LJ Username: faythbrady
Current Word Count: 8353 so far
Title: Saving Time
Type: Gen, het,
Rating: YA/ 15 for attempted suicide
Characters/Pairings: Gabriel Gray, Noah Bennet, Elle Bishop, Claire Bennet. Possible future pairings Claire/Gabriel
Warnings Infrequent Strong language. Attempted Suicide.
Summary: After Killing Brian Davis, Gabriel Gray's conscience kicked in and he tried to do the right thing by killing himself only to end up the victim of Elle's twisted games. But what if Elle hadn't been the one to discover him hanging from the noose? What if Noah Bennet had been the one to step in? Would that have saved the watchmaker or was he just saving time?
Noah Bennett was slowly roasting to death in this sorry excuse for a tin can. He could feel sweat start to trickle down his back under his immaculate suit, sticking his shirt to his back. Primatech had the best technology, the most up-to-date surveillance and they still couldn't do anything about the damned air-conditioning.
He was uncomfortable, irritated, and ready to give in and go home. Home to loving family, adoring wife, and a real home-cooked meal.
The back of the Primatech surveillance van was littered with take-out cartons and he could feel his arteries clogging at even the thought of that much junk food. Man should not live on Chinese alone. Or Pizza. Maybe if they were still here tomorrow he could try Thai?
Of course, if they were still here tomorrow he'd rather eat his own gun. This last assignment was not only a complete waste of time and resources, it was also a punishment.
“God, it's so hot!”
As was his current partner.
Noah gritted his teeth against the incessant whine of his companion and tried not to imagine wrapping his hands around her pretty little throat. For one thing, her father might not look too kindly to the death of his little sociopath and, for another, he didn't want to see what depths Bob Bishop could sink to. This current predicament was bad enough.
And for what? A Special with the power of invisibility vanishes and manages to stay off the radar and that's somehow his fault? He was busy taking time off to escort Lyle to a baseball game so that he could maintain his cover and keep his damn family.
But no, Bishop had to blame someone for the mix-up and Noah was an easy target. It didn't matter though, he was still their number one agent and they damn well knew it. This was probably why he was given babysitting duty and wasn't dumped in an alley somewhere. It showed you something when the only flexible retirement in your job came with a body bag.
He reached up and patted the back of his hair with a tissue, feeling the damp collar of his shirt in disgust. He hated New York in summer; it was muggy and humid and disgustingly hot - so says the man from Texas.
But this was where the latest 'threat' to the Company was and here he had to be.
Three weeks ago
“And what am I supposed to be looking at?” Noah raised one eyebrow. He glanced back down at the photograph. The object of the picture had been caught as he was getting into the driver seat of a cab on a busy street in down town New York.
Noah's brain catalogued the pertinent details almost without him even being aware of it. Tall, male, mid 60's, Indian descent with a beard and balding along with a little paunch that hinted of his advancing years. His eyes were clear though, and even in the poor photograph they seemed intelligent. He glanced back up at Bishop and Thompson who were both smirking at him.
“That is one Doctor Chandra Suresh,” said Bishop in his nasally whine, “a leader in the field of genetics and evolutionary theory.”
“One of them or one of us?”
The two men glanced at each other and Noah's unease ratcheted up a notch.
“Suresh has had...dealings with the Company on several levels, but that's all history,” Bishop continued, “it's his current occupation that worries us.”
“Cab driver?” Noah cocked his head, “Isn't that Immigration's problem?”
Thompson allowed himself a small grin but Bishop refused to crack a smile. His frown deepened, all but knocking his tiny round glasses off his face.
“This is no laughing matter, Bennet. Suresh constitutes a real threat to this Company.”
“He's written a book Activating Evolution, that makes for interesting reading,” Thompson said with a smile, “Especially the part where he said he can use genetic markers to identify people with abilities.”
Any humour fled from the room as Noah stiffened. “He said that?”
“In print.” Thompson laced his fingers together. “Normally those types of claims can be dismissed as the ramblings of an old man and we had a team in place to debunk his work, decimate his reputation, and eradicate any mention of abilities.”
