When White opened his eyes, the dim light from the boarded window was enough to make him flinch and attempt to sit up immediately. Seconds later came the pounding in his head and aching throughout his body that told him in the coldest way possible, that he was still alive. His world felt cold, and damp and worst of all, he felt used.
The Conclave he'd served faithfully all of his adult life and believed in even longer than that, had turned on him. He remembered the events that had taken place what must have been weeks ago, even if it felt like he'd been there longer. There had been a struggle, but he'd finally captured 452 and brought her before his beloved leaders. Not before he'd attempted to get his son back. When Ray was almost literally within reach, he'd been too late.
White had never been told the reasons behind their betrayal, but when he'd arrived to finally take his son home, he'd found something that he was sure would haunt him for the rest of his life. They'd beaten him to it, and even as 452 stood by his side refusing to make her escape to freedom for reasons beyond him, he fell to his knees to cradle his son's body close.
The rage that boiled up inside him moments later had consumed him to the point where all rational thought deserted him. He remembered striking out at 452, but being deflected easily and slammed into the wall. There had been pity in her eyes which caused the flames of his rage to burn even brighter. When he'd been ready to launch another attack at her, it was purely to have something and someone to strike out at for the ones responsible were nowhere in sight.
Before he'd made contact with 452, he felt the sudden stinging in his back and felt the burn of electricity begin to coarse through his body. As he fell to the ground, body convulsing against the current surging through him, he saw 452 fall in similar fashion and dark figures begin to surround them. Then it all went black.
Now as White began to look around the small room he'd been thrown into, the memory of waking up there the first time came back into focus. Over the course of the days that followed he'd been taken, beaten to what he was sure was within an inch of his life and then returned to his prison before his body could seek the comfort of release in death. With Ray gone, he longed for it dearly and yet something burned, like the small, flickering flame of a candle at his very core. The need for revenge.
"Still alive?" a soft voice asked from the shadows.
White didn't reply. Instead he dragged himself up a little further to lean back on the cold stone wall behind him and breathed deeply to try and gain control over the pain ravaging his body.
"I thought this time would've been the last," the female voice continued.
A figure passed through the dim light from the cracks in the window and quietly came to stand over him. Before his eyes made it all the way up the body to try and find the face of his cell mate, he was greeted suddenly by long dark hair and familiar dark eyes as she came to kneel by his side.
"452," he breathed.
When Max didn't reply, White found himself consumed by something unknown to him. The kind of comfort and warmth at realising the transgenic was there with him was never something he'd experienced in her presence before. He could've used the fleeting energy he had to ponder all the reasons why he should hate her and why he shouldn't care anymore, but instead he simply sought the warmth of comfort she offered in simply being there.
A shaky hand made its way toward the dark locks hanging in disarray about her face. As his fingers brushed them aside, they still felt soft and tangible. She was real. His reach extended beyond, fingertips brushing the air just above the bloodied split in her full lower lip, then to the bruises marring her cheek. He wasn't sure why he felt himself frown when he saw the marks tainting her features, but at that moment it didn't seem to matter.
As White slowly began to lower his hand, he watched intently as she mirrored his former action in reaching out to him. Her fingertips traced the dark swelling around his left eye and the deep gash that still bled above his right eye. When she came to the deep bruising on his jawline, she made gentle contact as if assuring herself that he was still there, flesh and blood, before her.
"Here," she said as he coughed and tried to clear his throat.
Max brought a small tin bowl with water into his line of vision from where it had sat in the corner behind her. They weren't given food and water in quantities enough to make them comfortable and stop the hunger pains, but they were given enough to simply let them survive. She brought her left hand to the back of his neck to steady him and held the metal bowl to his lips.
The cold liquid slid over his lips and he drank as deeply as he was allowed to before it began to spill over and trickle from the corners of his mouth. She set it aside, conserving what little she could of their supply, and brought a sleeved hand up to gently wipe away the remnants from his mouth. He nodded a brief thanks and closed his eyes to relish the cooling sensation it had on him. Dignity was something that had been stripped away from them a long time ago.
The haziness around his memory had begun to clear with the sharp sting of truth the longer he looked at her. He remembered coming around in the dank shell of a room they'd come to call sanctuary by the end of the first week. From the time they'd arrived, they'd been taken away at individual times and subjected to various forms of torture.
