2007-09-16: In Which Benjamin Inadvertently Dooms The Company Forever

Starring:

Benjamin_icon.gif Meryl_icon.gif

Summary: Benjamin stumbles across Meryl's crayon-scribbled past, and discovers something he never thought possible - The Tigers have, indeed, won the World Series! Wait, that wasn't it…

Date It Happened: 16 SEPTEMBER 2007

In Which Benjamin Inadvertently Dooms The Company Forever


Hartsdale Facility

Having made his report to Noah, and in a pretty frustrated and odd mood, Benjamin is letting himself into Meryl's office. Enough's enough. The prank war between the pair has been pretty entertaining, if a little frustrating at times. But it's getting old. It's time to end it. His ass is on the line, the funny wore off about the time he found the mousetrap in his shoe.. The big finish? Nothing more than what appears to be a small circuit board with a watch battery in it. Inside Meryl's office? He's trying to find the appropriate place to hide it.

—-

There are a lot of places to hide crap in Meryl's office. She has… stuff. Toys, little games, knick-knacks she's picked up during her years in the company. It's… cluttered, but not a mess. Actually, it's neat, despite things being literally everywhere a person could possibly turn. There are distractions everywhere, posters on the wall, a desk full of office supplies like paperclips - only there's something of everything, almost literally. If you want pink paperclips instead of silver, you can find them in one of the stacked-to-the-top drawers. There's nowhere to hide a transmitter in there. She's even got the in-between space put to use for storing important documents, like colouring books.

There are a couple other places that aren't so populated, though. There's a small dresser with a mirror, though it's probably best not to go rifling through there, if Benjamin knows what's good for him. There's a little cage where Basil the guinea pig is sprawled out on the floor. There's also a plain green four-drawer filing cabinet. Three of the drawers are locked, but the bottom one is open, as if it's been utilised recently.

—-

Benjamin does stop short as he looks around the office. It's definitely not what he was expecting out of someone like Meryl. The neatness of the room.. it's.. disturbing in a way. Device in hand, he looks around the office, debating on where to put it. The file cabinet was the first choice, but that last drawer looks frequently used.. the desk area? Probably too obvious. He's not putting the device near the guinea pig, which will probably be greatly disturbed by the noise.. and /that/ makes him reconsider. Tapping the little board against one open palm, he heads for the file cabinet. Sure it looks recently used, but it could be easily concealed up under the drawer and to the back.. which he decides to do. Kneeling down, the bottom drawer is pulled further open.

—-

She has to put her energy toward something, right? If it's cleaning the office whenever she's bored and has no one to bother, then that's Meryl's outlet!

There are no folders in the bottom drawer. Instead, there are hundreds of sheets of paper, stacked in some sort of loose order, written in whatever Meryl happened to have handy at the time. The writing is, like the office, oddly beautiful - a mix between a script of some sort and a nice, bold comic-text. The top letter looks to be written with black crayon:

//I lost count of the months now, though you've probably known that for awhile, because of what happened, because of what you did. I know it's been over twenty years! Sometimes I can't concentrate on what I'm supposed to be doing and I think about that a lot more since my partner died. I could have been more careful, but I just didn't think of it.

I might go see my parents soon, for all the good it'll do. They don't even know I grew up, did you know? They look at me like I'm a stranger, and it hurts.

I know your name, Jeremiah. I just don't know where I can find you. One day I will, though, and I'll make you take everything back.

Sincerely,

Amanda Cline//

All the letters are like that in some way, though the content isn't always the same. They're 'addressed' to the same person, and each of them ends with the revelation that the writer knows the addressee's name.

—-

Benjamin isn't one to be nosey and pry into things. If it had of been ordinary looking files, Ben wouldn't have paid a second glance to the papers.. But.. the top letter in crayon has his curiousity. The circuitboard device is forgotten about and dropped into his shirt pocket. He looks at the top sheet of paper, reading it over, then finds himself reaching to look at the next.

—-

If it's not one thing, it's another. This has been going on for awhile - granted, Meryl got Benjamin good with the mousetrap in the shoe, as well as the heavy dose of Ex-Lax slipped somehow into his lunch at some point in the past. But her computer's been nearly unusable for a couple days, and while Meryl's usually not capable of being grumpy, today, she's making an exception. She was sitting in here, having just put another letter into her cabinet, when she was called out momentarily for a discussion regarding not sticking pancakes to the walls.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Really, she doesn't expect anyone to be in her office, let alone Benjamin Winters. Or, really, she should expect it, because he's apparently been in here before. But he never thought to lock the filing cabinet when she left. Upon stepping through the door, Meryl's fairly shocked for all of a second, before she takes the two or three steps to the cabinet and forcefully slams it shut - whether or not Ben still has his hands in there or not.

