Since I was old enough to reason, I've considered my mom a beautiful mystery. I guess all children think that of their mothers, especially when they aren't grown enough to know better, but my mother… she has always been truly stunning, and every bit a living contradiction.
Eyes of the same blue as the lightning she used to play with, blonde hair always long enough to brush her shoulders, petite and graceful figure that she allows to barely age… my mother looks like an angel filled with a sort of cool fury.
"Don't attach yourself to anyone who shows you the least bit of attention because you're lonely. Loneliness is the human condition. No one is ever going to fill that space."
That's one thing she used to say to me often when I was younger, no bitterness coloring her words, and that will sound particularly odd if you stop and consider she raised me within a neo-hippy Commune in Ohio.
Yeah, I -Noah Bishop- grew up in a fairly secluded community where everybody preached about free love, free world, free morals …while smoking weed, tending to the orchard and playing guitar around the fire.
No such thing as privacy there, but I liked our life. Everything was so carefree, weightless. Elena, the matron who took in my mother when she was all family-less and pregnant, is like us, 'special' (she empathizes with and controls plants) so my mom and I felt pretty much safe with her 'running ' the place.
I was named after the man my mother remembered as my grandfather, before she realized the past she had built in her head was nothing but a delusion, created to fill in the blanks in her memory. Amnesiacs do that often, apparently.
Plus, my father wasn't simply some deadbeat dad but a serial killer who had tried to murder her, borrowing her electricity. Fortunately for both her and me, the natural evolution of her power is the capacity to feed throughout electrical currents and it manifested just in time to save our lives.
Intriguing backstory, huh?
I can say I could have done without knowing it, but in our family, we live by a painful-and-brutal honesty policy. And when I say family, I apply the term to myself, my mom, and possibly my godfather Claude, not the buffoon mother dearest has chosen to fuck with for the last two years.
Contrary to popular belief, I don't despise Adam for dragging Mom and me away from Ohio. Or because her infatuation with him threatens me somehow.
Mom had plenty of other lovers before, both male and female, and I never had a problem with that. I never stopped feeling like the focus of her whole life… as a matter of fact I remember often whishing she was less obsessively attached to me.
It's more like the fact that I feel I can't completely trust Adam. Sure, he is nice enough in his jolly big-brother-act, but he is not reliable. And mom is fragile, in her way.
I try to pretend I approve because she looks different since that pseudo-jock came into play. There's a glow of hope around her now that I won't take away, it doesn't matter if their relationship resembles nothing but an endless charade of parties and free weekends from where I'm standing.
I'm willing to make an effort.
Or at least, I was until Mom started to get sick. She was never anything but perfect and healthy since she…died, that first time. She has just learnt to absorb electricity whenever she began feeling down, and it has always been enough, until a few months ago.
She never even suffered from the flu for as long as I can remember and now she won't even leave the bed, too weak to do anything but lay there boneless.
I hate the way Adam tries to make a joke out of all this, where even his blood can't save her. I am an empath. I can feel her weariness consuming her mind, her struggle to follow every conversation around her when I sit by her bed, her fear. I can feel Adam 's panic.
I am 16 years old, but I am not stupid. I understand she might die, and that Adam has no idea of how to save her, regardless of his mad rush to find qualified help. Acting like I don't is an insult to my intelligence.
So I called Claude. I hoped…I don't know what I hoped, but I know Mom trusts him more than anyone, that he is the one we always looked to for advice in the past.
But we are here, with her, and mom isn't self-aware enough to tell the difference. There are dark circles around her eyes and her skin has that greyish tint I can't believe I didn't notice before. She looks suddenly so much thinner and so very unlike herself that I feel like crying.
And Claude says nothing, just stands there frozen, drinking the sight of her in like he can't believe what he is seeing either.
I can't even say where my emotions end and his begin until something shifts in the air, and I sense a firm, ruthless determination stepping in to contain the panic.
Intently, I observe Claude breathing in and shaking his head at himself as he collects his wits.
"We can't handle this situation alone. Even if we were able to come up with something on our own, it's too late to risk it. She looks… we need to turn to the Company."