It served no purpose other than to bestow a punishment his former leaders felt appropriate for the transgenic filth and their betrayer. He hadn't meant to betray the Conclave, he had only wanted his son back, but it turned out that they'd known where he was all along. Going against their wishes to use 452 to find Ray before turning her over to them had damned him.
Once enemies, they now shared the same prison of both mind and body. Their hatred of each other had slowly been forgotten as they attempted escape, for working together was their best shot at getting out alive. The knowledge that they'd almost made it had kept him going a little while longer, even after he awoke in the worst state he'd ever been in his entire life. Shortly afterward she'd been tossed back into the room with him, bleeding and broken as he had been. In the aftermath of their shared nightmare, he'd taken pity on her and offered the comfort of the little water they had.
After all, the act that had landed them in this prison had seen her stand at his side after his own people had taken away the light of his life. Hatred of transgenics didn't seem important after that. The days when he'd believed in everything they'd preached to him were over. They'd betrayed him and taken his son. He'd be damned if he ever followed them again, and that meant rethinking just about everything his life had entertained of their ways. In the weeks that followed, they'd come to trust in each other as all they had against the Familiar darkness outside.
"You came close didn't you?" she asked quietly and let her hand settle on his arm.
"I'm still here," he replied, voice tainted with self-loathing.
"I almost started to lose count of how long we've been here."
"Almost three months," White said flatly, but Max didn't miss the dejected look on his face as he remembered. "Ray, he had a birthday coming up."
Max felt the immediate rush of sorrow flow through her and looked away to afford him the privacy of thought if he wanted it. Through everything they'd been through and everything he'd done to her and her kind, she would've never wished that kind of loss on anyone, even him. Ray didn't deserve to pay the price for his father's mistakes and White didn't deserve such a penalty for seeking out his own flesh and blood. That part she understood all too well. Family had been her driving force a long time ago.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly.
"When you escaped, how did you cope?"
His voice was honest and gentle, things they'd never been to her ears outside of this place. Now he looked at her genuinely seeking an answer. She settled herself back down on the cold stone floor beside him and they sat as they had many times before, asking their gently probing questions and exacting a similar comfort in not being alone.
"With what was left after everything had fallen apart ... with living."
"I made a decision to escape, but they forced this on you," she answered. "Giving up in here's not the answer."
"I only want to see him again."
"I know," she breathed and took pity on him once again.
As Max tilted her head and watched the broken man before her break a little more, she slid her hand further up his arm as she leaned on the wall as he had. She wasn't stupid, she knew that if they ever got out of there alive, the likes of Alec and Joshua wouldn't understand her change of heart towards White. They hadn't gone through what she had; seen him pushing desperately to find his son only to have him snatched away at the last hurdle. They hadn't lay across the room from him, beaten and bleeding, to hear him fight the rage and pain tormenting his nightmares or the gentle sobs that had preceded sleep. They didn't usually talk about it.
Sitting there beside him, for the first time since their capture, Max felt him break right there. She turned to find a lonely tear making a path down over his cheek, clearing a path through the dirty smears of dried blood over dark bruising. Familiars had been breaking down his walls for almost three months now, but this was the first he'd ever let grief consume him in front of her. She felt his hand reach for the one she'd laid on his arm, for her own comfort as much as his, and take her hand.
Normally Max would have responded more openly, probably shifting to wrap her arms around him to offer comfort. If he had been anybody else, but he wasn't. So, she left him to seek as much comfort as he was allowed. She suspected physical comfort wasn't something his kind were used to and didn't want to force the indignity of being coddled upon him. The fact that he'd allowed himself to let go and was reaching out for her now said alot about his changing perspective. She knew better than to cast judgement.
"We'll get outta here," she whispered finally.
"Then they'll leave me here."
"After what I did to them? Hell I deserve this," he replied shaking his head slowly as more tears fell silently.
"If they come for me, we're leaving here," she said firmly.
"Ray's gone, there's nothing else without him. The world has no place for me now," he sighed and cast his eyes downward.
"Maybe not, but that doesn't mean you can't live in it."
"I have no desire to swap one prison for another, Max," White replied.
Max turned to look at him surprised to hear him finally use her name. She had given up correcting him after their attempted escape ended in failure and punishment.
"You don't have to be what they made you to be, hell if you believe anything I tell you, believe that," Max fired back and flexed her grip in his to let him know he'd sought her touch again. "You're not the same person they threw in here a few months ago."
White looked at her for a long moment and then glanced away, an expression of deep loathing creeping across his features as he stared into the shadows across the room. "I don't know what I am."