—-

Benjamin was just flipping through the papers, getting enough of a peek to see the disturbing content of the letters.. in crayon no less. Then.. busted. "Budgies," he mutters and shoves himself back just in time to save his hands from being slammed into the cabinet. "..I'm sorry, look I can explain," he starts as he pushes to his feet. "I was going to play one more prank on you and that was it. This," he shows the little annoying device that emits beeps every so often. "I was going to put it in your cabinet because I saw the open drawer. Otherwise, I never would have gone looking at your papers. They were right there." The device is pocketed again and the look he gives Meryl.. it's difficult to describe. "What're those letters about?"

—-

Clue number one that there's something wrong: Meryl isn't smiling. Clue number two, she actually looks as if she might try to murder Benjamin. But he's right, she did leave the drawer open, and they have been pranking each other for the past couple weeks— But he still had no right to see those letters. She keeps them locked up because it's a liability just for anyone to see the name signed at the bottom.

"They're…" She tries to come up with something that will put Ben off the whole thing. Written by aliens! A school project that she STOLE! Kindling! Lining for the bottom of Basil's cage! A MAP TO PLUTO. But the lapse after 'they're' lasts too long for her to tell anything but the truth. "Benjamin," she says. Not 'Bingo' this time. "You can't tell anyone you saw those."

—-

Benjamin is prepared to try and knock out Meryl for a fast getaway if it's necessary.. or just make her sleepy so she doesn't hurt herself or him. "Meryl.. I'm not going to tell anyone about what you keep in your file cabinets. It's your business. Your privacy that I unintentionally invaded and I'm sorry. Curiousity about the fact they were there is no excuse."

—-

Nodding, satisfied with the answer for now, she steps around Ben so she can open the cabinet, as if to make sure all the letters are still there. The ones that loosed from the pile when she slammed the door shut are stacked neatly back where they belong. "This guy attacked me and my parents when I was little," she says, pulling out the top letter. Sitting on the floor, she leans against the filing cabinet, which effectively causes it to close again. Rested there, she looks over the crayon writing. "He was like you. I mean, he had… He could do things." Pause. "Well, I mean, everyone can do things, but he could— " She points to her head, then shrugs. "I dunno, you people with abilities. They're all weird. His was just dangerous, though."

—-

The letters are there. Ben only rifled through them, he took out nothing. ".. I'm really sorry. I had no right to look through them. I should have just ignored what was there, put the device in place and left.." About ready to just slide himself from the room he stops as Meryl speaks. His brows knit a little as he frowns at her words. "I get what you're saying, he had a power and it sounds like he abused it. Just about any ability is dangerous in the wrong person." The same as could be said about a gun or knife in the wrong hands.

—-

Meryl's quiet for awhile, until it seems like Ben might leave. Only now does she worry about him thinking that she's crazy, all because he wrote a letter to a guy she seems to be obsessed with. "He… uh. Before you go, I'll explain, just so you don't…" There's an effort of concentration as she looks at the letter. "Just sit down so I don't have to tie you to a chair or something. You go off with only half the story and I'll always have to wonder if you think I'm completely off my rocker. I mean, more than you already do, see, this is actually important, so… So… Do you have a second?"

—-

Benjamin already knows Meryl is crazy and quite possibly not in a good way. Not that there is a good kind of crazy. "You don't have to explain. I'll forget what I saw, it's not a problem. You don't have to worry.. Yeah.. I have a second. Don't feel that you're obligated or owe an explanation. You don't know. I'm the one who went where he shouldn't have gone." But he does stay put in the room, ready to hear Meryl out.

—-

She snorts, rolling her eyes on the word 'forget.' "Probably easier for you to do that, isn't it?" she asks. Okay, now she's just pouting. She kicks her foor out in what would have been a stomp, were she standing. As it is, her boot only collides with air. Reaching behind her, she opens the drawer and sneaks the letter back into it. "I mean, it's not like you have cosmic disruption rays from Mars being beamed at your head or something so you can't remember anything." Pursing her lips, she shrugs. "Or brain plankton swimming around in your neurons, so I really DOUBT you'll actually forget any of this, and you certainly don't have this guy— " She pats the bottom drawer, "Following you around to mess with your head, do you? No, you just go and pretend to forget until suddenly it's time to Make Fun of Meryl at the Company Christmas party, and then you'll remember, because you'll be drunk and probably half naked and covered in… Wine or… Something, and singing Country music to karaoke and I won't be there because I've been throwing cake at the CEO and you'll be like HEY GUYS MERYL'S A NUT CASE and she signs all these letters with this NAME and she writes in CRAYON and then you know what they'll do, Ben? They'll put me on a ROCKET SHIP and sent me to CHIRON BETA PRIME, but you'd probably like that, wouldn't you!?" Watch out, now she's sticking out her lower lip at you. She's going to cry!

