Familiar Masks


bob_icon.gif elle2_icon.gif

Scene Title Familiar Masks
Synopsis Returning from her assignment in Chicago, Elle Bishop finds herself confronted with something unexpected from her father.
Date July 25, 2010

Fort Hero

Sometimes, life seems to be a video running on slow-motion. It's a day-to-day grind of events that never seems to quite catch up to preferred speed. Then, even when it does, there's something missing; a crucial element important to the greater scheme of things. Sometimes, though, life presents people with a day that gives just the right about of hope and catharsis.

Which makes it all the more painful when that hope is taken away.

"So we're sitting out there in the rain, looking up at the second floor window just waiting for the lights to come on…" The cafeteria of Fort Hero isn't a place that seems iconic for moments of catharsis, doesn't seem like a place where important life choices can be made. "And this guy just flies right past our field of view, you know— just haphazardly bobbing along in the air in the rain without a care in the world. Four years ago I would've tasered that jackass."

With all its fluorescent-drained decour, tan tiled floor and unpainted concrete walls it almost looks more like a prison than a cafeteria. No windows to let in natural light, no real decorations aside from the aluminum sides of steam tables and the notched plastic of sneeze guards. "Yeah, tell me about it. We've got things like that jackass in the white costume fighting people on the street? These are the kind of people we locked up back in the day." The only thing that is colorful in the Fort Hero cafeteria is the commentary.

Agents of all classifications spend their off-time here, at the firing range or in the athletics room. Between assignments and on off-hours, both rookiees brought in post-bomb and veterans of the Company discuss the glory days and how things have changed. For all its charmless gray blandness, it is also home as much as it can be for certain agents who have nowhere else to go — or have not known another life aside from the Company.

Having been out of state for almost three months, Elle Bishop is one of those people who counts Fort Hero as a home. While she was born and raised in the Primatech buildings used pre-bomb, this concrete-walled bunker of a facility has some of the same atmospheric charms of Level-5 and the other subterranean locations the Company utilizes across the country.

Her return to Fort Hero is one that, to the other agents, brings an ill-omen. Elle has always been her father's baby, always been his prized little girl, and the resentment of that position from the other agents can at times be palpable. Almost as much as their fear of her.

Through the double doors and into the cafeteria, it's the first time Elle has seen Fort Hero since leaving on a cross-country journey. Cambridge, Massachusettes to dig up information on the agents of the Institute and all the way out to Chicago, Illinois to discover the truth about the disappearance of Roger Goodman's remains.

To say that her assignments have left a cloud hanging over her head would be understatement. Between both assignments, Elle has cobbled together information suggesting that the Institute has been collecting Evolved behind the Company's back for over a year now, in preparation for something that may well be the American government's replacement of the generations-old organization with one of their own. Rumors of a memory replicator within their ranks, and now a possible tie of the Institute to the theft of Roger Goodman's corpse has her on edge.

After all, in a future that never will be, Roger Goodman was single-handedly responsible for the destruction of the Company. He was responsible for her father being executed by the American government. Responsible for her being executed as well. At least— a her that never will be.

All of this, of course, serves to presage the context of her hearing, "Fantastic, they let the nut-case back in the building. I thought they fired her, it's not like her daddy even does anything around here anymore," as soon as she walks in the cafeteria door.

Welcome home, Elle.

New York City. Home sweet home, as it were. And it wouldn't be home, of course, without the windowless monotony and prison-like appearances of Company buildings. The cold flourescence, the cold tile floors, the cold concrete walls. /Everything/ is cold here. Yet it still contains that little bit of home that Elle knows so well. It's almost comforting — almost, but not quite.

With those fabulous heels clicking on the tile floor, Elle makes her grand re-enterance into the cafeteria. She's stylishly dressed, as always, today wearing one of her standard business suits, this one grey pinstripe. Also worn on her face is that ever-so-faint smile that doesn't quite make its way to her eyes.

That smile soon disappears, and the petite woman scans the room for the source of the voice that decided to speak up loud enough for her to actually hear. She veers in the general direction of that voice, her stride slowing slightly to an almost dangerous-looking stalk as she moves up to the table of three. That charming smile reappears as she quietly leans against the table, clicking her heels against the ground.

