slender and perfect and so very familiar. It doesn't fit as it should, it's shrunken and tiny and his brain recoils as his hand reaches out.
His memory ends in a blinding white light and starts out again under that banner. PROTECT THE ONES THAT NEED IT THE MOST. Beneath that banner, a smile without imperfection, carefully crafted and as blinding as light.
His memory dives into nothingness and shoots back upwards, splashing and spluttering, into smooth crossed legs and a neat nurse's dress. It's difficult to hold onto; he forgets when this happened, and when the little one in front of him pouts and waves her hand the memory shatters and falls away. Inconsequential again.
Her fingers are ageless, perfect. Sandy. A little one. Either way his heart aches, twists, pulls. Like his skin against his outer shell.