—-

"No.. I can't say that I do," Benjamin says in a subdued manner as he settles himself against the desk. "Meryl.. I wouldn't make fun of you at a Company Christmas party." Wait.. they have those? Nevermind, not the time to ponder that thought. "Please.. don't cry. I'm not going to make fun of you. I promise.. and no I wouldn't like it if they sent you off somewhere like.. that planet or star you just named." He's feeling at a loss and wondering if he should call up Dr. Eames with a patient 911, bring a straight jacket and valium.

—-

"He messed up their memories," she says. "Like, made it so they can't remember things they just heard, I guess? Or saw, or… They forget— It's like they reset every few seconds. It's hard to see them, because… Sometimes I get a minute to try to explain, but they have no idea who I am, and after that, they just… This guy took away my parents' ability to remember anything. That's why I'm with the Company. They're like goldfish."

Their memory lasts a little longer than that, if they're lucky, but they just keep losing everything they pick up, and they've been like that for a long time. Meryl hardly remembers what they were like anymore. "They keep them at this Company hospital back home."

—-

Meryl stands up, her mood somewhat shifted back toward the norm as she dusts herself off. "Well, he's tagged," she says, and sighs. "Other than that - as far as I know, he's still free." She looks uncomfortable for a moment, looking at the floor, back toward her desk, at Ben's shoes - nice shoes! Then finally back at his eyes. "He. I mean… It wasn't just my parents. I. It was me, too. But he didn't… They say I'm— He stopped before he could do the same thing to me. I guess it's probably 'cuz someone shot him, but, you know, it wasn't like everything was okay." Meryl smiles, lip curling up just at the corner. "But you already knew I was weird."

—-

"If he's tagged, and he attacked people.. I don't see why he's still out there. With as much as I'm preached to about this Company and their purpose to protect society.. This guy's still on the loose, not to mention the monster, Sylar.." This is a little disconcerting for Benjamin. A hand raises and he rubs at the back of his neck as he looks away from Meryl, only to have his gaze return just as quickly. "So that explains.. I mean.. Sorry.."

—-

"He attacked two people who can't form a coherant sentence, let alone a whole thought, before they forget everything. I'm sure they're reliving the same moment over and over, and it's not fair — Me? I can live with what he did to me. I have been for over twenty years. They can't live at all." There's genuine anger there, the tone of voice what one might expect to hear from a child who grew up too fast. Reaching out, she touches his arm. "Don't be sorry. I mean, for them, sure, if you want to be. I have no delusions whatsoever that I don't have the attention span of a gnat on caffeine, but at least I remember who you are from one day to the next. Hell, from one minute to the next. If I could go after the guy, I would." She kicks the drawer. "But I have no idea where to look."

—-

"But.. still.. the proof is staring them in the face and nothing's being done? How many others has he attacked for no reason?" Benjamin is now more than a little disturbed, he's getting flat out upset and perplexed at why this guy's still walking around. "You shouldn't be the one to go after him. Conflict of interest. Someone else should take advantage of the tracking and find this guy before he hurts more families. There could be strange cases of amnesia that a patient never recovers from, an early onset of Alzheimers or… It's not /right/ that he hasn't been apprehended. This is part of why I'm here, signed on with the Company. To help stop people from abusing their powers and hurting people."

—-

"Conflict of interest!?" Meryl demands, eyes narrowing. She's angry, silver-green eyes fixing on Benjamin as if he's said the most terrible thing possible… And he has. "Benjamin, I was nine. I lost my childhood because of this guy, I couldn't go to school or hold any other job because I can't concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time." Even as she says that, her eyes wander away from him, losing that intensity; she blinks, and meets Ben's eyes again. Somehow, the Company kept her in line, but they're good at that. Maybe she was spurred on by the need to put things right in her life - as happy and carefree as she seems to be, she knows this can be fixed. "And if someone else goes after him, if he dies, what are the chances that I get to have him first? Huh? This isn't a conflict of interest, this is my right." Again, Meryl looks away, hand resting on her desk, poking at some sort of fancy glass paperweight there. Distracted.