"Oh, so you boys think I'm a nut-case, do you?" She leans a little closer, that little smile growing. "I don't think I've even met any of you…but one of you boys seems to think you know me well enough to talk shit about me. Please, which one of you said that?"

Of the thre agents gathered at the table Elle has advanced on, the eldest of the three slouches down in his chair and lifts a hand to cover his brows. He didn't say it, but like the other two agents at this tablee he was thinking it. Brown eyes alight towards Elle, and the thirty-something agent offers her a mild smile, though avoids making eye-contact in the way people might around a domesticated tiger; better safe than sorry.

Clearing his throat, the agent guilty of the comment lifts his brows up and offers a nervous smile to Elle. "Just joking around, Bishop, you— know." The hesitation in his voice and tightness in his throat is for the same reason that he knows enough to call her a nut-case: Elle has a reputation, and not usually a good one.

"Look, he was— we were just joking around," comments the third of the trio, a young blonde man that — judging from the awkwardness of his demeanor and stiff posture — may be a recently graduated agent-in-training, though his midwestern accent most certainly sets him apart from the New York bunch. "Agent Kenneth didn't mean anything by it, I promise. We— it's just been a long, stressful day and we were blowing off steam."

As the young agent tries to mend sore wounds, the eldest agent at the table rests his elbow down on the tabletop and sets his head in his palm, presuming that the rookie may well not realize how deep of a hole he's digging himself, if Elle's reputation actually is as ferocious as others say it is.

Time changes people, pain changes people, but whether or not extra helpings of both for Elle has actually changed her is something most people in Fort Hero are curious to know.

For such a tiny little thing, Elle certainly knows how to put on a /frightening/ appearance. She leans even closer to the trio, her bright blue eyes dancing from face to face as the second and third agents stumble through words; the first and eldest is fairly ignored, his approach appeasing the girl. She's leaning further and further across the table, closer to the guilty agent, and that dangerous smile is still dancing over her face.

"Joking around?" She offers a small giggle, one that she fairly decently manages to show her growing irritation with the fresh agents with. "So let me get this straight. You were joking around, to my face, at my expense, saying some pretty cruelly insulting things about not only me, but my Daddy?" She smiles sweetly for a long moment.

Then, her hand slams on the table once, more a motion intended to scare the bejeezus out of the two in this tense moment. With that sweet little smile on her face, she lifts a hand, those little blue sparks arcing across her fingertips, holding it out for the two to see. Then, with a jerk of her finger, a single spark arcs out toward the guilty agent's shoulder. Nothing that will seriously harm the boy; in fact, not nearly as serious as he might expect. However, it is still an unpleasant reminder that he chose to mess with the wrong girl.

Closing her fist so the spark fizzles out, Elle narrows her eyes at the younger of the two. "Now I want you boys to take a walk. A very long walk. And I want you to think long and hard about this little meeting we're having here. And I want you to remember that I didn't go with my first instinct to make you cry like a little baby while I zapped you." She steps back from the table again, that smile disappearing to reveal a genuine scowl. "And you remember today next time you want to try and make fun of someone you've never even met."

And with that, the girl is turning away, making her way toward the food. She really /did/ want to zap him…but she really doesn't want her first time seeing Daddy in three months to start with her standing over a terrified agent who let his mouth run too much. He might get upset. Knowledge of the past aside, there's still that little glimmer of hope that he'll one day bless her with his favor. That much is deeply ingrained.

An awkward silence has fallen not only over the table the three agents sit at, but over the entire cafeteria. Agents in line for their lunch stand in awkward silence, some looking to the sound of the disturbance, towards the sound of electricity, but most know better. The electricity isn't entirely Elle's doing either, it hangs in the air in the form of emotional tension as metal chair feet scuff noisily across tiled flooring and two of the three agents at Elle's back rise from the table. Not to give chace to her, but to do exactly as she suggested: take a walk.

Though Elle is aware that the eyes which aren't angled on her aren't simply naval-gazing or awkwardly averted, they're focused past the blonde, towards the door those shamed agents are making their way towards. It isn't their exit the cafeteria patrons are intent on examining, but the entrance of someone else.

