A/N: Headcanon is that Grell mentored Eric. Or the other way around, but I more see Grell as being the older of the two of them. Grell also doesn't seem the sort to tolerate newbies well unless they're unexpectedly awesome. XDD
Summary: Not a hint of mockery. Not a single mote of sarcasm. That was it. Grell was definitely fond of Ronald Knox.
Grell Sutcliffe had never been particularly fond of mentoring Juniors. Sure, she was willing to teach them; her Advanced Reaping Techniques class was the talk of the Academy for many reasons. But once they'd passed their final and been assigned a mentor…ugh. Whenever she'd ended up with a youngster one-on-one, they were always sniveling and indecisive and irritating. So far, the only one she'd really enjoyed was Eric Slingby, her very first mentee. He'd been utterly incorrigible and gave her a run for her money, just as he now caused a daily twitch in William's eyebrows.
It was a damn shame that, a few decades later, she'd been busy with a particularly difficult month's worth of reaps when Alan Humphries had been assigned a mentor. He'd been the youngest in her class that year, small and fragile looking, and always terribly polite. But he had brilliant grades: A's across the board, and while he was just as polite and eager to please as any of the other Juniors, he had a strong will in him that Grell thought was wonderful. She was actually jealous of Eric for getting to mentor him, as his well-hidden spitfire temper was quite refreshing.
But eighteen or nineteen years later, a file landed on her desk one morning, and she looked up to meet William's gaze curiously as the supervisor adjusted his glasses.
"You've been assigned a mentee this year, Grell Sutcliffe," William said dryly. "Please do us all a favor and try to keep him from turning out like you and Mr. Slingby."
Grell giggled. "Oh, Will, you talk about me like I'm such a corrupting influence~!"
"That's because you are. Do try not to have a repeat of last time, either."
As William left her office, Grell thought back to her last mentee. Poor, timid little thing. He hadn't lasted more than a week under her wing before begging for a department switch. He was happily up in Spectacles now; though it was a well-kept secret that "Daddy", as some reapers had a tendency to refer to Lawrence Anderson when William wasn't around, could be just as bad as Grell, given the chance.
She flipped open the file, which had the neatly printed name "Ronald Knox" across the top, and began to look through it curiously. He seemed like a good enough kid. Boyish face, charming grin, half-dyed hair. Oh, General Affairs would be all over this one. He had nothing but A's and B's from the academy, had been labeled "too cheerful" by the ever-dour bunch that oversaw the final exams, and had apparently chosen a lawnmower as a death scythe. This caught her attention. Not many in the Collections department chose motorized scythes. Most preferred traditional bladed tools, like Will's pruner, or Alan's slasher, or that bloke who had the corner desk who carried around the giant pruning shears. Her own chainsaw was the only motorized one she could think of. But it seemed that was about to change. Maybe this kid would be a worthy mentee after all.
The next morning, she found Ronald waiting for her outside the door to her office. Sweeping past him, she unlocked the door and beckoned him inside. "You must be Ronald Knox, hm?"
"Yes, Senior Sutcliffe," Ronald said promptly, with a winning smile and a cheerful wave. Grell smirked, turning back to face him and putting a hand on her hip. He was rather endearing. Less blatantly nervous than most Juniors, and he was looking at her like an enthusiastic, eager puppy.
"All right, dear. First of all, I'm your mentor, not your teacher. Just Grell is fine. Second, I don't have a whole lot of rules." She wasn't as strict as William, but not as lax as Eric, either. "Just listen when I tell you to do something, and treat me with the respect a lady deserves, and we'll get along fine."
She could practically see the wheels in Ronald's head turning behind his wide, bright eyes. The paperwork he'd been given to let him know his assigned mentor had referred to her as male, so it would be interesting to see how he reacted to this. Grell bit back a giggle. It never grew old, messing with the Juniors, but if they'd just put the proper pronouns on her paperwork it would stop being an issue altogether. Unfortunately, Will was too much of a hardass to bother. She watched as Ronald blinked once or twice, but then the younger reaper grinned and said with utter sincerity, "All right, Miss Grell."
Not a hint of mockery. Not a single mote of sarcasm. That was it. Grell was definitely fond of Ronald Knox. She neatened up her desk and beckoned to him, heading for the door. "Come on, pup. Let's get our lists for the day and see if you can keep up."
A month later, and Ronald was still around.
William had actually been impressed with him for staying this long, considering he had Grell for a mentor, but that was about the only thing Will was impressed with. Ronald was a partier, a flirt, and had General Affairs wrapped around his finger in three days. He got his work done on time, but that was just to avoid overtime so he could go to parties. But somehow, he and Grell seemed to keep each other in line, and that suited the overworked supervisor just fine.
One evening midweek, when Ronald didn't have a party to go to, mentor and mentee were both in the maintenance room, looking after their deathscythes. Ronald had quickly learned that Grell did all the upgrades to her scythe on her own, and had quite an affinity for motors and tinkering.
"So, Grell-senpai…" That was another thing. Despite almost no one else bothering to do so, Ronald continued to call her 'Miss Grell' when he wasn't calling her 'senpai'. It was terribly endearing. "What do I have to do to get my scythe upgraded?"
Grell looked up from where she was cleaning the chain of her scythe, grinning. "Well, obviously there's a massive packet of paperwork to fill out. Will has to approve it, then it has to go through the Head of Maintenance, and it can be rejected at any point. For no real reason, even." She shrugged, tossing her ponytail back over her shoulder from where it had slid down. "What do you want to do to it?"
"I'd just like to make the engine a bit more powerful. Maybe some sharper or bigger blades. Nothing too flashy. I don't rely totally on it, anyway." It was a well-kept secret in the department that Ronald kept some sort of knife on his person at all times. Whether it was a switchblade or a pocketknife or that one time Grell had seen him playing with a butterfly knife, it was almost always safely in his inside jacket pocket. Technically that was against regulations, but Grell wasn't telling.
"Bigger blades would take paperwork, and so would a different engine. But we can tweak the engine some without going through Maintenance first." She reached over and tugged the scythe out of Ronald's lap, flipping it over and beginning to work.
Ronald just leaned in to watch, impressed. "Wow, thanks, Miss Grell!"
Grell grinned. "You've earned it, pup. You've been a good mentee." And she didn't say that about just anyone. But Ronald Knox looked like he was turning out to be a damn fine reaper, if she did say so herself.