—-

"Yes, conflict of interest. See how you're acting?" Benjamin rakes a hand through his hair and glances away from Meryl as he adds, "It might cloud your judgement." As if he's been doing this type of work for longer than a few months, but he's seen a few movies like this.. sort of. "Maybe it is your right, but at the same time, maybe a team need to go after this guy finally. Bring him in, let you have your face off with him. I know not every mission goes smoothly, but there could be an effort to bring him in alive."

—-

Thoroughly distracted with the paperweight, she's only peripherally paying attention to anything Benjamin says. It's the kind with little glass designs on the inside, arranged in a red, green, and yellow pattern, and it's a wonder how they can get it so accurate! It really looks like a flower, or maybe a racecar… It's supposed to be abstract—

When she looks back up at Benjamin, it's almost guiltily. Almost. Briefly, she tries to process what he just said. Normally, she'd just come up with something random, take things out of context, keep things simple. It's always worked before. But first of all, he knows, and second, she likes ice cream sandwiches. No, wait. Second, this is a serious conversation. "Sorry, what did you say?"

—-

Instead of getting frustrated as he normally would, Benjamin seems to now understand why Meryl has the attention of a toddler with ADHD on crack. "I was saying.. it is kind of your right. Maybe a team of people should go after this guy. To make sure he's brought in alive and you get to meet him face to face. On our terms, our turf, so that he can't hurt anyone."

—-

Her right. Okay, he understands that. Then he comes up with the most brilliant idea ever. One of those why didn't I think of this!? moments where her face lights up like a Christmas tree and she practically leaps into Ben's arms and throws her arms around his shoulders in the bestest best-friend hug ever. "That's perfect. I've been trying to think of a way to do this for ages, but you just…" Meryl makes a motion, sort of like indicating a light bulb above her head, like she's just come up with her Master Plan. "A team. You and me, and we can get— " Think, think. There's other people. "We'll think about that later. Come on, let's go get McDonald's." The hug will become a grab for his wrist.

—-

Benjamin sort of waves his arms there helplessly as there is Unexpected Meryl launching at him and sort of hanging around his neck. "Wh.. what? Woah.. wait.. I'm not qualified. I'm just humming a few bars and faking it as an Agent so far! Don't you want someone with more experience?" The argument is weak, if sound, but there's not a lot of conviction behind it. Meryl is just as happy as a little girl who found that long coveted pony eating the Christmas tree. Then before his brain has fully processed the situation, his wrist is grabbed and Meryl wants McDonald's.

—-

The expression on her face is one of someone hearing but not understanding. Experience!? Yeah, sure! She nods. And so Benjamin is picked for the task, because between her asking for McDonald's and this moment now, he only spoke words like 'blahblah' and 'yakyak' and she can't comprehend any of them. He's perfect for the job because he's BENJAMIN WINTERS, SECRET AGENT— okay, she'll explain. "Yeah, but I trust you," she says. It's not quite a whine, but close. "I mean, anyone who'll play pranks on an almost total stranger has to be awesome, right?" Logic? Where? "After we go to McDonald's, we can go to the Secret Agent store. I don't know if that exists, but wouldn't it be awesome if it did? Come on." She lets go of him long enough to lock that drawer of the cabinet. At least she remembers that. "If we don't leave now, we won't be able to get to the theatre in time for the previews."

—-

"Well.. I.. to be honest, you were annoying me, but the pranks were getting old." Since Ben is a pretty truthful guy, kinda goes with being a horrific liar. ".. There's not a secret agent store.. I think you mean going to where we keep our weapons and equipment. You're not getting a gun, and neither am I…. and.. what? Theater? Who said anything about.. nevermind.." Crazy Meryl is crazy. And scary. The fact that Meryl trusts him is kind of scary in itself. Him? Trust him with your taxes, but beyond that?

—-

That expression on her face falls - just a little when he mentions the whole thing about annoying him. But Meryl's already accepted that, yes, she can be annoying at times, though she doesn't call it 'annoying.' She'd rather refer to it as the liberation of sanity, which sounds cooler, and looks a whole lot more awesome on paper. "Oh, I have one of those," she says with a roll of her eyes. Turning so he can see it, she shows off her awesome sidearm. It's got sunshine stickers on the holster. "Thanks for reminding me, though, I better leave this here, because I think they arrest people for stuff like thi— Mr. Bean. It's out in the dollar theatre. That guy's hilarious."

She has to unfasten her belt to remove her sidearm, which she does.

"I'll drive."

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