Title: Remember to Forget

Author: Jade Hunter

Disclaimer: None of the characters and properties of Dark Angel belong to me. This fic takes place during the events of Meow and And Jesus Brought A Casserole.

A.N: I was working on Clash of Arms the other day, and I had to go back and read the old version of this for reference to some of the characters. I discovered a lot of things I didn't exactly like about it, so decided to rewrite some of it.

##############################################################

She strained against the bonds that held her captive with all her considerable strength, but they didn't give away as normal bonds might have. The people who had her knew her power, probably better than she herself did.

Breathing even, pace rhythmic and strong, she ran for all she was worth, only a blur to the rest of the world around her. She didn't care about exposure anymore, only about escaping and evading her pursuers.

There were too many of them, in black SUVs and that damned helicopter that kept its lights on her, even when she tried her best to avoid the beams.

Desperately, she wished for Zack.

Zack. Her CO, her brother. No! He was a TRAITOR. Her CO. A TRAITOR! Brother. TRAITOR. CO…

He had found her, four years after the escape, walking through the park after her shift at a local diner, still wearing her grease stained uniform. Stepping out of nowhere, offering no explanations, only a contact number and an order to relocate, he had still been the most wonderful sight ever.

She had recognized him immediately, because although he had physically changed, his being, his Zack aura, had not. He had still had that look in his eyes, the one that spoke of hidden anger, but he was missing the shadows from before that had always reminded her of a caged animal.

There was also guilt and desperation, and she had known that it had been because of the others, the ones in their unit that hadn't escaped. He always blamed himself for everything; the commanding officer took responsibility for the actions of his unit, and Zack had lived by that rule almost religiously.

She tried to look away, to turn her head, but there was a sharp wave of feeling, a compulsion, an order to look back.

Andy, the only one besides Zack who was older than her, because Eva was dead. Andy, who wore no masks, did not beguile, blunt and truthful. He was who he was, always, and he liked to kick back and relax, which was strange, because his instincts were that of a leader. He was Zack's 2IC, born to take over if necessary, but he had passed that mantle on to Eva back in Manticore, then to her on the outside.

Eventually, she gave in to the compulsion, and hated herself for it. What would the others think of her? What did it matter? They were all TRAITORs, in the end – no! No, no, no! They were her family!

Tinga, the oldest of her younger siblings, a best friend in the sterile barracks of Manticore, in the wide desolate world outside, and forevermore, but never again in life.

Because Tinga was dead.

She remembered their frequent conversations, hearing all about Charlie and the wedding, and finally of Case, of Tinga's joy and then her fear for her dangerously bright son. She had laughed and cried and had rejoiced and feared with Tinga, because that had been all she could do.

Case had called her, bright boy, remembering her number effortlessly, to tell her about the bad men, to tell her that his mommy was missing. She had known, of course, because Zack had told them all, and had talked with her nephew and Charlie, reminisced with them of X5-656 who had been Tinga, Penny, and lots of other names, but most importantly had been her sister, Case's mother, Charlie's wife – their family.

A hand was smoothing hair away from her face, and her skin crawled at the gentle contact from someone who was simultaneously causing her so much pain. She jerked in her bindings, making a noise of disgust, and the hand withdrew in injured silence.

Zane, lovable brother, always genial and easygoing, with the uncanny ability to feel at home anywhere and everywhere. It was impossible not to like him; even animals seemed to sense that he was completely and utterly trustworthy, because even the vicious dogs at Manticore had licked his and turned over to expose their bellies for rubbing. A settler, Zane planted roots and feelings wherever he went, and it was always inevitable that he called her after each time he was relocated, freshly hurting from whatever attachments he'd had to leave.

There were people coming in and out of her field of vision, girls, each directing an artificially friendly smile at her when they caught her gaze on them.

Brin, now captured and reindoctrinated because she had not wanted to die; when she thought of Brin, she thought of words and talking, because that was what Brin had loved to do. She remembered crying, angry at the world, at Manticore, because Brin had loved to talk, and Manticore would stifle that.

Manticore did stifle that, along with every other aspect of her personality.

For the first time in her life, she wanted to be violent. She wanted to kick their pearly white teeth in. See how much they felt like smiling those commercial smiles afterwards.

Emotional and prone to fits of moodiness, Dan used an emotionless mask to hide the fact that, in actuality, he felt far too much. He had a fierce temper that could be stirred by the strangest of things, and he was more open with strangers than with people he saw every day. Dan could not be teased, would not tolerate it, and he never saw the need to socialize.

