My situation with Heroes is an interesting one. I came in on this newest arc, Season 3. Yet while I am watching Season 3, I'm going back and watching Season 1 to see where all this started and how everybody got where they did. And in Season 1, I discovered Isaac.

I like Isaac. I really do. He tries so hard to do good, even if it means screwing himself up. So, I wanted to write some Isaac angst. And I liked the thought of writing Isaac angst with food, because...think about it. He's an artist AND a heroin addict. I got the impression that food isn't the biggest on his list of priorities.

So...I hope you enjoy. Review if you feel like it!


Mangy.

That was the only word Peter could think of to describe Isaac Mendez. He hated that, but it was truly the only word he could use. They had first met when Peter had been trying to bring Isaac back from the brink of a heroin overdose. He hadn't even been too certain, on the way to his studio earlier that day, if Isaac would remember him at all.

And then he'd seen Isaac again, up and about but still impossibly mangy. Shirtless, instead clutching a threadbare blanket around his shoulders. Shivering slightly as the cold from the storm outside crept in under his windows and doors. Shoulders hunched, watching Peter with his face averted out of the corner of his eye, the way a kicked dog might watch a tormentor. Wary for another blow, and always looking for a chance to bite. To fight back. And he was scruffy and dirty and so very underfed…

…like a dog. Peter hated making the analogy between a human being…a human being who's help he desperately needed…and a dog. But that was the impression he continuously got from Isaac. A mangy, underfed, depressed, desperate, lonely dog. Every inch of Peter's nursing instincts wanted to get the man into a rehab center, finances be damned. Peter could pay for it himself, or at least help out. Isaac needed help. Isaac needed to be somewhere far away from needles. Isaac was sick, so very sick.

But Isaac also hated him. And from everything Simone had told him, Isaac was a stubborn man. A man who would never accept help from someone he hated.

In this fact, at least, Simone proved to be wrong. Peter knew that Isaac was stubborn. That much was true. But he was not too proud to accept help. If Peter was willing to give him money for drugs, Isaac was willing to accept it. Isaac did not live the sort of life where pride led to a long life expectancy.

But Peter was glad that, for once, he did not help someone when asked to do so. He was glad that he did not give Isaac the money, glad that he did not even need Isaac to finish his painting. He would not usually begrudge a man in Isaac's situation a handout. But because he knew that any money Isaac got his hands on would go straight to drugs, Peter was willing to resist his natural impulse.

But, as he left Isaac's loft later that evening, with the paint still wet on the gruesome scene of the cheerleader's death, Peter could not shake the desire to help the man.

He had – unconsciously – stolen one of the few good things in Isaac's life. He privately agreed with Simone that the relationship had been too destructive for anyone's own good, but Isaac had clearly valued it. And the man was suspicious of everyone because he hadn't thought anyone would believe him until he'd been proven wrong by a man he hated.

"I could have been clean. I tore myself apart. I lost Simone ... to try and find an answer. How to stop it."

Peter had only known how desperate Isaac was when he'd spoken those words. Peter had stolen away one of the few good things left in Isaac's life, and yet the artist apparently felt so alone against the grim future on his floor that he was willing to confide in him.

"It's nothing. I've ruined my life for nothing."

It's not nothing, Peter thought savagely, as he strode down the street towards the subway station. It's not. His paintings are the key to figuring it out. I know where to go now. I know what to do now. And he can help me. He wants to help.

His destination was not, in fact, the subway station, although it was nearby. It was a small establishment called the Burnt Toast Diner.

* * *

No money for drugs. Low on paint. Running low on shirts that didn't shed paint dust whenever he moved. Hungry. Cold.

Isaac Mendez was well and truly miserable. He sat on his floor, atop the mural of destruction emblazoned on his floor, and stared at the painting of the shadowy figure and the dead cheerleader. The red of her blood was still dripping occasionally onto the floor.

Drip…

Drip…

It wasn't that he wasn't grateful for Peter for finishing up. Isaac was well and truly miserable, but at least he wasn't high. At least he hadn't had to do something he…and Simone…would regret later so that he could get high. No, the fabulous Peter Petrelli had come in and finished his painting.

"And wasted a hell of a lot of red," he muttered bitterly to himself. Had there really been a need for so much blood? He was actually making himself a little sick to look at it all and, besides, Peter had a different style of painting than Isaac's. The two styles clashed. There was no way he'd ever sell this one.

Isaac knew he was being childish and bitter and probably suffering a little from withdrawal. But he was cold and he was hungry and he was alone. Peter was responsible for one out of three of those problems. At least…he could blame Peter for being responsible so he didn't have to feel worse about himself. Isaac wasn't eager to feel worse than he already did.

Isaac stared at the painting, sitting huddled with his blanket as the bright red paint dripped softly to the floor.

"Save the cheerleader…save the world."

At least Peter believed him. Even Simone didn't believe him, but Peter did. That was…something. It had been nice to talk to someone who didn't think he was an insane heroin addict. It was nice to be validated by someone other than himself. Isaac knew that, if he ever caught Peter around here when he wasn't weak and hungry, he'd stab the bastard with a paintbrush…but, here and now, it was nice to know somebody believed him.

Eventually, the artist got up off the floor and went to work straightening up his loft. It was more a way to take stock than to restore order. To see what he had left. There wasn't a lot. He hadn't bought any paint for a while now. All his money had gone to heroin so he could use the paint productively. No reds, yellows, oranges, or blacks of any shade of any kind. And lately, his paintings seemed to be using a lot of those colors. Black for shadows, yellow for explosions, orange for fire, red for blood.. For the blood currently oozing from the cheerleader who would soon be missing her skull.