"Like I don't know how that feels," she replied wryly. She would've attempted a smirk if her jaw hadn't hurt so much. "That doesn't have to be a bad thing."
White looked at her as if she'd just confessed undying love or something as equally absurd. His son was dead, his own kind wanted him dead and even if he overcame the longing to die, he'd never have a place in the world. He'd hunted and killed transgenics for over a year, all in the name of the Conclave and the beliefs they'd instilled in him. Now he'd lost all of that. He was alone with no identity and nothing to believe in.
"You can be better than them, better than you were, but it's up to you."
"Maybe," he sighed, giving in to her again.
White trailed off as he began to cough. His throat was dry and sore. Every breath caused what he could only guess was a few cracked ribs, to ache under the pressure. Right then, the fantasy of escape was so far beyond the realms of reality that it became cloudy and dark just like everything else around them. Silence loomed around them and they felt content to just sit and seek its refuge for however long it'd last. It was only a matter of time until it all began again, but who'd be taken was left to guess work.
Before long, they could hear the sound of footsteps growing outside in the stone corridor again and instinctively they released whatever notions of comfort and peace they'd had. As the door flew open and two large, dark figures entered, their defences flew up and they attempted to move into a more defensive posture, but there was too much damage for them to ever offer any kind of resistance.
They two men grabbed Max's arms and began to haul her away from White, kicking him aside easily as he attempted another attack. It hadn't mattered who was taken for a long time. They'd fight every step of the way regardless. As Max grunted at being punched in the face, she used what little she had left to struggle against them as they forced her into the cramped corridor outside. Another entered and began to drag White out after her.
It was there, with the thundering of feet on the concrete and muffled efforts by Max and White, that everything began to blur together. They were moving steadily, despite their struggling with every step, until suddenly everything came to a stop. There were more footsteps, sounds of a scuffle then Max caught sight of a familiar face as Familiars were thrown against the nearest wall and crumpled to the floor in a heap.
"Alec?" she muttered, knowing he couldn't possibly have heard her.
She felt strong arms surround her as she began to fall towards the cold concrete below and knew that Alec had scooped her up into his arms, easily taking her weight as the others he'd brought with him filled the space around them and took out the other guards.
Max didn't answer, only closed her eyes and thanked whatever powers that be happened to be behind their rescue.
"What the hell's he doing here?!" she heard Mole's voice boom over the echoing footsteps in the passage.
She caught sight of Mole and Joshua behind them as Alec turned to see what they'd found. Joshua had White in a firm grip, hand wrapped around the Familiar's throat as he pinned him to the wall. Mole preferred to raise the butt of his rifle to strike the guy who'd hunted them since he'd arrived in Terminal City.
"Wait!" she managed to yell against the commotion around her and struggled against Alec until she set her own feet back on the ground again.
Approaching Joshua on unsteady feet, she placed a hand on his arm and urged him to let go. She understood how hard it'd be for him to respect what she was asking of him and carry it out, but he had to know that she believed it was the right thing to do... for her. White could only watch as she held his life in her hands.
"He goes too," she said as firmly as she could and White slumped onto the wall as the canine transgenic released his grip on him.
"Max?" Joshua asked softly, regaining himself at the sight of his close friend in such a bad way.
"Look, we don't have time to debate this little issue here," Alec said and pushed passed them. "Talk about it later, let's go!"
Joshua bent low to pick Max up as she leaned heavily on the wall beside her, legs about to give way beneath her. Mole led the way, followed by Joshua carrying Max. Alec wasn't a huge fan of the task he had been left to carry out, but as with many things, he followed Max's better judgement. He had missed it for months, even if he usually enjoyed arguing with her over it, and he'd follow it even now.
Grabbing White by the arm, Alec hauled him to his feet and began to lead him out after the Max and the others. White knew his world would never be the same, whatever kind of person he chose to become now. Even faced with the prospect of a confrontation surely awaiting him when he returned with them, he'd gladly accept it over his former prison. Partially, he felt he deserved it anyway.
From the darkness, both Familiar and Transgenic left the shadows of an old world behind and in the dull light of dawn, headed back to the sanctuary Terminal City offered.
DISCLAIMER: All Dark Angel characters belong to James Cameron and Charles Eglee (Cameron Eglee Productions) and Dark Angel itself belongs to FOX... it's just not fair is it?! *Sob*