He saw keenly how different he was from normal people, and clung to his connection with her and the others with a desperate kind of tenacity. They were all he had, and he would die if he lost them, because Dan could not be alone in the world. Not like that. It was his worst fear.

They felt her threatening thoughts towards them, faltered slightly in instinctive fright, and she took the moment to collect her bearings. Gather her strength.

Jace. Zack had labored for weeks to find her, after finding out from Max that she had defected. He had found her, seven months pregnant, chattering in Spanish like a natural, and had stayed with her until the birth of baby Maxwell. Then, having spent months learning if she was trustworthy enough, he finally connected her and her baby to the rest of them.

She remembered the first time she'd heard Jace's voice over the phone, first time in years, and it had relieved a tightening in her heart. Jace must have been put through hell after the twelve of them had escaped, reconditioned, punished, pushed to her limits. But it still had not crushed her independence, completely, and she had defected willingly. She had bent, but had not broken.

Jace inspired them to new heights.

They came back, stronger than ever, sensing her new resistance. The thought of Jace inspired her. They felt it, and smoothly switched gears to attack her memories instead of her feelings.

Small for his age, Jack had always been a little lagging in everything. Zack had covered for him in many things, in small ways, and had always looked out for him. It was why Jack had chosen his name to resemble Zack's; he had looked up to Zack, respected him, loved him, revered him for being his protector.

Then the seizures had come. They had all hidden it from everyone for a while, but it had been discovered eventually, and Jack had been taken away. That night, after lights out, Zack had split them up and they had scoured the base, looking for Jack. Max had seen him being dissected, and the horror of it had left them reeling in shock.

She remembered Jack with sadness because he had been the source of Zack's idea to escape. After Jack, Zack had planned with Eva, and when they had come for Max, he had struck.

She remembered Jack with sadness because, although he had been the source of Zack's idea to escape, he had died before he even had a hope of freedom.

He had died knowing only of Manticore.

There was pain, brilliantly hot, tugging at her, because those bitches were trying to blur her memories, blank them from her mind.

She had been inconsolable when news of Ben's death reached her. The others had grieved too, of course, but she had been hysterical. Ben had never grown up from the little boy in Manticore who made up stories to make sense of the world. And when the world became vast, opened up to include more than shouting men and sterile walls, he had been dazed, confused, and his dreams had been shattered.

Zack had been reluctant to let him in the fold, because of the killings, but Ben had still been one of them, and was a wild card alone. He had been given limited access, so that Zack could control where he could go next, and she had tried to help him the best she could. It had taken her no time at all to see that he was just a scared little boy in a grown body, and to realize that he needed love more than condemnation.

She had tried her best to give him that, and had truly loved him best after Tinga because of the fact that he had needed it so much.

She held on fiercely to the memories, good and bad, because they were hers.

Jondy rarely called her just to talk, because Jondy was wild and carefree and preferred it that way. She changed her hair color as often as she changed her socks, she bounced from man to man as if they were toys, and she liked to blast her music loudly.

She was also restless, though, and didn't mind most of the time when Zack relocated her, as long as it was to a city that was alive all night. She also didn't like the cold, and had been ecstatic to find that Max was alive and well.

Her grip on herself faltered, and they took immediate advantage of it. She cursed herself, even as she cursed another. Max.

She had wanted to hate Max for a while. Had tried her very best to hate her baby sister for giving Brin to Manticore; for not looking for Tinga like she promised Case while Zack spent every waking moment consumed with the search. For disobeying Zack and making it necessary for Zack to give himself up, compromising the rest of them, for not seeing what was in front of her very eyes – because did she think that Zack would give himself up to Manticore for just anybody? – and most especially for killing Ben, who had been just a child desperate to hold on to something he understood completely.

And she had. She'd hated Max violently and passionately for all of five minutes each time she received grieving news that somehow had Max in it, and then she had just felt sorry for Max, because her baby sister seemed self-absorbed and unthinking of consequences, and nothing like the curious girl she remembered.

Then she was losing ground, losing herself with every minute that passed, and it made her want to cry. All they had ever wanted was to be free. Why was that so much to ask?

Krit, with his big brown eyes and his curly hair, the second youngest, her youngest brother. Krit was strong and silent, but also a passionate soul who loved and hated and lived with the exact same intensity. Everything he did, he did with all his concentration; nothing was as important as the moment.

Krit loved Syl.

Syl was still a by-the-book soldier, holding on to her discipline from Manticore. In a way, Syl was Zack's favorite, because she never argued with him about anything; in another way, however, Zack disliked the sight of her, because Syl reminded him of himself. Syl thought of the world in a certain way and was surprised every time she was contradicted; she never lowered herself to argue with others who disagreed with her, and she was quietly stubborn.