But she wouldn't. He wouldn't let that happen to her. If he painted enough, worked hard enough, he would figure out how to save her. And he would. He would not let that shadowy figure in his paintings hurt her. He would save her. For once in his life, he would do something worthwhile. He would be a hero

…just as soon as he got his hands on some cash.

And some food.

Not the most heroic of starts, but they were important.

Isaac had been straightening up for about half an hour when he heard the soft knock at the door. Once he did, he abandoned his cleaning – he only ever did it when he had absolutely nothing else to do – and headed for the door again.

He had a forceful flash of déjà vu when he opened the door to find Peter Petrelli standing there…again. This time, however, he'd thought to come with an umbrella and was holding a paper bag in his other hand.

They stared at each other for a few seconds, as the rain fell steadily. Peter was the first to break the silence.

"Here," he said, holding the bag out to Isaac. Isaac took it cautiously.

"…what's this about?" he asked tentatively.

"Just take it," said Peter easily. "Call it a commission."

And with that, he turned around and began to walk away. Isaac stared after him.

"Commissions usually come in cash!" he finally shouted at the man's retreating back. Peter merely waved absently over his shoulder. Isaac glowered after him, before ducking back inside and closing the door before any more of the rain blew in.

He cleared off the nearest table and sat down on a stool. He set the bag on the counter and went to work investigating the contents. His questing fingers closed around several long tubes…and Isaac couldn't help but smile triumphantly as he pulled out a handful of paint tubes. Reds. Yellows. Oranges. Blacks. Red for blood. Yellow for explosion. Orange for fire. Black for shadows.

Unfortunately, reflected Isaac bitterly, they were just the colors he needed. And Peter knew it.

The bag was not yet empty, even after Isaac had dug out every single tube of paint that had slipped in the corners. More than a little eagerly, Isaac dug out the package that his fingers told him was made of Styrofoam.

The logo pressed onto the material read Burnt Toast Diner, and Isaac felt a grin spread over his face. He'd been there, when he'd been in his special financial situation where he didn't have enough money to buy drugs but wasn't completely broke. Their food was unhealthy and greasy and heavy on the calories…that he knew he hadn't been getting many of for the last couple of days.

Waffles! The specialty of the place. A huge stack of waffles with a packet of syrup. And, thanks to the Styrofoam, they were still hot.

Isaac was amazed that he managed to make the food last as long as he did. Fifteen minutes later his face and hands were sticky with the cheap syrup, and the box was empty of anything bigger than a crumb. The syrup took a while to get off…the stuff was so unbelievably sticky that he'd once considered using it as glue, during another one of his near-broke periods. Yet Isaac felt…better. He'd been so focused on eating that he couldn't remember the taste of the food very well. But for the first time in too long, his stomach wasn't empty. It felt good to have something fueling his body that wasn't flat, cold desperation.

Isaac didn't like taking handouts. He didn't like needing other people to take care of him. But he was playing a dangerous game. He knew that all too well. And if he wanted to come out of it without dying of another heroin overdose or ofwhatever shadowy killer had the cheerleader in his sights…as much as he hated to admit it, Isaac knew deep down that he really shouldn't face this alone.

It really was amazing what a full stomach could do for a man. Isaac looked around his loft…at the paintings still stacked against the wall, a larger-than-life imitation of one of his comic book pages…at the tubes of paint piled on the table…and thought that he just might be able to try again. Maybe…maybe…if he just tried hard enough, he wouldn't need the drugs.

He spent quite a while after that shifting through the other paintings he had laying around the loft. The ones he either hadn't turned over to Simone or that Simone had refused to take. He looked for images that might fit together to tell a story, frames that might fit together to make a comic book panel…

As Isaac's gaze wandered from painting to painting, he found that he kept returning to one he had done a few weeks ago. A woman in blonde, glancing over her shoulder with a seductive smile and a handful of cash. He wondered if perhaps she was the missing panel on the page, but…no. No, the canvas wasn't the right shape. And yet he couldn't quite shake the feeling that something was wrong with it…

Isaac drew nearer to the painting, and studied it for a few moments. He let his eyes wander over it, taking in every detail, every color…it was mostly done in green, and stood out because he hadn't used any green for the longest time…

there

Carefully, not daring to look away lest he be unable to see the wrongness again, Isaac licked his thumb and wiped it over a spot on the woman's shoulder. Some paint came away, and underneath there was the faintest trace of black…

Some more industrious work with his saliva and his thumb brought away more paint, and as Isaac carefully worked the color away he found that, although he had painted the woman with nothing on her shoulders, some of his paint must have accidentally covered up an earlier drawing of a tattoo. It looked like a helix…

Before Isaac could contemplate this much further, he heard a knock at the door. He wondered if it was Peter again. If it was, food or no food, Isaac knew he would have to put in for some kind of restraining order. Three visits in one day from the man who had stolen Simone's heart was too many.

But he went to the door anyway. And, when he cautiously opened it, it was not Peter Petrelli but a young woman. A pretty face, fashionably dressed, and she smiled at him as he opened the door and stared at her.

"Isaac Mendez?" she asked.

"Who are you?" It seemed the obvious question to ask.

"I'm an admirer of your work. May I come in?"