"Elle," may as well be nails on a chalkboard for all that the familiar voice grates. "I've got some leftover Thai in my office, why don't we split it?" Stepping aside as he talks, one hand adjusting his wire-framed glasses, Robert Bishop's presence is the source of that electric tension in the air. While he may not be the living lightning-bolt his daughter is, he can charge a room with the very tone of his voice sometimes.

The agents whom Elle had gently (for her) chastised are ashamedly making their way out of the cafeteria, heads bowed and eyes averted from Bob as he stands there, attention expectantly settled on his little girl.

Click, click, click…silence. That voice always did have the power to stop her in her tracks. The petite blonde pauses, staring up at a wall with a peculiar expression on her face, one of mixed emotion. Joy, because Daddy is here. Fear, because it's Daddy. Hate, because of the knowledge of his hand in the theft of her entire life. For a moment, Elle composes her face, casting off the shown emotions until there's nothing left but that bright smile that still doesn't touch her eyes.

Then, she twirls around, heading right back toward the source of that electric tension. "Daddy!" Her heels click as she makes her way back, that smile briefly touching her eyes as she notices the agents making their departure with their tails tucked between their legs. At least there's that to brighten her day. As she closes the distance between herself and her father, her eyes trail after the two.

She reaches the man's side, her hands tucking into her pocket as that smile ceases to show in her eyes. Back to faking it for public appearances; once she's behind closed doors, the smiles will be gone. "That sounds delicious. I haven't had Thai in a while. Certainly better than the alternative," She gestures toward the lunch line.

It's with a mild smile that comprises both relief and some sort of affection that Bob regards his daughter. They both wear masks, and for the longest time neither of them needed to admit to it. Ever since Elle's confrontation about the truth of her childhood, however, the masks have been for each other's sake. Bob's the mask of a father who isn't wracked with guilt over being both an incompetant father and damaging to a girl who just wanted to please the most important person in her life. Elle's the mask of daddy's little girl, despite the pain she knows he caused her.

It's hard to say whether they wear those masks to save themselves pain, or to save each other pain. The latter would at least be more noble.

Stepping out into the hall, Bob holds one of the double doors open for Elle, then lets it slowly swing shut on a hissing hydraulic hinge. "I'm sorry I was still busy when you and agent Buckley returned from Chicago, Rene tells me that you didn't have any complications…" and that much is all the business Bob seems to have a taste for discussing.

Nodding for Elle to follow him, Bob turns down the corridor to head in the direction of his office, hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks. "You can fill me in on what's been happening later, though, I…" As he trails off, Bob's brows crease behind the frames of his glasses, then pauses in stride to in order to look back at Elle and give her that time to catch up to the few steps he'd taken. "I'm giving you next weekend off…"

That awkward little exchange of masks is uncomfortable to Elle, as it likely is for Bob. It's not as if his masks actually fool her any more these days, not as if her masks actually fool him. They both know the emotions that hide themselves so efficiently behind those masks. Sometimes, Elle's emotions scream to be let out. How could she still interact with this man after all he's done? But he's still her Daddy. He's still the little blonde girl's most important person.

As she steps out into the hallway and out of the view of her coworkers, the mask falls, if only a little. The smile becomes more subtle, neutral almost, as her heels click against the cold tile. "It's okay, Dad. You're a busy man." She glances toward him for a moment, her head tilted toward the side. Nervous hands adjust her jacket, smoothing it down.

Next weekend off? Her first instinct is to nearly raise a protest, and this nearly shows on her face. However, she pushes that one off to the side, instead making that fake smile a little bigger as she pauses next to him. Perhaps she could use a bit of time off; it's been a while since she was really able to relax and take some time to herself. Even if that time to herself is mostly spent sucking down Slurpos. "Weekend off? What's the occasion?"

Bob is silent for a moment, pointedly watching an agent as he passes by them in the halls while they walk before his attention turns to Elle again. "I thought we might be able to go upstate for a couple of days, just the two of us." It's as awkward a proposition as it seems, and Bob realize it in the way his lips creep downwards into a from. At least, thats' what it seems.

"We have a little place up there— Clayton. It's a little touristy these days but…" there's a faint hint of a smile that ghosts across Bob's lips as his eyes go distant and head dips down into a nod. "Your mother and I brought you up there when you were very little, we— we used to take you down to the beach, and you'd fuss about not wanting to go in the water." It's weary, the smile Bob wears, weary.