I swallow down the lump of unease in my throat. That Claude is even suggesting this shows how bad our situation is.
"Mom will never stand for it."
Never. She would prefer to die than to be a lab rat again. She has such a deep-rooted aversion for hospitals that I don't dare to imagine how she would react to spending her possible last hours in one. Hell, she would be near terrified of awakening inside one. All doctors we contacted had to come visit her here.
My godfather shrugs, his face expressionless.
"Then it's a good thing she can't even sparkle anything in her conditions. By how she looks now, I'll be surprised if she becomes even lucid enough to make her opinion known. Peter Petrelli is in charge nowadays; I've heard he has made a lot of difference. "
I nod, inwardly cringing at the bitterness I can't ignore, whether it's Claude's or mine.
Unpleasant and dangerous as bringing the organization into our lives is, at least we have a plan.
"Noah," she murmurs at once and for a moment it almost seems like she is looking up to me through half-closed eyelids, the corners of her lips turning up like she wants to smile but can't summon the strength to.
"I'm right here. I'm not leaving you alone."
I never left her side since they brought her here. The whiteness of this room and of this bed make it look like she is about to be swallowed by it. It scares me seeing my mother so tiny and helpless and for the first time, I irrationally wish my power was more flashy and aggressive.
Logic says I'm potentially dangerous enough as it is, but right at this moment, I don't feel very threatening.
You see, when I define myself as an empath, I'm not being completely sincere. It's not only that I can sense others' emotions; I can manipulate them as well, amplifying them or doing quite the opposite. The closer I am physically to the person I want to influence, the better my ability works. But I must be subtle about it, because advanced humans tend to notice something is off faster than common mortals, especially if they are around me often.
I have been hardly able to fool my mom and Claude since I was nine …they usually realize right away if I'm trying to get them to be more complacent and permissive toward me. Right enough, considering that Claude is the one who taught me everything I know about developing and controlling my talents… since I manifested, my mom and I were guests whenever Claude was hiding for about a month each summer, and we would test my progress and set new exercises to try out until the next year. It was fun, and I visited quite a few interesting places that way: Haiti, Venice, Zurich, Crete. I was lucky.
And now my mom is lying there defenseless and so weak she doesn't even notice I'm using my powers to keep her calm and secure. Still, I sense her uneasiness underneath the surface of that quietness I recreated for keeping her nightmares at bay. She must be aware on some level that something is wrong.
I have never been so scared.
Two days of testing and conjectures later and there was no result. I met Peter Petrelli and Claire Bennett yesterday, and it has done nothing to make me more hopeful. Claire truly doesn't look that heroic to me. She follows faithfully after her uncle like she is his shadow, and there's an unresolved tension between them that almost tastes like longing. Like they are constantly waiting to see someone break into their lives and state they aren't truly related.
You can imagine how happy I am to realize my family's survival depends on them. Two people who apparently have saved the world more and more times but still never braved up enough to take what they want.
I tried to direct a little of their compassion for mom, but I'm not sure how well it has worked.
Peter means well, anyway. I must hope it will be enough.
Claude is doing his best to keep things under control and I trust that, at the very least. That Adam fucker made himself scarce. It's true we asked him not to come, for fear that the antagonism between him and the Petrellis could create any additional issues, but he has not even called to know whether his woman is still alive or not.
I am so taking care of him once this is over.
After hours of silence, a Claire-less Peter steps into the room, Claude and a blank-eyed kid who can't be older than 10 trailing in his wake.
When they said they would take a clairsentient to put his two cents in, this wasn't what I expected.
I glare at the midget as Peter introduces us, but the child barely pays any attention to me. His focus is all on my mother, although his little face is void of any expression, and his hands hover slowly on her feet, her legs, her arms.
Then he places them on each side of her head, finally cringing in concentration. My mom looks unaware of his touch all along. I don't know whether it should be a relief or not.
Personally, the whole situation gives me chills.