Noah was well aware of the reach of the Company and the lengths that they went through to protect their secrecy. After all, Noah knew what would happen if normal, average, everyday people found out about those with abilities - and it wouldn't be pretty. He wholeheartedly agreed with the creed of “What they don't know won't make more paperwork.”
He held up the picture. “So why is he still breathing?”
Again, Thompson and Bishop exchanged glances. Noah fought the urge to roll his eyes. Honestly, sometimes this cloak and dagger stuff was so very irritating.
“Because he's actually found it.”
Noah froze. “What?”
“The good doctor has put his money where his mouth is and isolated the strand of DNA or genetic marker or tiny fairy or whatever it is in their blood that makes them what they are,” Thompson sighed, “The son of a bitch knows how to find them.”
The Company spent most of its time looking for individuals with abilities, chasing down every lead in every supermarket tabloid and trash sheets for hints that no, it wasn't aliens who ate your hamster or moved your barn two streets away, but someone with superhuman powers.
If this Suresh had discovered a way to find them that didn't involve visiting every hick town in the country then Bennet was all for it.
“Is this a bad thing?” He asked slowly, “If he's worked for the Company before-”
“He left under a cloud of self-righteous piety and refuses to work with us.” Thompson's tone indicated what he thought of that.
Noah held up the photograph. “And so again, why is he still breathing?” The answer occurred to him even he finished the question. “He's hidden his research, hasn't he?”
Bishop stiffened, “The good Doctor has managed thus far to elude us. We have, of course, had one of our operatives infiltrate and ingratiate herself with him. She has a level of trust, but so far we've decided to let the doctor continue with what he's doing. He'll contact these people and we can take it from there.”
“Won't he get suspicious when those he's contacted start disappearing?”
Bishop nodded, “Which is why we're going to start with surveillance on those he does approach. If he's using genetic markers it's possible that these people don't even know they have a power yet. We need to see how he approaches this and observe his tests. We've already bugged his apartment.”
Thompson reached over the table and plucked a manila folder. “We'll bag and tag those deemed dangerous outright. But for now it's simply surveillance.”
“So what do you want me to do?” Noah waved the photograph, “Shadow Suresh?”
Bishop finally found his sense of humour and gave Noah a big grin. “No, we have a special assignment for you, Noah.”
Thompson bit his lower lip, flicking a glance towards Bishop before handing the folder over. “Suresh has contacted a man called Gray. No manifestation yet.”
The implications were immediately apparent.
Rage stiffened Noah's spine, “I'm one of your best operatives and you want me to babysit some nobody who might not even have an ability?”
Bishop sat back, “You were so eager to have time off, Bennett, we figured you'd want to ease back into things.”
He could have said so much to that smug little son of a bitch, but orders were orders and he took his punishment like a man.
Gabriel Gray had to be one of the most boring people on Earth. He was an unassuming watchmaker and purveyor of antiquated timepieces who had a vicious harridan for a mother.
A bespectacled, sweater vest-wearing nerd with a penchant for cleaning and playing classical music at low levels, Gabriel Gray wasn’t even a blip on the radar. In the brief time that they had been tailing him he had gone out exactly once and that was to get take-out for one. He had no friends, no social life and the only contact with other humans appeared to be with customers and his mother.
After Suresh had visited his shop, Gray made several outings to Suresh's place which always culminated in a disappointed air and general sense of frustration about the man.
Elle had said that the only danger was Gray boring them to death and Noah privately agreed.
Until last week, that is.
Five days ago, one Brian Davis went into the shop in good health and came out in a body bag.
Minus one very important component.
A sobbing, shaking Gabriel Gray had telekinetically lifted the body into Brian's own car, drove it to a deserted part of Queens, and dumped it.
After a quick phone call Noah ascertained that telekinesis had been Brian Davis' newly manifested power and that he had been tagged as a non-threat due to his lack of inclination to use his ability.
He was now a non-threat due to his lack of brain.
Noah and Elle had opened the bags to find the top of Brian's head had been severed and his grey matter missing (no pun intended) and suddenly their assignment wasn't quite so dull.
That is, until they realized that Gabriel Gray had taken his shiny new ability and used it...to become even more boring than before.
