Life was a very funny thing sometimes.
Isaac wasn't quite certain if he was a prisoner. He'd asked Eden once, a little while ago. She'd just smiled and told him to "give it time." Since, at the time, he'd been sick as a dog with withdrawal, he hadn't pressed the issue very far.
Withdrawal. It had been a whitesince he'd last shot up. He couldn't be sure how long, because his body had taken notice the very night he was brought in. The withdrawal had hit him like a train, and Isaac now had a massive and worrying gap in his memory, hazed over by fever and pain. He was pretty certain that withdrawal should have lasted longer than that…but he wasn't complaining. There was no way of knowing how long this period of clarity might last before his body turned on him again.
Eden hadn't answered his question, but Isaac suspected that the answer was something in between. For the time being, any attempts to leave would probably be received very badly. Fortunately, they…whoever "they" were…were taking great care to ensure, for the time being, that Isaac didn't want to leave. The room he'd been given was small, but it was comfortable and it was clean. Eden had brought him some food, as soon as he'd been healthy enough to keep it down. She'd agreed that it would be a good idea for him to stay away from canvases for a while but assured him that, when he was ready to paint, he would have paint. The withdrawal had left him feeling shaky and weak, but they…whoever "they" were…didn't seem to have a problem with him staying in bed for a while. And so he was. Isaac didn't know how long this situation would last, but he planned to take advantage of it as long as possible. It seemed too long since he'd been able to just sit in bed and sketch.
"They" wanted something from him…they had to. It seemed to have something to do with his paintings. Eden had promised that "they" would help him hone his power, work towards the point where he wouldn't need heroin to paint the future. She'd said that "they" were going to make sure that the mural he'd left emblazoned on his floor would not happen. "They" wanted his help to stop it, but "they" were going to make sure he didn't need the heroin to help.
It sounded too good to be true.
That probably meant that it was.
Eden wouldn't really tell him anything beyond that. But Isaac was prepared to accept that. He trusted Eden. He knew he didn't have much to go on, but…well, Eden seemed…okay. She seemed to want him to get better. She wanted him to be clean. Just like Simone had. He knew because she'd been there that whole hellish time. She'd talked to him, encouraged him with such force in her voice that it was almost as though she'd bullied his mind into rejecting the drugs his body was craving. She'd…taken care of him. He'd been so weak and so tired that she'd had to shave him. As a rule, Isaac had never liked being taken care of. Not even by Simone. But she'd taken care of him, and because of that he felt better. Better than he had in a very long time. He was clean.
Maybe after all of this was over…after the New York had been saved from certain destruction, after the cheerleader had been saved from certain death…he could see Simone again. He could find her, and he could apologize, and he could be…better. He could be the man she deserved. Maybe, if he just tried hard enough, she'd give him one more chance and this time he would take it.
Confused and thoughtful but nevertheless willing to accept what the future brought, Isaac Mendez simply let his pencil dance over the blank paper and waited to see what would happen next.
* * *
Drug addiction had been almost a foregone conclusion for Eden McCain. She never had to face the financial difficulties that plagued ordinary people addicted to marijuana, cocaine, meth, or heroin. All she had to do was put a little bit of persuasion behind her voice and any dealer on any street corner would give her enough to overdose right there and then. And, back then, Eden had never shied away from taking full advantage of her power over others. She'd gotten her hands on everything that could be snorted, injected, or inhaled, and she'd used them.
And then she'd "joined" The Company. And Mr. Bennet had made it very clear that he would not employ anyone who spent half her time high as a kite. He'd used his own special brand of persuasion to make Eden go cold turkey.
Her own time in the throes of withdrawal had been…unpleasant, to say the least. Before joining the Company, she'd typically had at least one illegal substance fueling her body at any given time. After Mr. Bennet had cut her off, her body had not been happy. Eden had spent months recovering. Sometimes, the pain and sickness had been so bad that she'd actually tried to use her powers on herself, persuade herself to get over it. It hadn't worked. For the first time since her powers manifested, Eden had been forced to get what she wanted the hard way.
Those few months had been hellishly unpleasant, and that was why Eden was more than willing to help someone else fight through them. Isaac had crashed hard once he was cut off from heroin. By rights he should have been laid up for weeks, but…they didn't have that kind of time. Eden hadn't been able to persuade herself to shrug off her addiction. Isaac, however, hadn't been a problem. She'd managed to persuade his mind to fight harder against his body, and it had seemed to help. Now, a surprisingly short time after being brought in, he was ready to be put to work.