"The damage is here" what's-his-name reveals in his thrill of a voice after a quite pregnant pause. His eyes blink open and closed in the oddest way as he analyzes his perception further.
"It was a long time ago. Someone has sliced her open, tried to see what made her tick. He left it unfinished and that broke something. Some inner, fine working. But he can reverse it. "
"No fucking way," I growl, my temper getting the better of me. If they think I'm leaving my one parent in the hands of her attempted murderer, they are dead wrong.
Claude stares back to me, shaking his head lightly, but for once I can't tell what he is attempting to convey to me. I'm too caught up in my anger.
"No fucking way," I repeat, more harshly, perhaps, but also more firmly.
Peter raises his hands in a conciliatory gesture.
"Sylar doesn't really exist anymore," he tries but whatever he sees reflected on my visage must abruptly get him to shift the direction of his reasoning. "I can go and talk to Gabriel. He helps us out now, sometimes. I …I will borrow his ability and use it in his stead. "
We settle for that course of action and I allow myself to feel relieved. Hugely relieved, because mother will live and will be better soon.
I bask in this hope until the morning after, when I walk in with my coffee and find a tall stranger standing beside my mother's bed. I don't need to wait to see him turn toward me to know his identity.
Hunger rolls off him in thick waves, and I find my feet unable to move, even while alarm washes all over me. Why the fuck have I let Claire take me out for breakfast? And why the fuck is Claude not occupying my seat as he has promised he would do?
Sylar is there.
"Get away from her," I snarl without thinking.
As soon as I hear the words tumbling out of my mouth, I curse myself. Panicking won't do Mom or me any good. I can't give away any weakness to that monster and if I want to contain his aggressiveness I need to be at my best, be calm and controlled.
"When you feel danger closing in, force yourself to focus on going cold, not hot. It's the only way to keep your head in the game. Nothing has to overwhelm you." That's a lesson Claude ingrained into me before any other.
Control is the key to master any ability. Until you are able to retreat into some quiet corner of your mind under stress, your powers won't ever let you down. I'm good with that, usually.
When your heart feels like it's bursting out your chest and all of your senses are screaming to eliminate the threat before it's too late, it's harder.
For a long, tense moment Sylar doesn't react to my presence. He doesn't even move, or acknowledge having heard my little outburst.
It's nearly insulting, but it also gives me additional drive to attune my ability toward him.
His hunger is still there between them, just as intense as it was before, but there's a sorrowful quality to it that makes the emotion different from the urgent craving of an addict.
"I won't hurt her," he says, his tone so smooth and sure that I could believe him, if I didn't know any better.
" You won't hurt her more than you already have?" I bite back, and I don't know if I meant it as a threat or one of those sarcastic useless barbs you can avoid when you should, but it sounds like both and neither.
Sylar tilts his head aside, and I feel his reluctance to drag his eyes away from her form to mine. It's a palpable shift in the air, a resonance of some dark longing kept a secret for too long.
And when he finally looks straight into my eyes, studying me as much I am studying him, I understand with unbearable clarity that maybe this man has not missed my mother, but he has still been constantly aware of her absence.
She has been for years the regret he couldn't articulate, the loss he couldn't understand. They say that amputees feel the pain in their lost limbs even years after their arm or leg or foot has been cut off. Phantom pain, they call it and perhaps that's what my mother represented to him. His phantom heart.
A diseased appendage he has wanted gone and now feels compelled to reclaim.
I don't like it. Not a bit.
I don't like the way his gaze is seizing me up either. It has something inhuman and predator-like. Sylar doesn't look any older than he did in that one photograph I was shown once, yet …he does look old to me, the way those who have lived through a war look. I suppose it makes a twisted sense: I've not heard of anyone else who has spent such a long time battling with himself.
"You must be Noah"- he states neutrally- "Her child."
And then his eyes narrow on mine and his necessity of knowing to whom else I belong attach itself to my skin as a brand, a fire mark.
He just can't stand not knowing who is responsible for my existence, which he perceives as some particularly offensive insult to his person. I would find the presumptuous absurdity of this comical, if I couldn't perceive any ability he is using reaching out to me, ripping the bitter truth away from my bones.
