Rating: T for darkish themes and a little violence
Spoilers: Faint ones for “The Ballad of Kevin and Tess” based on the script preview on the official site, though this is written before the episode aired so it's going to be AU and not likely to cover much of what goes on in the episode.
Author's Note: Written for HendrixClapton as part of the ficathon. The request was a Season 3 story featuring “KB v. Isabelle, some Shawn/Isabelle tragedy/fight/possible redemption. Maybe. And now:Kevin Burkhoff gains unimaginable power after injecting himself with too much promicin. He decides to turn the world into 4400s. Isabelle knows she is the only one with the power to fight him, and leaves Shawn, knowing she will probably not come back.”
I tried to write it to fit in with the episodes that had aired so far, the little I knew of the coming KB episode and whilst remaining sympathetic to Isabelle. It was a challenge to write but I'm hoping it manages to pull all that together. Thanks to Fanwoman for the beta. :)
She vividly recalled a scene in a park, though she’d only dreamt it – it was more of a vision, one she’d ignored. It was of a hooded man, skulking around in the woods, avoiding the sunlight as if it might burn him. She read the outer most layer of his thoughts, and she knew he was worried about exposure. He had good reason to be. It wasn't much later that it all came crashing down for him – a single startled cry that monsters were about. He didn't want to believe; he kept on trying.
The moment she'd seen him that night, she'd known he was wrong, and she'd ignore her instinct because it hadn't concerned her what he did. He wasn't who he once used to be, the helpful, intelligent man who'd tried to save her mother. Kevin Burkhoff had changed. Little by little, he'd become less human, all in his attempts to become a 4400. It was unfortunate but not her business, or so she'd judged. All those months ago, he'd been merely damaged, needing help, eventually begging help from anyone. No one had been able, except her, and she'd walked away, not acted where she should have. The warning had sounded, and she hadn’t cared. She’d had bigger things to deal with – her wedding for one.
Now that memory haunts her, and she realises she might have to pay for her mistake, as foreign as the concept is to her. She gets what she wants. Very little presents a problem for her, and she always finds a way around those issues that do crop up. But perhaps there is no way around this issue, and maybe she deserves whatever fate it brings.
With the dosage upped each time, he'd changed even more, until there was no going back to how he used to be. The one way he'd hoped to save himself, to heal himself permanently or to get past that stage, had condemned him further - he was a monster. Of course, some still called her a monster, the ultimate evil planted in this timeline, but she disagreed. Oh, she could have been as evil as they come, but she had Shawn now. She'd made her choice, and she clung to him like he was her beacon of humanity, because she couldn't lose that. Kevin had lost his, his rage tearing at the few who sought to aid him, and he'd had no guidance, even if salvation was still possible.
Isabelle knew her job; she had to kill him. The decision was that simple, yet the task was that hard. She'd met her match. As monstrous as he'd become, he was a danger to everyone, including her. He was almost her equal, enough to put her off balance. She wasn't entirely sure she'd win her fight. What ignited her drive was that he was most definitely her opposite. He'd never wanted to be the big bad evil, the monster. He'd only wanted to improve society, release the power within everyone more literally than The Center had been striving to do. Instead, he'd unleashed the darker side of himself, the power without control. It was ironic, what he'd done to himself, and it scared her because she knew, without her restraint, that could be her, if a much prettier monster, and all the more deadly for it. Still, he presented a problem. He was unpredictable. Even she didn't know quite what he was capable of nor what he wanted now, if he had any reason left in his promicin-riddled mind.
Not knowing what to expect troubles her most. Tracking him down won't be overly hard, but there's no way to prepare for attack because she has no idea what he’s capable of - and for once she is unnerved. She has rarely felt ill at ease in her life. She doesn't know how to handle it, so she gets on with what she means to do.
Her first stop is Shawn, saying goodbye. She strides into his office, walking right up to his desk and grabbing his suit to yank him up. One final kiss, if it comes to that. She'd ask him first, but this is too important. She can't risk his refusal, having to explain, to defend her course of action. No one is going to stop her, not even Shawn. As much as things between them aren't good, they aren't bad either, and she knows he doesn't really want any harm to come of her. He'd try to talk her out of it, and he'd fail. Then he’d feel bad, so she's sparing him the pain. If she dies, it will be her fault, and he can feel relieved, perhaps. She knows he doesn't much like their arrangement; he puts up with it because he ought to and has to, because he's a good guy. That was why it had to be him, and now it's why she can't tell him what she'd going to do.
Shawn would think Kevin could be saved, that what he was doing – trying to create more 4400's – might work, might be good. But she knows it isn't. More 4400's isn't good, the thought kicks in before she can stop it, part of the doctrine Matthew preached to her. No, she corrects herself, that's not the problem. Kevin wants to make more 4400's, but he'll only be making more like him - more monsters, more casualties to this strange war. She wouldn't be surprised if they had toyed with him, as if he was another pawn in the gigantic battle over the future, and unlike her, he can't resist the pull. The power has corrupted him, mentally and physically. He thinks he's doing the world a favour, but in truth, it's her who'll be doing him one. She will show him mercy in death, where they would not. All she has to do now is find him.
She lets go of Shawn, and he stares at her, breathless and shocked for a second. Then the usual dull suspicion seeps back into his eyes, and he questions what she wants. She says “Nothing” with a smile, and she can tell he doesn't believe her. She turns on her heel, striding out as confidently as she came in, but inside, she feels hurt. She misses the spark in his eyes; he hasn't had that for a while. Maybe this will free him, but she knows there's no way to regain that enthusiasm. Shawn is weary of the world, of her, and his weariness is partially because of her. She can't fix that, wouldn't if she could because she needs him, and the world needs her. Both of them are more important than Shawn realises, but they have to be together.
