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Spoiler: Up to 2.06, The Line


Hell is

I.

It's not always shop talk; they spend as much time at chit chat as any other professionals. One night, Claude decides to have a go at Thompson and picks Thompson's fondness for Graham Greene novels as his weapon of choice.

"Know what George Orwell said about Graham Greene, mate?" he asks, that accent he's affecting getting broader, just before he suddenly switches into English that sounds as if it's spoken by some British newsreader when he's quoting Orwell. "He appears to share the idea, which has been floating around ever since Baudelaire, that there is something rather distingué in being damned; Hell is a sort of high-class nightclub, entry to which is reserved for Catholics only. Fancy yourself Catholic, Thompson?"

"Americans have no sense of being damned," Ivan says, speaking Russian, which is one way of making them follow his lead. "Never mind Catholic, it's not a question of religion. It's a European privilege, being damned. Night clubs, too. Hopeless to bring up either with them."

"You just can't get over the fact you lost the Cold War," Thompson says mildly to Ivan, ignoring Claude altogether. For someone whose gift is being invisible, Claude takes being ignored surprisingly badly, when he wants to make a point.

"What about you?" he says belligerently, turning to Noah, his scratchy voice tuning out Ivan's rumbling reply to Thompson.

"Oh, I'm hopeless at night clubs," Noah says. Their old mentor smiles; so does Thompson. Claude continues to glare at him. Claude exudes discontent these days, and soon their superiors will notice, if they haven't already.

Something needs to be done.

II.

"Torture isn't about pain," Noah says to Eden. "Though yes, anyone has a threshold, and if there is nothing else, violence will do. But what torture really is about is fear."

"Aren't you supposed to call it interrogation?" Eden replies, her cynicism a tad too casual to be convincing. There is a reason why he made Eden into his special project, why he went to the trouble of recruiting her and schooling her himself. Why he gave her a new name. Sarah was a mess, an overgrown child heading quickly for self destruction. "Eden" is a new start. She seeks a purpose; he can provide.

"Euphemisms won't do," Noah replies. "You need to know what you're doing, exactly what you're doing, if the fate of humanity is at stake. And believe me, quite often, it is."

She looks at him; she's cut her hair, which gives her a pixie-like appearance. It also makes her look younger than she is. He remembers her file, a picture of her as a high school girl, and banishes the memory immediately. Eden has nothing whatsoever in common with Claire. Claire is an innocent, and always will be. He'll make certain of that. Eden is not.

"So," Eden says, "we torture people for the greater good. And use fear for the benefit of humanity. Give me one example where this really worked out to make things better."

"Don't you consider your recruitment to be a good thing, Eden?" Noah asks gently.

Her eyes become a little darker. He knows she has understood. Eden, when still being Sarah, had no rules, no limits; she could tell anyone to do anything. She had tasted complete power and found complete emptiness, and the horror of it still was with her. That was what he had used against her when bringing her in, not just the Haitian. The Haitian couldn't be around all the time, and they had to be sure Eden wouldn't just tell Noah or anyone else at the Company to hang themselves and waltz out as soon as the Haitian took a break. But her fear of that familiar nothingness inside, that is with her all the time. That has been reliable, and always will be.

"How did you know?" Eden whispers.

He gives her an enigmatic smile and leaves it at that. After all, it's quintessential in this kind of relationship that you don't switch positions; that you never get sloppy enough to reply with something like "what makes you think you're the only one?"

III.

"Evidently, I think you're a better man than they do," says Claude, and Noah stops the car. He hasn't been sure he would be able to do this, but now he is.

He cleans his hands, later on, so Sandra won't smell the gunpowder, a routine action. He makes his report. Thompson doesn't say anything, and a good thing, too. Later that day, Noah gets a phone call from an unspecified location abroad.

"Go out and get drunk," Ivan says without preliminaries. Which means Thompson must have talked to him. Either that, or Ivan keeps a closer eye on former protégés than expected.

"Night clubs are not for me, remember?" Noah says wearily.

"I might have been wrong about Americans," Ivan murmurs, and the static crackling in their connection doesn't sound like this particular line is tapped, but then again, you never know with the Company. "Go get drunk, Noah."

"I'm not a Catholic, either," Noah says, and hangs up. His very clean and odourless hands a shaking, but after a minute, they're entirely stable.

He buys a Disney video on the way home, 101 Dalmatians. Sandra and Claire are both going to love it.

IV.

"It's the phone bills that get them every time," Thompson once said. "If there is one thing even a super on the run is unable to live without, it's having a cell phone."

Noah believes in a new start, he does. He meant his promises to Sandra and Claire. They and Lyle are his purpose now and have been for a while; he just had not admitted it before. But that means that in order to keep them safe, he has to remain efficient, one step ahead. Claire is a teenager, for all that she's been through; he can't demand the care and routine of an agent from her, but that is what is needed for her to remain free, so clearly, he has to supply it himself. Which means, among other things, that when it's apparent the prepaid chips on her mobile are often renewed, meaning she makes expensive calls, he needs to check on who she is calling.

When he finds out, he experiences an unexpected moment of rage, mixed with odd relief because at least it's not a boy who could doom her. But he had thought New York was behind them. And this particular man certainly has lost any claim he ever could have had on Claire when rejecting her, twice.

Noah can't possibly talk with Claire about this. If it were anyone else, he could have listed rational reasons why keeping phone contact to someone from her old life was inviting trouble for all of them. But he's too aware that Claire's love for him is a gift, too grateful about the choice she made in New York; if he tells her she's not to speak to people she shares a biological connection and nothing else with, that choice would be cheapened, the gift could be withdrawn. So he remains silent.

They never got around to tagging Nathan Petrelli; the man was too high profile and too surrounded by security for a second attempt before Noah switched sides. But the memory is there, of that first time, of Petrelli just as bewildered, angry and helpless as any one of them.

It can be oddly calming at times to remember.

V.

Six bullets for Claude, two of which definitely hit him, possibly a third. Two bullets for Thompson, into his head.

"How did you know he was gonna come up on me?" Matt Parkman asks, and Noah replies: "We're old friends."

One bullet for Ivan. It's quite enough. Ivan has grown fragile these last years, older; oddly reminding Noah of Sandra with the firmness in Ivan's eyes dissolving as the Haitian takes memory after memory. Sometimes, even these days, Sandra goes through old family albums and looks lost at the sight of certain pictures. Then she picks up Mr. Muggles, kisses his nose and smiles again, talking about his past glory, all those won competitions, which no one but Mr. Muggles and herself can remember.

The picture of Ivan's family is still in his hands when Noah starts to trash the place.

"You'll condemn yourself to hell," Ivan says, and Noah shoots.

"I know," he says.