I am disgusted at how self-conscious the attention makes me and even more at my inability to hide myself from him.
"Her child"- he repeats, absently-"and mine."
I wish I could punch the smirk off his stupid, insane face. I don't care what Peter thinks, this guy is obviously disturbed. And not the same way my mom is sometimes, but worse. Far worse.
"It's just biology, Sylar" - I stress, shrugging the unease off my shoulders with feigned nonchalance- "Nothing worthy of getting all antsy over. "
He has the gall to smile at that, like I am only a kid he is temporarily willing to indulge, and then he looks back to Mom, frowning.
The same appetite as before sweeps over me, dazzling me for a fistful of seconds before I can shake it out of me. This time I am seriously disturbed, because the understanding it leaves me with is not one I can easily reconcile myself with.
It's dawning on me that Sylar is not so hungry for my mother's ability. Her electricity is probably the last of his concerns…what he wants- no, what he craves- is everything else. Her fragile body, her life, her very essence.
He hungers to fix her, to make her whole again.
He hungers to have her brain exposed to his fingers and eyes again, to undo the damage inflicted because it's his responsibility.
He hungers to take upon himself her rage and her insults, to reap her beauty in every way that makes a son utterly sick knowing about.
Should I be comforted, realizing I was born out of love, however misguided and perverse?
I am not. I so am not.
"I can't let Peter do it, when he might get it all wrong. It has to be me- "
"Because you have experience?"
I snap, and my hostility bothers me more than it bothers him. It occurs to me that I have no idea about how to get things back on the right track. I might attack him if it comes to that.
I probably wouldn't win, but it should draw attention from the medical staff around. Except I was set up, and if I was set up, Peter approved of this and if Peter approved and Claude is nowhere to be seen, then…?
"Yes. Experience and aptitude." Sylar nods at himself, without sparing another glance my way. It's obvious enough that he doesn't consider me as a possible source of interference.
Pretty sensible, right? We both want my mom healthy and functional, regardless of our reasons. What does it matter if my so-called-father is the one to do the fixing? He owes us.
I just hate the concept of her life in his hands.
Don't ask me how I can be so steadfastly certain that this will end up badly: chances are, I wouldn't be able to articulate properly the sense of dread thundering in my ears.
It's a fatalistic kind of feeling, but if you walked a mile in my shoes, you would understand. If only you could see her the way he does, you would know because I can't trust my father.
It's not only that he has loved and killed her before, but the way he towers above her, assessing the damage with religious care, taking up every flaw and calculating how he will make it better. Preening, waiting for the moment he will become the god who will create her anew.
It's the way he is horrified at the very idea of Peter Petrelli cutting her open, like it was an unacceptable violation of something sacred.
How can I hand my mother to this monster, knowing he feels like that?
So you can see why as soon he steps closer to the bed, I instinctively reach out to grab his elbow and pull him back.
The touch sends a jolt of unease skittering through both of us. I can tell he doesn't really understand what he is supposed to do with me. I am 'his' –whatever that means to him- and I am a connection to a woman who could have saved him so long ago, to a life he could have lived if he I had been less ambitious or more patient. I am also too old to be tucked in and spoiled rotten.
I would be relieved, if by the next moment his telekinesis was not shoving me backwards, pinning me to the wall with a firm but painless hold.
"No," I warn, but it falls on deaf ears like all pointless threats do.
Sylar's fingertips ghost over my mother's forehead, gently brushing aside her bangs and tucking her hair behind her ears.
I am nauseated, but it just mixes with his gleeful anxiety toward what he is about to do.
Have I mentioned how much I hate this guy already? I swear Luke Skywalker has nothing on me. Nothing.
And I hate being so fucking helpless! Oh, sure I suppose I might use his little current fit of performance anxiety to undermine him, but I don't trust risking the effects. My ability and insane people are highly unmixable things, you see. There's no way to be certain of your results when you deal with the crazy ones.
