Disclaimer: Some guy named Kring started the whole Heroes thing. If I get around to putting any Buffyverse stuff in here, it will belong to the Whedon.
Author's Note: Wow, did I not
need to start another story.
The other stuff isn't cooperating, though, and this wanted to be written, so here it is.
Joe came up with Elle's full name, and it's a nifty one.
Elle was only six years old the first time she killed someone.
It was an accident, of course; she didn't mean
to make the.... Well, anyway, it happened like this:
The skinny little blonde girl didn't answer her grandmother, she was too entranced by the tiny flickers that were dancing in the air between her hand and the old-fashioned space heater.
"Ellesandra! Dinner's ready! Come eat before it gets cold!"
That was almost enough to pull her away... almost. Her grandmother's voice faded as she moved away from the top of the steps, leaving the basement silent once more, except for the faint hum of the little heater. Granpa Mike's wood-working shop filled most of the little basement space, and Elle had always found the place fascinating. The gleaming tools, all neatly hanging on their pegs, the big power saw and the smaller drills and sanders and other gadgets, and best of all, the wonderful smell of the wood shavings and dust. Granpa Mike might only work with wood as a hobby, but he could make the most wonderful things down here. Sometimes he would let her watch, and last time she'd come for a visit he'd made her a little wooden rocking horse, just exactly the right size for her Barbie doll to ride on.
That was Granpa Mike now, and Elle smiled.
"I'm down here, Granpa!" she called, then frowned as the lights in the ceiling flickered slightly. The little dancing lights in front of her hand had changed in that moment too, growing both brighter and more excited for just that second.
Elle waved her hand slowly back and forth in front of the red-glowing grille that radiated heat into the chilly room. It felt so weird, like there was pressure between her little palm and the wires there. When she scrunched up her face and pushed
, not with her arm but with some indescribale something inside her, the lights dimmed again, and the heater made a faint sound of protest, like a cranky old cat being prodded awake.
"Here now, girl," Granpa Mike said as he came down the steep flight of stairs from the kitchen. "You know you aren't supposed to be down here by yourself. Come on up and wash your hands, dinner's...." She heard him pause, then shuffle over to where she was crouching beside the heater. He didn't walk so well anymore, because of his bad knee, and by the time he reached Elle she'd found that if she put both hands in front of the grille, and scrunched her face up really tight, and used that place inside her middle to push
just so, she could make the little magic sparks grow to be as big as fireflies, and flicker around like crazy. The lights dimmed again, darker this time, and for several long seconds. The heater groaned, and Granpa Mike's hand came to rest on her shoulder.
"Ellesandra, what in the world are you--?" --ZzzzSnap--
A brilliant, blue-white spark leapt from her shoulder to the old man's hand, and he recoiled, stumbling back against his workbench. His eyes wide, he stared at her, and Elle looked from him, down to her hands, her own eyes round and frightened. The sparks were on her now, crawling round and round her hands, stinging her skin like little bees. She felt the short, blonde hair stir on her head, and then raise up to stick out in all directions. There was a funny smell, like a summer storm just before the rain started, even though they were inside the house, and it was cold and snowy outside.
"Granpa!" she shrieked, very, very frightened now. Something in her middle twisted painfully, and the little electric heater flared white-hot and began billowing smoke.
The light bulbs in their fixtures overhead popped and died in showers of sparks, and the fusebox in the corner exploded with a deafening bang.
The basement went dark in an instant... and then a flickering illumination grew, as the boxlike heater beside her began to burn furiously. Across the room, the wall behind the fusebox was also aflame, as was the ceiling above it where the metal conduits ran up to the rest of the house. From overhead she could hear the exclamations of surprise quickly turning to shouts and muffled screams.
The sparks around Elle's hands were gone now, and her tummy held nothing except sick terror. She scuttled quickly over to her grandfather, who flinched slightly when she threw her arms around him, then relaxed and hugged her back.
"I'm scared, granpa," she whimpered, trying not to cry, and not quite managing it. "I'm sorry! Whatever I did, I'm sorry!"
He kept one arm around her shoulders as he levered himself painfully to his feet, using the solid bulk of the workbench as a support.
"Never you mind that now," he told her. "Let's just get outselves outside, all right? Quick now, up the...." He stopped short, his eyes tracing the lines of flames that were burning their way through every wall, and from underneath the wooden stairs, too.
"All the wiring," she heard him mutter to himself in disbelief. "Every scrap of electrical wire caught fire, all at once." He glanced down at her, and even through the haze of smoke that was starting to fill the air she saw the fear in his eyes. He shook his head, though, and pulled her towards the back wall.
"Can't use those stairs," he told her. "Come over here, and we'll use a window."
Her head whipped around at the sound of her father's voice, and she tried to run back to the stairs.
The door at the top of the stairs was flung open, and the flames that had been content with chewing through the old wood there sudden went whoosh
as the fresher air from up there reached them. She saw the outline of her father up there, through the smoke, and screamed again.
"Daddy! Daddy, I didn't mean to!"