They had watched the place for four days and Gabriel Gray did nothing more interesting than take out the garbage. He avoided all contact and had even stopped answering the phone - if that incessant ringing was anything to go by. The shop sign said 'Open' but, as far as they could tell, Gabriel Gray hadn't seen or spoke to another soul in four days. Including his mother.
Due to Gabriel Gray's not leaving his damned shop they hadn't been able to get inside to bug the place; they couldn't see or hear inside and Noah Bennett was turning a little crazier with every passing second.
Noah was desperate enough to start a conversation with Elle just to relieve the monotony- and that was far more dangerous than anything Gabriel had planned.
Unless he could get things moving along.
“Okay, Elle,” he said, breaking his three hour silence and making his partner jump and release a startled squeal. He took a sadistic satisfaction in the sparks that emitted as she did - Elle was not as in control of her powers as she claimed.
“This is taking too damn long. We're going to have the flush him out. You need to go in there and-”
“Me?” Elle looked at Noah as if he'd grown a second head.
Noah took a deep breath. “Yes, you. Most men reveal their secrets when a pretty,” if psychotic, “blonde comes on to them.”
“Most men don't wear sweater vests and cry in public,” she replied sweetly. “Why don't you do it?”
Because I don't want to rely on you as back-up, he thought.
Elle had had very few real assignments. One of her first had been to keep an eye on Claire without Noah being any the wiser. She'd failed, obviously, and had only resulted in being bitten by Mr. Muggles, zapped by the sprinkler, and mind-erased by the Haitian. Not her best day ever.
Elle Bishop had serious impulse control, and the last thing Noah wanted was her rushing in when he needed someone cool-headed to rescue him.
“Why can't we just haul the dumb guy in and bzzzzt?” She mimed zapping his brain with her static electricity.
“For a start, Elle, Gabriel Gray is not dumb - his grades and test marks are way above average. According to his file, he was accepted to every Ivy League school with a stamp. He was also smart enough to dump Brian Davis's body in an area of Queens known for gang-related drug killings. That shows that even under pressure he's using his intelligence. Your father has already underestimated Mr. Gray, I don't think we should do the same.”
Elle grinned maniacally at him. “All nerds get suspicious when a hot chick hits on them. There's a reason high school is hell. Do you honestly think your 'genius' is gonna fall for it?”
“And I'm sure you'd know all about high school.”
It was a low blow, but Noah was tired and it had been a long day. Elle's face fell, the smile vanishing as if it had never been there.
“Asshole,” she spat and folded her arms across her chest.
Elle had never been allowed to attend regular public school, possibly more for the safety of other students than her own. She had asked to go and been laughed out of the room on more than one occasion.
It was a sore point. A very sore point.
There was a part of Noah that knew he should feel bad for that, a part of him that said picking on little girls was wrong - no matter how insane they were. But age, experience, and conditioning had all but bred the soul out of him. It was getting harder and harder for him to feel anything. He'd been comfortable with morally grey for so long now that the lines of right and wrong were forever blurred.
He wasn't even sure he had a conscience any more.
“Anyway,” Elle hissed, “it'd be better for you to go in since you're the kind of loser who'd get his watch fixed rather than buy a new one. You never know, you and old Gabe might have tons in common. You could both reminisce about the good old days when people had a trade, and things got fixed instead of trashed, and recycling, and gosh kids today just don't know they're born. Save the planet, save the whales... blah blah blah.” She smiled nastily and settled back against her chair, putting her feet up on the dashboard.
He wanted to reach over and slap her legs, telling her to get her feet off the furniture as if she were Claire or Lyle. But he had a feeling that was only because he was avoiding the fact that she was right.
If Gabriel Gray was as clever as they imagined, then sending in Elle would raise all kinds of flags.
But a guy who just needed his watch fixed...
Noah sighed. He really should send Elle in on principle.
As if conjured by his thoughts his phone rang and Noah dug into his pocket, ignoring the suddenly interested Elle.
It was Claire and his lips curved up in an involuntary smile.
“Hey, Daddy,” came the perky reply.
Noah smiled further. “It's only 'Daddy' when you want something.”