He cleaned up well. If and when he ever got to see this "Simone" that seemed to occupy so much of his attention…well, he certainly looked better than he had. Eden hoped he'd get another chance with her. She knew she shouldn't know about Simone, but…well, she did. She'd had to be Simone, more than once, when the fever got too bad and Isaac went delirious.
Eden was proud of Isaac for getting past the worst of things and proud of herself for helping him. She knew that he wanted to help them stop the explosion. As long as he did, they would help him in return. She knew that he could be trained to paint the future without the heroin. And once it was all worked out, he could…hopefully…go back to Simone and make something of himself.
If I can do it, Eden thought, as she worked to persuade the painter to recover. So can you. I'm doing something with my life. I know you can, too. Goddamit, I'll make sure of it.
She knew that Isaac trusted her. She was the only person he'd had any contact with since being brought in, and so to some degree he had to trust her. And Eden took trust very seriously. Her powers made the temptation to violate the trust someone placed in her all too beguiling, and so she worked even harder not to. Isaac trusted her to help him because he had no choice, and so she would. If she could get past her demons, he could, too. She would help him. She'd been through everything he was going through, and so she could and would help him through the rough patches. For now, her job was simple.
Except…then, it wasn't.
She could understand where Mr. Bennet was coming from. She knew that his daughter was important to him, and the knowledge that this "Sylar" had her in his sights probably made the man a damn sight more paranoid than usual. She knew he loved his daughter. That was only natural.
But she understood where Isaac stood even better, because she had walked that path herself. So the realization that Mr. Bennet would ask her…order her…to use her powers on Isaac revolted her. She'd promised him that he'd never have to touch a heroin needle again. She knew that Isaac trusted her to keep that promise, and now Mr. Bennet was asking her to break it. She wouldn't. She couldn't.
Except he could all too easily force her to obey. Her criminal record had not disappeared. Mr. Bennet had just ensured that it was forgotten. If she toed the line too far, Eden knew that the company man could easily remind all the wrong people that it was there. And then her life would be condensed into one cell barely ten feet square, and he'd make sure her jailors would be deaf to her words.
Eden liked being free. She liked where she stood in The Company. She liked knowing that she was doing good for the world.
Except sometimes doing good in the long-term required locking up your standards in the short-term.
And so…hating herself for every word she said…Eden McCain did just that.
Isaac protested. He had every right to. And Eden tried her hardest to respond to him without resorting to her powers. But it hurt. Because Eden could hear the words unsaid. The words Isaac…desperate as he was to get out of the trap Mr. Bennet had set for him…was too proud to say.
I trusted you. I thought you were going to help me get over this. You promised, dammit, and I made myself believe you.
Words unsaid. Isaac used every other plea and excuse in his book, but he did not use those. He did not say the words out loud, but Eden heard them nonetheless. And the sting of those words unsaid finally became just too much…
It was easy. It was too easy. A few whispered words in his ear, and Isaac obeyed her. With a practiced hand, he shot up and accessed his power the only way he could.
She'd never seen a precognitive trance before, and Eden knew the memory would stay with her. The blankness that suffused the artist's face, the cold marble sheen of his eyes, the way he went for the paints that Mr. Bennet had carefully set aside for him like they were the only thing in his world. The sheer focus with which his hands moved across the canvas, how he didn't blink or avert his gaze once in over an hour. The image he painted was grizzly and dark, of a man wreathed in flames and literally coming apart. It was as though he was trying with all his heart to transplant this dark image from where it was burning in his head to where it could safely burn on the canvas.
When the trance ended, it ended suddenly. Isaac blinked, and suddenly the color was back in his eyes. She could see the disorientation, the confusion and mild horror as he took several steps back from the canvas and saw just what he'd created.
And then she saw him reach the full realization of what he'd just done. When he did, Isaac sank to his knees and hid his face in his hands. Eden thought privately that she had never seen a more betrayed, more defeated man. He'd been so healthy a few hours ago. And with a few whispered words in his ear, she'd undone all of that.
Eden took a few tentative steps forward. "Isaac…"
His reply was a little muffled, but the venom behind the words was inescapable.
"Don't touch me."
She didn't. Eden retreated back to where she'd been, took one last long, sad look at the man…and then she opened the door to his cell and left him there.
Isaac would trust her again. He would trust her because he had no choice. He would trust her because Mr. Bennet was trusting her to keep an eye on him, and so he would not see anyone else but her down here. He had to trust her.
But he did not have to forgive her.