Title: Clash of Arms
Author: Jade Hunter
Disclaimer: Dark Angel and all its characters and properties do not belong to me. However, some of the characters here a originals, and though I can't legally claim anything or anyone – since fanfiction itself is quite illegal – I would like it if people asked before using them.
A.N: Yes, finally, another chapter! Sorry for making everyone wait so long, that is, if anyone is still even reading DA fics, lol. Oh, and many thoughts about Max will be unkind ones in this chapter, and in other chapters in the future; this is not because I hate Max, it's because I consider everyone loving everything she does totally unrealistic.
He didn't blame Eyes Only.
Really, he didn't.
Sure, the guy had exposed all of them in a misguided attempt for revenge – it hadn't taken Syl and Krit long to connect the dots between Logan Cale and Eyes Only – but damn it all, even Andy could understand love and hate and the burning need to cause hurt. Especially that burning need.
No, the blame for this entire debacle landed squarely on Max. She had gotten that human involved in something he had absolutely no right to even know about, had made him feel something for her that could never be, and had exposed them all in the process.
Andy wondered if Max even cared.
If Jondy could hear his thoughts, she would have slapped him upside the head, but even Jondy couldn't deny that Max had ruined their lives.
Just three years ago, they had all been fine. Sure, they'd had Manticore on their tails, looked constantly over their shoulders for danger, and could never form permanent attachments because of periodic relocation, but it was better than this. Now, there were millions of people after their asses, people who didn't give a shit how much they were worth, people who didn't want to capture them, but wanted to exterminate them.
As the days passed, transgenic lynching was becoming increasingly common – lynching, for fuck's sake! Looking over shoulders wasn't good enough anymore; a transgenic had to have eyes in the back of his damn head if he wanted to live to see another day.
And all of it had started when Zack had found Max. They had been ecstatic, and they had been fools. But how were they to know that their wide-eyed younger sister had become the harbinger of their doom?
Andy sighed, whiskey-colored eyes checking the fuel gauge.
Maybe he was being too harsh. It wasn't as if Max had planned this just to spite them. In fact, Max had probably never dreamed that anything like this could happen. But Andy was sure that Max had a brain in that head of hers, and he was damn well positive that it was a good brain, considering that she had been genetically engineered.
And it made him wonder just what the hell was wrong with her.
He had been heading to the post office when he first saw her.
She had caught his eye because this was a small-town farming community and strangers were easy to spot.
But then he looked at her, really looked, and was surprised. Not because she was beautiful – which she was, with her arching brows, slim build, and cheekbones he'd bet many women would kill for. No, that didn't matter, not to him; he only noted her beauty clinically in passing, then concentrated on the feeling of familiarity that welled up in him at the sight of her.
He knew her, recognized her from somewhere.
It was that thought which had him jogging across the middle of the street to talk to her. He reached out a hand to tap her on the shoulder, get her attention –
And found his hand caught in an iron grasp, steel-grey eyes glinting dangerously at him.
Steely eyes glared at him. He shook his hand free from her iron grasp, grunting an approval of the quick reflexes. She eyed him uncertainly, then blinked, recognition flashing in her stormy grey eyes.
The quick flash of what could only be memory startled him, and he came back to reality, gazing at the statuesque stranger in astonishment – he did know her! Had, in fact, met her before!
She had the same look of uncertainty as in his memory, and gazed at him with anger and something like fear. That startled and hurt him for some reason he didn't understand. Suddenly, her eyes clouded, then cleared, and recognition flashed in her eyes again. The anger and fear drained away, relieving him as she tilted her head slightly, narrowing her eyes in careful regard.
She nodded, as if something had fallen into place, and said, "Zack."
He blinked at her abrupt tone, and he realized that he had expected her voice to sound…gentler, kinder. Warmer. "What?"
"Zack," she repeated slowly, his response throwing her off, "is it you?"
The prospect of denial didn't even cross his mind. Instead, before he knew it, he was nodding, telling her that he was this Zack.
And maybe he was.
Zack. It felt familiar. It felt right. He felt it, in his bones, something inside of him recognizing the name as his, the way Adam had never been his.
She smiled widely, relieved, and was hugging him in the next moment. His arms automatically went around her for a brief squeeze before he pulled away; that, too, was familiar, both the hug and the uneasiness he felt at having someone so much in his personal space.
"I was worried," she said.
That, again, felt familiar, felt so completely typical of her, and he smiled because he really did know her.
Whoever she was.
Uncomfortable silence reigned in the apartment.
Maybe, Zane thought from his sprawled position on his couch, if Dan talked a little, it wouldn't be so bad.
But, of course, Dan was Dan, and kept stubbornly silent, stewing in his emotional juices by himself, perched on Zane's windowsill, keeping a lookout for Andy.
Personally, Zane didn't understand why Dan was so moody all the time, or what the point in getting angry was. Okay, so Max had made a mistake, revealing their secret to her human boyfriend, and had indirectly exposed all of them. But getting angry and holding grudges didn't change anything, and that was where Zane's personality differed from his younger brother's – drastically, it seemed.