He heard his little girl's golden laugh tinkle down the phone. “You are so suspicious!”
“So that means you don't want anything and you just called to talk to your father to see how he was on his trip? How kind of you,” he teased.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Elle roll her eyes and make gagging noises. He reached out a hand and slapped her legs off the dashboard. She tipped and fell onto the floor of the van.
“Of course I care how your trip's going,” Claire said somewhat insincerely, “Uh...are you buying a lot of paper?”
Noah laughed outright, ignoring the death glares that Elle was shooting him. “Come on, Claire, what do you need?”
“Okay you got me, but I really do care! Are you coming home this weekend? Because I have this massive science project thing due on Monday. It was supposed to be me and Jackie, but she's bailed and it counts as part of my grade and I have to make a volcano out of something, or maybe a solar system or something. I want to do well because my last one totally sucked, but I'm really stuck and can you pleeeease help me? I can't do it by myself!”
He couldn't help but compare the troubles of his own teenager with that of the psychotic blonde by his side. Claire's biggest worries were boys and homework whereas Elle's were failing her father and being sent for testing at Level 5.
“Of course I can help you, Claire. I'll be home Friday night and we can spend all Saturday on it, okay?”
He heard her sigh of relief. “Thanks, Dad. You're the best!”
“Okay, honey. I've got to go. I'm proud of you for your work ethic.”
“Thanks Dad. Bye!”
He slid the phone shut and stuffed it back in his pocket. “So, are you going in?”
“No.” Elle swallowed hard, staring out of the window, “It's a little unprofessional to accept home calls on Company time, don't you think?”
“It was a family thing.”
“Oh yeah, poor Pom-Pom is having trouble with her homework. Let's drop everything.”
Elle was usually obnoxious and annoying, but there was something else there. Claire was a normal high school teenager with friends, popularity, and a father who adored her. Elle was a sociopathic bitch who had never been allowed to attend school, had no friends, and had been experimented on by her less than doting father.
No wonder she hated his little girl.
A slight twinge of something that may have been a conscience but was probably just a bad taco made Noah sigh, slip off his watch and drop it into his pocket.
He opened the van door and slid out, the heat blasting him as soon as he stepped outside.
Elle smirked. “Don't let Gabey bore you to death. If you need help, just call.”
Noah returned her smirk coolly. “If I need help, Elle, you'd be the last person I'd call.”
Her smile slipped as he slammed the door shut and walked across the street towards Gray and Son's watch shop.
The bell over the door jangled loudly as Noah pushed it open. As he stepped over the threshold, the echoes seemed to be swallowed up by the oppressive silence within. Well, not actual silence. There couldn't possibly be silence when every single inch of space was covered with ticking clocks. But somehow, even with the incessant tick tock, there seemed to be an absence of sound.
Noah shut the door behind him and turned in a slow circle, surveying the space. Part of his mind noted exits and entrances, places he could hide and where bugs and cameras could go to give maximum coverage. The other part of his mind logged the pristine surfaces that gleamed and glistened in the filtered light coming in through the blind-covered windows.
The shop was definitely a blast from the past with cuckoo clocks adorning the walls, grandfather clocks standing sentry and glass display cases showing off specialized watches, fancy timepieces, carriage clocks, pendulum clocks, and tiny watches that probably cost more than Noah earned a year.
With the door shut and the windows covered, the traffic noises from outside had faded to a gentle hum and it was like he'd stepped back in time; which was kind of ironic for a watch shop, now that he thought about it.
The ticking started to set his teeth on edge and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end; a decade of espionage and wading into danger bringing his senses to the fore.
Something was wrong.
He closed his eyes and concentrated.
And there it was.
At the edge of his senses he could hear a muffled scuffing sound, like shoes being dragged on a floor or someone struggling against something. His hand was tucked into his pocket, wrapped around his gun before he'd even registered that he'd moved.
“Mr. Gray?” he called, stepping towards the large old-fashioned till and the doorway behind it. He heard the sound again, this time with a faint choking - he pushed aside all hesitation and raced out of the shop and into the work room.
He came up short against the tableau in front of him.