Her grandfather pulled her back; his hands were old, but there was strength there still as he dragged her away from the center of the room. The ceiling there was covered in roiling flame that was spreading impossibly fast, and the heat felt like it would set her clothes on fire any second.
"Outside, Bob!" granpa Mike called out. "Come to the window outside!"
Her father vanished from the kitchen doorway, and then Elle couldn't see anything at all because the smoke was filling her eyes, and she was crying in terror and she was sorry she'd made the old heater cranky by playing with it and she just wanted it all to stop and everything be okay and have her dinner waiting for her in grandma's tidy kitchen with the clock on the wall that was shaped like a slice of bread....
Over the roar of the fire and the sound of her own sobs, Elle heard breaking glass. A moment later there were strong hands underneath her arms, lifting her up. She blinked away the streaming tears, trying to see, and then yelped in surprise as her skull bounced off something hard and unforgiving. She turned her head, trying to pull away, only now there were more hands, these from above her, and they were twisting and pulling and dragging her forcibly through a place that was almost too narrow even for her thin, child's body.
She was in her father's arms, being hugged so tightly that she started coughing all over again. Everything was okay now, though, even if the whole house was on fire, and her father was stumbling back to where her mother and grandmother were hurrying towards the street. Everything was fine, except for....
"Granpa! Granpa Mike!"
She could see again, see the little window down at ground level with the glass broken out of it that the old man had boosted her through.
The window with the sturdy iron bars welded across it, because two years ago someone had broken in through that window and stolen a bunch of her grandfather's tools. She saw the vague shape through the window, saw a hand tugging with desperate futility at the bars, and she saw that the entire first floor was fully engulfed with flames.
There was no way for granpa Mike to get out; no way at all.
Her father knew it, too. When the reached the street he set her down on her feet and knelt beside her, peering through his old-fashioned glasses with worried eyes.
"Are you all right? Elle, look at me." His fingers probed her scalp, and she felt a trickle of blood there from where she'd bumped her head on the bars. There were cuts on her arms and shins, too, from the bits of glass in the window, not that it was any less than she deserved.
"I'm sorry!" she wailed, clutching at him as best as she could, with her little arms.
"Mike! Michael!" Her grandmother, Beth, was trying to go back to the house, only her mother wouldn't let her. "Bob, you have to get him out! Please, Bob, go and get him--!
"What happened?" Elle's father asked, ignoring his wife's mother as if she didn't exist. "You said you didn't mean to do it... what did you do, Elle?"
She could only shake her head. In the distance there was the wail of sirens, or maybe it was the screams of a kindly old man she was hearing. Something twisted in her tummy, and her father gave a sudden jerk. With a strange, intense look on his face, he pulled her arms away from his sides, and turned her hands palm up.
There, just barely visible in the flickering light from the fire, were little blue-white flickers crackling around her smudged, bloody hands.
"Oh." He said, in a very odd sort of voice. Not really surprised, not really angry, or scared, or anything else. Just.... "Oh. Well, it's sooner than I'd expected, or this wouldn't have happened. And an electrokinetic, of all things; that'll
throw the lab boys for a loop, no question."
Elle didn't understand any of that. All she knew was that she couldn't stop crying, and for some reason her father wouldn't let her hug him, and he kept her mother away as well. When the ambulance came he put her inside, climbed in with her, and let the paramedics pull the doors shut.
They didn't go to the hospital, though. Her father spoke to someone on his big, clunky cellphone, and the paramedic gave her a shot that made everything go fuzzy, and then dark, and then she was sleeping a dreamless sleep.
* * * * *
It was very warm here, almost hot, and the sun was blazing down so hard and bright that she had to squint.
"Where are we?" she asked her father as he shut the car door and took her hand.
"Texas," he told her. "This is where daddy works. Well, part of the time, anyway." He led the way across the parking lot, and towards a very large building. This was the back, and there were lots of big doors, and trucks being loaded and unloaded with forklifts, and it was noisy and strange. Elle tried to hang back, only her father tightened his grip on her hand and pulled her along.
"Don't be afraid," he told her with a bright smile. He had a nice smile, her daddy. He had a funny, pointed nose, too, and his head was already bald and shiny on top even though he wasn't that old.
"Why are we here?" she asked him, even as she surrendered and trotted along beside him, through a door off to one side of all the activity. "Can I see mommy? I need to tell her I'm sorry about Granpa Mike. I need to--" she couldn't help the way her eyes got wet and her throat stopped working... not that daddy seemed to notice.
"Your mommy knows where we are. She knows that this is best for you. If you're very good, she'll come and visit you."
"When?" Elle managed.
"Soon," her father told her, coming to a stop beside an unmarked door. There were huge rolls of paper stacked on either side, but this door was all by itself. It had a funny lock on it too, with a little slot for a card, and numbered buttons beside the slot. Her daddy produced a card, and swiped it, and pushed some of the buttons. The door opened, and he entered, pulling her along after him.
"Soon, Elle. Don't worry, daddy's going to help you."
The door closed behind her.
Elle didn't know it then, but nine years would pass before she saw the sun again.
* * * * *