"The thirty-first is your mother's birthday…" is said about as quiet as Bob can manage, and still intend his words to be for Elle to hear. "I know you— I know you don't remember her but I… I thought maybe we could spend some time together, and— and maybe you and I could make up for lost time."

This isn't like him, open sentimentality.

Elle's heels clicking against the tile stop, suddenly, as her father suddenly comes out of nowhere with that little tidbit of sentimental suggestion. The mask isn't there any longer, forgotten in the shock and surprise of what may be one of the most touching displays of emotion that her father has ever displayed in the entire twenty-six years that the Electrokinetic has been alive.

That speaks volumes of her family life, doesn't it?

The girl resumes walking after but a moment, catching up to her father with hands tucked in her pockets. She struggles to put that mask back on, but it proves far more difficult than normal. She certainly didn't see that one coming.

The first instinct tells her that something is wrong with him. Maybe he's dying or something. Or maybe some clairevoyant told him that something bad is going to happen. He never shows emotion like this. The second instinct is a bit kinder in Daddy's favor. Maybe he really does miss mom. Maybe he's trying to turn over a new leaf. Maybe he's trying to make up for…for that one little bit of her history that she still has trouble wrapping her mind around to this day.

After what seems an eternity of silence, Elle finally speaks in a quiet voice. "Sure, Dad…" Another pregnant pause, then Elle turns some semblance of a troubled smile to her father. "I think that might be really nice."

Bob's smile in return is the same vacantly thankful one that an elderly parent gives when their children promise to visit the nursing home more often. Hollow is one word, but Bob wouldn't use it; too cold. "I think she'd like that," is a carefully tailored answer as they come to a junction in the halls, turning again towards the supervisors offices, passing Sabra Dalton's closed door along the way.

"I know this… probably isn't the way you'd like to spend some break time, all things considered. But I've had some perspective recently that helped me want to try and sort of some of the jumbled corners of my life, dust off the things that are most important that I've… forgotten?" There's an askance look shot to Elle at that, then back to the hall as he walks beside her. "I haven't been a very good father to you, Elle. In fact, I'd go as far as to say I've never really been a father to you, and I just… there's only ever so much time to regret things, before you don't have the time left to make a change."

By now they've reached Bob's office, but he hesitates at the door. Turning as he halts, Bob looks over at Elle with a nervous hint of an honest smile, though one still tinged by the guilt of what he'd done to her, and how he'd never really understood how to be a father to her.

"If I asked you a very difficult question, Elle… and if I asked you to be completely honest with me, could you?" Not would you, but could you. Bob is under no allusions about the levels of trust between he and his little girl. Moments like this, they strain that trust, bring it out into the open in the dirty light, and reveal all of its flaws and imperfections.

Elle listens quietly, her mask completely dissolved by this sudden onslaught of mixed emotions. Confusion as to what has him suddenly trying to mend his ways. Anger as she thinks of those things that she can't bring herself to face, yet can't ever ignore either. But the most prevalent of all is that sense of joy. Daddy's finally noticing her. Daddy's finally giving her the attention she's craved all her life.

It takes her a while to process all of this, and a majority of the walk to her father's office is spent in complete silence, her bright blue gaze lingering on the most important person in her life. For the first time in perhaps a very long time, Elle is offering her father a genuine smile, though it is small and uncertain. This is still quite a shock to her, an unexpected turn of events that she most certainly did not see coming. And certainly, just because he's doing this today doesn't mean that things will change in the long run. It's a long road that Bob faces to make amends with his daughter.

His question prompts a raise of eyebrows as Elle stops, leaning against the wall beside the door as she peers up at her father. "I…" She seems to contemplate the answer for a long moment, her eyes trailing down to the ground, before flitting back up to her father's face. "I could be honest, yes."

Bob's nod is silent understanding of Elle's agreement, and as his hand twists the doorknob to his office, his eyes do not waver from hers from behind the frames of his glasses. "Then I need you to tell me, Elle…" Bob's voice has a hushed urgency to it, the kind of whispered tone of voice that implies it's not a conversation for out here in the hall, not a conversation for others to hear.

"What did you see in the flash?"

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