Gabriel Gray had dragged a chair into the centre of the room, draped a noose around the very cheap ceiling fan and tried to hang himself.
The chair had been kicked over and Gabriel was hanging from the ceiling, his eyes wide and bulging and his fingers scrabbling at the rope twisted around his throat.
His body shuddered and spasmed as the noose cut into his windpipe and slowly suffocated him. Noah's first response was to just watch and let Gabriel Gray meet the end he so obviously desired. It was one less problem for Noah to deal with if Gabriel died. He could quit early and go home to Sandra, Lyle, and Claire...who would never know that her father had just watched a man die.
And done nothing.
He sighed and pulled the gun up. Noah was an excellent shot, but even he couldn't shoot a swinging rope and cut it down in one shot. So he shot the cheap plastic light fitting.
Not used to dealing with the weight of a struggling, swinging man, the fan had yanked out of its fitting and Noah's well placed bullet made the whole thing - fan, fitting and man - come crashing to the ground in a shower of dust, glass and watchmaker.
Gabriel Gray collapsed to the floor, gasping and choking as the noose loosened and oxygen rushed back into his lungs. He curled into a ball and coughed, a great hacking and gagging sound that came from the lungs. Ragged breaths and sobs were torn from Gabriel's throat as Noah knelt down and undid the knot.
Gabriel massaged his neck, tears sliding down his cheeks. He turned his face up to Noah and tried to speak, but the rope had done its work too well in constricting the vocal passage. He could hardly make a sound and Noah rolled his eyes.
“Hang on a second. I'll get you some water.”
He headed over to the small fridge humming away on one side of the room and grabbed a bottle of water from within, then knelt by Gabriel and watched him as he sipped the water slowly. Now that he was up close he could see what surveillance hadn't been able to spot.
Gabriel Gray was much taller than he appeared. Even lying down he had to top six feet. Maybe it was the perpetual hunch that told of years of bullying and of trying to remain a smaller target that made him look shorter He was also not as scrawny as he appeared in photographs. His hands were long and thin with callouses - the hands of a hard worker. His eyes were dark and piercing, framed by thick brows, although it's possible that they weren't usually bloodshot and full of tears. His features were defined and sharp, making him look dangerous even despite the sweater vest and mottled colour of his skin.
The watchmaker swiped at his face and reached up to pick his glasses up off the table, hiding those eyes behind the thick frames.
“Why did you do that?” he croaked. “Who are you?”
Good question. Noah stared down into those eyes and surprised himself by telling the truth.
“I'm a man who's been where you are now, Mr. Gray. I can tell you that this doesn't help. No matter what happened to you, no matter what you've seen or done, this is not the answer.”
A savage yet pained look crossed Gabriel's face.
“You don't know what I've done,” he rasped, “I'm a monster.” Big fat tears dripped down his face.
“Monsters don't cry,” Noah said carefully. “I don't think you're a monster. I think you're scared and alone. You think you have nowhere left to turn and nobody left to turn to. But I can tell you this: You are only a monster if you let yourself become one.”
Gabriel was openly sceptical. “And you'd know?”
“More than you think.”
And it was true. If anyone knew what it was like to feel that way; like they had no one left to turn to and nowhere left to go, it had been Noah Bennett when his wife was murdered by a man with powers. No one would have believed him and no one cared - not until he killed that bastard and brought himself to the Company's attention.
As for the monster part of it? Well. Morally grey, unconscionable acts were his speciality. Didn't that make him some kind of monster too?
Of course, he had never removed anyone's brain. Memories, yes. But whole brain? Not so much.
The thought made him peer down at Gabriel in curiosity. “Do you want to be a monster?”
“No!” Gabriel cried and then looked away as if ashamed. “But there is a hunger, a compulsion that drives me. I have to do it....” he trailed off and Noah sniffed at the man's weakness.
“There is more than one way to satisfy a hunger. The only question is, are you willing to try?”
Gabriel finally stopped snivelling at Noah's tone and looked up. What he saw there seemed to give him hope.
“Yes. But... I need help,” he grasped Noah's hand frantically, desperately, “can you please help me? I can't do it by myself.”
Those words - those exact words - that Claire had said to him not ten minutes ago echoed around the room.