I increase his agitation now and he might give up as easily as he might insist and mess up my mother 's brain. I don't even know him enough to manipulate him a little verbally.
Every way I go, I am royally screwed.
As he cuts into her forehead, a feeling of awe oozes out of my father like blood from an open wound.
"It's better if you don't pay too much attention to us," the bastard advises me and it's too late. He is wrong if he thinks I can see what he is doing to her: he is bent over her in such a way that his back blocks my visual of his amatory surgery. Lucky me, right? Well, I can still feel all his pesky feelings, and trust me, that's way worse.
"Is she even sedated?" I ask, seeking to distract myself, realizing a second after that I don't really want to distract him, now.
"I didn't want her brain chemistry altered, " he answers absently, much to my dismay.
I could definitely do without knowing that.
Then I can feel my father shifting his attention to his task once more, drawing connections between invisible dots and making sense of everything that he has sent awry.
It's a beautiful process in its morbid, morbid way.
He fixes her with a purposeful swiftness and I can feel his contentment when his work is completed. I exhale in relief, shocked that everything has happened so quickly…
Obviously, this is when my misgivings are proved right, because I also sense he is not done with her.
His will shifts and moves on, spreading out to improve…what exactly?
"What are you doing? "
Sylar doesn't answer, and I have to concentrate really hard to identify myself with him so I can understand.
Blurred images flow in my mind, forming and fragmenting too soon to let me fully grasp them. I get the fundamentals, anyway. He is transferring an ability into her, copying the patterns he has memorized from another's grey matter… Claire Bennett's grey matter.
The raging madman is making my mother able to regenerate, to live forever.
His palm hovers on her forehead and warm energy pulsates between his skin and hers. He watches flesh and bone sewing themselves together, self-satisfied and relaxed.
He looks back to me with a sort of little smile, nodding like he has just done something grand.
I'm too shocked to tell the difference.
"She is good now."
"New and improved," I reply in a blank tone as my father releases me from my invisible restraints. My hand closes in a fist and collides with his jaw before I can be entirely aware of the gesture.
I don't regret it, though; it was the most satisfying and cathartic moment of the whole week, even if my *father* certainly has not fallen to the floor under the force of my pathetic blow. Have I mentioned yet how much I would like a more offensive power?
Mr. Psychotic Bastard glares at me, obviously irritated and vaguely confused by my reaction.
I glare right back, unimpressed.
After our brief family angst-fest, there was not much Father and I had the chance to tell each other. Mostly because doctors and nurses rushed in at once, ready to do their check-ins, which proves that that glorious moment l just lived through was closely monitored.
We had stalled in the waiting room, where Peter already waited, arms crossed and bearing an apologetic look –surprise, surprise- flanked by a stoic-faced Claude.
There was so much I wanted to say- or yell, really- to them that I decided to just breathe in and swallow it all down.
I've been leaning against the wall since them and now the tension sent off by each member of our reluctant brigade is truly beginning to make my head ache. I'm rather worried that Mom will wake before a familiar face has the chance to explain this huge mess and Claude's composure doesn't help as much as it usually does. My godfather has been standing right beside me, staring blankly ahead in make-believe indifference while occasionally darting cursory glances to both Sylar and me.
Sylar, who is sitting comfortably in front of me, observing without a blink every move of mine, with a kind of detached wonderment.
I can perceive the possibilities ticking in his overactive mind. He doesn't understand me, and the concept of a family is something he gave up long ago, but at the same time there's an eagerness pulsating underneath skin, like his whole world has been on standstill so far and these last events have brought time to suddenly flow according to its natural laws.
I am his son and he is my father, but we are to each other no more than a threatening alien presence. Strange, like life goes.
My mother stays unconscious for almost three hours, but Sylar keeps assuring he did everything he was supposed to flawlessly. Like his word mean anything.
To me, at least. Claude and Peter act like they are taking him at face value.
Finally, Claude and I are granted permission to see Mom and thankfully he does not move to follow after us.
When we come out of her room, he is nowhere to be seen. I decide that it's quite likely that I'll NEVER see him again. That's fine with me.