She says “Goodbye” casually, as if it's barely something to concern herself about, just a fleeting word to let him know she's leaving. There is no hint in her tone that she might not return. For a moment, she wants to tell Shawn everything, in the hope he'll try to stop her, that he might shown he cares for her again. But that would be selfish of her, manipulative even, and he's had enough of her games, whether she meant them to be games or not.
A few hours later, she locates Kevin and five innocent victims in a dingy, downtown Seattle warehouse. He's got the power, but he's not so smart these days, brain stuck in gear, set to old and familiar patterns. The building is derelict, paint peeling off the walls, but something about it reminds her of Abendson, the place she’d rescued Shawn from, the same place Kevin had spent nearly a decade of his life. It seems he hadn't thought to run, to hide. It was like he hadn't been expecting her, or he has become so arrogant that he considers her no threat. He eyes her as he monitors the captured civilians, muttering intelligibly. She reaches out to probe his mind and finds herself stonewalled – a vast expanse of blankness where she should sense thought. He simply glances at her in response but quickly switches back to ignoring her. All he cares about is his experiment.
She tries again, this time focusing on his victims. Inside them, it's a confusing scramble of the fearful, pained psyche versus the power emerging, corrupting. Their minds mentally scream out this tortured torrent twice as loudly as they can manage to voice their anguish physically, and she has to withdraw to compose herself, finding a few tears have escaped her eyes. This can't go on. She prepares herself and plunges back, intent on healing them. It's the one time he looks at her properly since she's entered. He studies her as she tries, and tries harder, but there is no healing them. The further she descends into their structure, the more she feels it – they're beyond repair. No longer human on a fundamental level and unable to be made human once more, the only way for them is forward, changing into what has begun and must finish.
It's too late for them, just as it is for Kevin, or what used to be called Kevin Burkhoff. He's not really that man anymore, and she wonders if it would be customary to rename him, or at least what he is. The victims are restrained, unnecessarily, already incapacitated by their agony. He circles round them protectively, father to the children of a new race, oblivious to their screams. He has apparently lost himself so slowly that this torture seems to not bother him, that it’s right and normal - acceptable – but for them it's progressing all too quickly, horrifically. The changes rip through them, shredding who they are, and soon, nearly nothing human will be left. What scares her- just a momentary flutter of her heart - is when he sees her looking at them still, knowing she's thinking about what's happening to them. In a strange change from his expression of seriousness, Kevin grins proudly. Then he lets out a manic laugh that doesn't stop. It amuses him that she thought she could do anything to save them. She's at a loss with what to do. Then it occurs to her to use his joy against him and she jabs out at his mind, finding the weak point in his focus.
With one thought, she extinguishes those five existences, ending their suffering and, at the same time, destroying all that is precious to her opponent. Only then does he stop laughing. It was the right thing to do, but she isn't so sure it was wise when she sees the fury in his eyes and feels the tightening in her chest that is his retaliation. He's crushing her like she crushed his twisted dreams, and it's working. She can't stop him. Her breath becomes shallow, and her heart slows. It should be quicker. She should be dead by now, if Matthew’s death was anything to judge by, but she resists with every ounce of her being. She stumbles and finally sinks to the floor, gasping for what little breath she can manage. She's going to die. She should have said a real goodbye to Shawn. She should have done a lot of things. Her life has gone by too fast...it can't be over yet.
She's lying there, her whole being focused on resisting, but her eyes watch the wall - because she can barely move now – and they take in the visage of the warehouse. There's a leak dripping steadily, gathering a pool of water below it. Tap. Tap. Tap. Like a clock. And then she realises what she needs is to speed things up. It seems an eternity that she concentrates solely on that purpose, though it is just a minute, drawn out as her life falters. Yet it's in one split second after that eternity that she is free.
All she desires is to breath once more. She draws breath into her lungs sharply, drinking in the oxygen it provides with greedy gusto. Getting up, she sees Kevin, whose mouth moves incrementally, surprise registering excruciatingly slowly on his disturbed face. But unlike everything else in the room, she is going full force, her mind springing back to life. She gathers strength with every second, and in no time at all – literally for him – she is back on form. She grabs at his chest, breaking the spell – time normalised for both of them - but it gives him no advantage because she's already done what she needed to. Her hands on his person turn that clenching pain right back at him, forcing it all onto him. Her determination outlasted his flash of rage - his could only fuel him briefly while hers is eternal. Ultimately, she defeats him, the same way she did Matthew, but with some resistance, just not enough to stop the life sinking out of him. She has succeeded in her task. She hesitates to say she wins, because standing in the middle of half a dozen corpses isn't really a victory.
People will call her evil for this, as much as they would for any of her other actions. She can never win. She has done the right thing the wrong way. She doesn't feel it makes her evil, but having killed six more people doesn't make her feel good, either. As Shawn once said, she has a choice. She's always had one, but she thinks, after this, that maybe it wasn't between good and evil. There's no black and white morality to this situation, only a wash of greys, a little better or a little worse but no nice ending. The stakes are high. There's no room for doubt, so she'll go with her instinct from now on because it doesn't lie like people do, like Matthew did. What does that make her, if she hasn't picked a side? Only one word comes to mind, one supremely appropriate word that describes her, no matter into which classification she is placed - determined. She'll be who she is, who is needed, and she won't apologize.