Help me. I can't do it by myself.
When Claire had asked for his help there was no question that he would drop everything and do whatever he could for her. She was his daughter and he loved her.
He didn't love Gabriel Gray, didn't care one way or the other if he died, but there was that tiny little spark inside of him that heard Gabriel's words and transposed Claire over that deep timbre.
Same words, different person.
It was his daughter begging for help, and he couldn't refuse her.
He gave a half smile. Turned out he did have a conscience after all, and her name was Claire.
He reached down and clasped Gabriel's shoulder.
“Hi, I'm Noah Bennett and I'm here to help.”
Elle was pacing back and forth in front of the van when Noah came out of the shop. “I heard a gunshot, Bennett, did you kill him?”
Her eyes were wide and eager and there was a slightly manic edge to her voice that, in usual circumstances, would have unnerved Noah. As it was, he could hear the enthusiasm and need to know what was going on in her voice.
Like a child begging for treats.
“No,” Noah smiled, “I offered him life.”
She rolled her eyes. “Cryptic much? What, did you offer nerdlet a bone? He into older guys?”
Noah opened the van and climbed inside, waiting for Elle to get in and close the door before answering her. “Mr. Gray was in the process of hanging himself, Elle. Three seconds later and our assignment would have been null and void.”
“Hanging?” Elle pulled a face. “Gross.” She considered. “Although then daddy might have put us onto something more interesting. Like watching paint dry. Anyway, why did nerdlet want to off himself?”
“I assume guilt.”
Elle was delightfully, wonderfully blank. “For what?”
“Killing Brian Davis, I imagine.”
The incomprehension and incredulity on her face made him feel a little better. He may have had issues with his conscience, but at least he knew it was still there banging away, even if he never listened to it. He hadn't gone so far as to be like Elle, completely without a moral compass, yet.
Thank heaven for small mercies.
The day he empathized with Elle was the day he would hand in his gun.
Said sociopath drummed her fingers on the dashboard, staring across the road as if she could see into the shop.
“So, what are we going to do with tall, dark and dorky?”
Noah felt himself smile slightly. “We're going to save the watchmaker.”
Elle laughed. “Save him? You do remember who we work for, right? If it's not apocalyptic then we're not interested. You can't tell me it's 'save the watchmaker, save the world!' Besides, it sounds like hard work.”
Noah started up the van. “Too bad, Elle, because Gabriel Gray needs help and we're going to give it to him.”
“Do I get to play with him?”
She rolled her eyes, sagging in her seat. “Never woulda figured you for a bleeding heart, Bennett.”
“I have many layers.”
She stared at him out of the corners of her eye, wondering if he was playing her. But, as they drove away from the watchmaker’s shop, she gave in. “Anyway, I'm glad you went in and not me. I don't think I could have dealt with the nerd guilt. Woe is me and all that crap. I mean, seriously, people need to lighten up.”
No, Noah was glad that she hadn't been the one to go in there as well. Knowing Elle, she probably would have waited for Gabriel to die and then zapped his corpse to see what would happen. Either that, or she would have toyed with the poor boy and he was in enough pain as it was. No, this one needed to be handled delicately.
Elle propped her feet on the dashboard and started to play with tiny pinpricks of electricity. She smiled as the blue sparks danced over her slender fingers.
She was happily engaged in her own power when something occurred to her.
“What are we gonna tell the boss?” Elle said suddenly.
Noah had been wondering when she'd bring that up. “I'll tell him once I've finalized my plan.”
Elle giggled, “Noah Bennett: the man with the plan.”
He ignored her, “I'm hoping by this time tomorrow I will have a workable solution. After all, I have a feeling that your father won't mind. If Gabriel Gray is what I think he is then, properly motivated, he might be a valuable addition to the team.”
Her eyes widened. “You're gonna have him join the Company?”
It was an idea that had been brewing ever since he saw Gabriel dangling there and it had now taken root. Noah nodded slowly. “Maybe. He's smart, dedicated and obviously easily manipulated. Give him six weeks and he could be in the field. One of us.”
“I thought you were the humane one,” Elle snorted, “Shoulda just let him hang.”