Really, there wasn't much he had in common with Dan, now that he thought about it.
Both of them were Manticore-bred, of course, both were '09 escapees andX5 males in their very early-twenties, and both had devastating blue eyes. But where Zane's eyes devastated with laughter and light, Dan's eyes devastated with brooding and shadows. Where Dan's hair was dark and curly, Zane's hair was blond and stuck up every which way in wild spikes. Dan's face – really, Dan's entire physique – was longer and leaner, because Zane resembled Zack more in that department, being broad-shouldered and obviously muscled.
Zane lived to make others smile.
Dan lived to teach people the meaning of minding one's own business.
It was a wonder they got along as well as they did, although that was mostly because Zane took all of Dan's bad moods with a cheerful smile and a pat on the back that disgruntled the other.
But that was during normal conditions. The past day and a half, since Dan had come up from Texas on Andy's orders, had been filled with tension and stiff silence. Dan was more liable to bite off heads than usual, and, sensing that, Zane had been more subdued than usual.
Zane couldn't wait for Andy to get here already and pick them up. At least when they reached Seattle, Dan could either blow up at Max or let it go.
He snorted at the thought; Dan would never let it go. His younger brother was one stubborn, pig-headed son-of-a-bitch. Although he would never say that to Dan's face, since Dan was also prone to terrifying fits of temper and, consequently, violence.
Sighing, Zane checked his watch; "You want something to eat?"
Dan merely grunted.
Unfortunately, despite all of his considerable natural talents,Zane had notcome equipped with a Dan-translator, and failed to understand if that meant "yes" or "no" or "shut the hell up".
Knowing Dan, it was probably the last one.
Sighing again, Zane mentally urged Andy to drive faster.
Her cell phone rang.
Switching off the radio, she flipped it open, "Yeah?"
"It's me," Andy said, his voice crackling with bad reception. "What's your position?"
"Chill," she told him, her tone easy and light. "I'm almost there. You?"
Andy grunted, "I'm parking the car now. I drove as fast as I could without going over the limit. It's been almost two days, and you know Dan."
She laughed loudly and without reservations. "Yeah. Even Zane won't be able to stand him for much longer."
"I'm hoping things won't come to blows until I get there," Andy sighed. "I don't know how…"
She sobered. From the abrupt way Andy had trailed off, she knew that he was thinking about one person in particular, "Zack?"
"Yeah," he admitted. "I never knew how hard he had it. I mean, I guessed a bit, but…if he comes back, I swear I'll never give him a hard time again."
You and me both, she thought, but said aloud, "When. When he comes back."
Andy was silent for a moment, and she knew that he didn't really think that. But she didn't stop hoping, because with Manticore burned down, Zack was probably somewhere out there, searching for them right this moment. Because that was Zack. She refused to believe otherwise, especially when Max, who Syl and Krit had reported KIA, was alive and kicking it in Seattle. If Max had survived, there could be no doubt that Zack had made it. Because that was Zack.
Swerving the steering wheel sharply, she changed several lanes, giving the finger to drivers who honked angrily at her for cutting them off. "Yeah, up yours!" she yelled out her open window.
"Do I want to know?" Andy asked, sounding resigned.
"Can't help it if some people can't drive," she defended. She peered at the approaching sigh above the freeway and said, "Are you sure about this?"
"You don't trust her?" Andy sounded surprised.
She hurried to correct him, "Nah, it's not that. Zack wouldn't have brought her in if he thought she wasn't clean. It's just…it ain't gonna be pretty in Seattle, Andy. And she has a kid."
"I know," he replied, and from the quiet way he said it, she knew that he really did know. Had probably thought about it endlessly. Ah, the burdens of leadership. "But we have no choice. Case is safe where he is since Charlie's an ordinary. It seems like X5 offspring aren't born with barcodes, which is something - the most anyone'll make of Case is that he's a child prodigy or something. Jace, on the other hand, does have a barcode, and is a danger to both herself and her son. They'll be better off with us, especially since she doesn't want to be kept out of the loop."
She made a noise of agreement, and they were both quiet for a while, but neither hung up.
Finally, she spoke again, "Two miles to the border. What's the guy's name?"
"Jace said his name was Raoul," Andy answered, then added about Zane and Dan, "They didn't kill each other yet, I think." He paused, then there were crashing noises, and she smirked as Andy cursed into the phone. "Shit! Fuck! Stupid ass, can't keep his temper for a fucking – I gotta go, Jon, call me when you've got Jace."
"Got it," she confirmed. "Bye."
Snapping the phone closed, she laughed. Zane had probably cracked in the silence, made some off-hand remark that had pissed Dan off – which wasn't really hard to do – and now the two of them were going at it. She didn't envy Andy at all; deterring Dan from anything was almost impossible, especially when his temper was going.
Flicking the radio back on, cranking up the volume, Jondy sped towards the Mexican border.