Syl loved Krit.

It had always seemed strange to her, that someone so passionate like Krit could love someone so controlled like Syl, and vice versa. But they seemed to work, seemed to click, and they were a beautiful sight to behold, because they loved each other. Even Zack saw that.

Her vision blurred, and it was only when that same disgustingly gentle hand from before brushed her cheeks that she realized that she actually was crying.

Zack. Her larger-than-life older brother. He talked to her, too. She never told the others about it, but he talked to her frequently. Not just about what he did to rescue this sibling, or how he failed to complete this objective, but also about his feelings of failure, his guilt, his self loathing. He talked about his anger, about how he felt about the others, and even how he felt about her.

He never held anything back; when he felt she was being annoying, he told her so, and when he hated her, he told her so, like the time she'd found out about what Manticore had done to him, had Andy take over his job until she was sure Zack was ready. It was hurtful sometimes, but it didn't hurt as much as it would have had he told someone else and she found out another way. He just told her bluntly, and somehow that one thing made it not so hurtful, not as bad as it could be.

One thing he never talked about was his feelings for Max, but that was unnecessary, because she knew that anyway. She thought it was sad, that he could love Max so much and Max didn't notice at all, because even Brin, who had talked so much she couldn't hear anyone else, had noticed. She didn't know how Max could be so oblivious, because it was plain to her that Zack had loved Max when they were X5-599 and X5-452, before they had even had names.

She had told all this to him once, and he'd told her to stop being such a nosy little shit, to mind her own business, and then hung up. She had smiled knowingly and had never mentioned it again, because there was nothing more to say. Zack didn't take advice.

Don't touch me, she tried to scream. The hand withdrew again, hurt once more, and she thought that maybe she had said it aloud. She hoped so, remembering her capture, she hoped that they hurt.

Miles away from the civilized neighborhoods, she ran through a junkyard, leaping over piles of scrap metal and car parts. She could hear footsteps behind her, easily keeping up with her, catching up to her, and she knew that they were serious this time. They had sent a transgenic after her, most likely a fellow X5, perhaps one from her old unit as well.

Panic welling up inside her, whispering one last time for Zack, a final, desperate plea for her big brother to save the day like he always did, she knew that it was inevitable. She had been running for a long time and was starting to slow, while the transgenic after her had been in a car for most of that time and was still fresh.

As if on cue, she was tackled violently to the ground. She fell, twisting as she did so to hurl her attacker off with her momentum, then sprang up neatly to her feet into a fighting stance. Her attacker leaped to his feet – and smiled at her.

Her blood froze in her veins.

Zack?

She remembered, and hated them, and the emotions gave them the advantage. Triumphantly, they took more of her, erased more here and there, and left only a shell of what had once been.

No, not Zack, she realized immediately. The face was the same, as was the rest of him, but his hair was shorter, his eyes colder, and he didn't have the commanding, almost electrifying, presence that Zack always had. He had nothing; he was just another soldier, no personality, no independence; he might as well have been produced en masse, in an assembly line, like those toy soldiers.

It wasn't Zack, he wasn't Zack, but the use of someone with Zack's face against her infuriated her.

It had been stupid. Obviously Zack's twin, obviously Manticore through and through, he'd obviously had the advantage of more than ten years of training over her. But she had been angry, and she had chosen to take part in a fight she could never win.

And now she was here. With them, violating her and mutilating all that she was.

Broken and bleeding on the ground, her chest heaved with labored breathing as he stared down at her with eyes so similar to Zack's, yet so different. He dispassionately called in his success, ordered the helicopter team to come pick them up.

Hearing that broke her, and she forgot everything about never showing weaknesses to the enemy. She cried, softly, silently, and he had stared down at her, discomfort showing in his posture for a brief moment before he straightened.

Pain, stronger than ever before, then a wrenching feeling, and a last flash of memory before that, too, was swallowed up.

Her voice steady, despite her tears, she had asked him for death. She had wanted to die, like Ben, rather than be taken in and become like Brin. She had begged him to kill her. That had surprised him, and he had hesitantly spoken to her for the first time. He had told her that it would be all right, that it wouldn't be as bad as she thought it would be.

She had turned her head away and did not speak again, did not say what she was thinking, did not tell him that he knew nothing, because he was a child and did not know better.

Black dots speckled her vision, and she furrowed her brows, in pain, confused. Something was wrong, so wrong…

She felt so…empty.

But then a gentle hand was there, smoothing a lock of hair back, wiping tears she couldn't remember shedding.

And she let it.

############################################################

FIN.