Mom was the very picture of health when we saw her, and once she got the gist of everything all she wanted was to dress and go away.
But she wanted to have a private word with Peter first.
I don't know what they talked about and I didn't ask. I knew somehow that she wasn't willing to talk about anything serious for now and personally, I was weary of drama.
She made a joke out of her new ability to self-regenerate "Of all the fucked up things Gabriel has done to me, this was the best!", her grin too bright to be real, and we let her fake cheer spread to us.
We returned to our hotel room and hoped our life was about to return to its usual course.
Even the notion of seeing Adam again became comforting and I offered to call him to inform him of how we managed to resolve things.
"It doesn't matter, Noah. Let go." Mom dismissed the offer, shaking her head and smiling cattily, conflicting emotions swirling all around her.
I let go, and I try very hard to not consider if there are not way too many loose ends we are leaving behind, to truly move on.
A few days after, I really wish I had not been so optimistic and easy-going.
You must understand I am, by nature, the kind of person who prefers avoiding all conflict until it's possible and self-respecting. And my mother had been so close to death; I didn't truly feel I had the right to insist that we leave New York as soon as we could book a flight. Even if staying made me jittery, especially since Claude gladly abandoned us to our own devices barely the morning after mom got out of the Company's medical facility.
I don't mean to sound resentful, but sometimes it's not easy to understand why people act the way they do. How they can stand by you steadfastly one moment and just leave when they think you no longer need help.
Claude is more than trustworthy under duress, but when it's about day-by-day, more mundane assistance, he's quick to pull the plug on you. Simply, he is not the sort of person who can become entangled in others' lives for long without becoming restless.
I accept it. Yet…sometimes, I wish we could be like any family. That my father had dumped my mother in a conventional way, that my mother wasn't so terrified by normalcy that she needed to create a whole new identity to live with it, that my godfather was less scarred from his former career.
Nice fantasy and all, but if fantasies were realities, if we were more conventional, we wouldn't be who we are.
And that would be a shame, because I like who we are, most of the time. Despite the undeniable complications.
So far, Mom's done nothing but shopping and forcing me to have long walks in Central Park during this improvised vacation of ours. She wears her carefree façade so well that even I might be fooled if I paid less attention. It's like she's actually convinced herself she is fine and dandy and euphoric full-time, and I feel her good mood bubbling around her until those sparse moments when some figment of her gets alert and her posture gets stiffer, her gaze more suspicious.
It's when I understand that, deep down, she is always looking out for a threat. And it's also when I remember my mother used to be psychotic. Oh, she may be mostly okay today, but she is still the same frightened child who has stolen a monster's skin to wear it proudly, like an armor. She is still the same woman who needed to forge false memories to begin anew.
It scares me a bit, but not as much as the matter I have not the spine to face directly.
Creepy as it is, I feel him stalking us. His attention presses on us like an impalpable weight, anywhere we go, almost anytime we leave the hotel.
I cannot see him or locate him clearly, but I know Sylar is biding his time, lingering in the shadows. He could be anybody we meet, from the grocery guy at the store to the kid at the park, and there's nothing we can do to avoid it.
Mom knows it. I think, sometimes, that this is what makes her so giddy. The game, the rush of walking the line.
She loves him and she hates him and she scans strangers' faces both hoping and dreading to catch him.
I am determined to ignore this twisted dance as long I will be able to. I'll play the indifferent spectator like I was born in the role.
Not because I hate conflict or because I am glad we got Adam out of the equation, or because I am discreetly curious to know how this charade will turn out.
It's because, honestly…I recognize the poetry of ineluctability when I see it.
Someday my father will run out of cowardice and will come for us. My mother will probably blast him a few times and then they will argue and eventually there will be a truce. There will be no happily-ever-after, because real life doesn't work like that and my parents aren't as 'susceptible to death' as the rest of us.
But they will have the remainder of their relative immortality to get over their issues, and if they really have to be unhealthy and dysfunctional until their very end, at least they will have the chance to be so together, not alone.
I suppose I can't ask for anything better, can I?