Freedom on the inside

Disclaimer: Unfortunately I don't own anything to do with Dark Angel. They apparently belong to some guy who is most definitely in need of a brain check. What was he thinking when he decided to axe the show? Oh well, I guess when I'm rich enough I'll just have to buy the rights to the programme and then we'll finally get a third season. I wouldn't count on it though.

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: M/A (eventually!)

Summary: What if Max never escaped Manticore in 'Designate This' and didn't get the chance to infect Logan? Logan and everyone else in Seattle thinks she's dead and Renfro's still alive?

Author's Note: I know there's been a lot of 'what if she never escaped stories?' but this is my shot at what could have happened. Please read and review!

Chapter Thirty Three

Paper Doves

Max was humming. Max never hummed. It seemed the bright sunshine, blue skies and chirpy birds had induced some sort of peaceful delirium in Max, and she had never felt better. White was dead, Alec was alive, and all was right with the world. Almost skipping, but not quite, Max made her way into Alec's room at the Manticore infirmary. He'd made a good recovery overnight and had been removed from intensive care in the morning, and so she wasn't quite so surprised to see him up and about. Still bandaged up, he had however shed the hospital gown and was now wearing a black t-shirt and what must have been a new pair of jeans, his previous pair having been torn to shreds.

"Nice jeans," Max remarked.

Alec, who had been stood staring out of the only window in the room, turned around to face Max; a grin plastering his face, "Sure Maxie, admit it; you were checking out my fine ass."

Max returned the grin; so maybe she was obsessed with his rear, not that she'd admit it though, "Whatever makes you happy."

"Aw, Max, you know very well what makes me happy," Alec wiggled his brows, and Max laughed.

"So I see you're feeling better?" she said, sitting down on the bed.

Alec joined her, "Much better."

"You're still a sore sight," Max noted, reaching up and tracing the cut along his jaw. Alec reached up and covered her hand with his, intertwining their fingers, he softly kissed her hand, "Max, are you okay?"

Max's mood had so suddenly done a one eighty, she hadn't even noticed the change herself. 'Stupid hormones,' she scowled silently as her eyes filled with tears,

"Max?" Alec asked his concern overwhelmingly evident in his tone, "What's wrong?"

Max shook her head, her tears spilling over, "Nothing."

"Come on, Max, its me."

Max managed a small smile, "I'm just happy."

Alec quirked a brow, "Happy people don't cry."

"Happy, emotional women in love tend to cry a lot, Alec. Get used to it!" She snapped.

Alec laughed, his eyes twinkling with mirth and contentment. This was a side of Max he had never been privy to witness before, and he felt such joy that she was sharing it all with him. He finally felt worthy of life, and he was so entirely blessed to have found someone to share it with. Max was truly the one who had been through the most these last couple of days, so it was no wonder she was physically and emotionally drained.

"In love, huh?"

Max sighed in over exaggerated frustration, before grabbing the back of his head and pulling down for a hard kiss on the mouth. Alec smiled against her lips, he could so get used to this.

Ginger walked down the corridor, her feet dragging, as if she were carrying around an immense load. She didn't know what they wanted, she was merely following orders, but that didn't stop her feeling a deep sense of dread as she neared his room. She knew they'd both be there as she turned the corner, and she wasn't quite so surprised to find them both in a highly interesting lip lock, with the door wide open.

"Ahem," she cleared her throat, a faint blush tingeing her cheeks. Sure she knew how they felt about each other, in fact she had known even before they knew it themselves, but actually seeing them so utterly wrapped up in each other was something she could do without.

The two guilty transgenics pulled away from each other at lightning speed. Alec's hair was cutely tousled, and Max was blushing a beautiful pink, "Ginger," she stammered, "Didn't see you there."

"Obviously," Ginger smirked.

Alec recovering quickly, grinned, "What's up?"

"Your presence is desired by the king and queen."

"Both of us?"

Ginger nodded, "And me too apparently."

Max frowned, "You?"

"Search me," Ginger answered.

Alec turned back round to face Max and shrugged his shoulders. Grabbing her hand, he tugged her up, "Let's go see what mummy and daddy want." Max sighed, this was so not what she had in mind for the rest of the day, and so she very reluctantly followed Alec and Ginger out of the door.

"Are you sure this is the right thing to do?"

"We've been through this; it's the only thing we can do."

"How can you be so sure of their loyalty?"

Lydecker sighed heavily, "Because despite what they think of us, Manticore didn't create cold blooded killers, we gave them all hearts and in time they'll learn to use them."

Renfro's face softened, although she wasn't one for romantics, if any of what she had seen these past few days were anything to go by, he was right.

Their shared silence was interrupted by a brief knock on the door. Renfro looked up and met Lydecker's eyes; he nodded ever so slightly,

"Come in," Renfro called from inside the office.

The door opened. Max, Alec, and Ginger walked into the room ever so cautiously and stood side by side. The door shut silently behind them.

"You wanted to see us," Alec spoke.

Lydecker nodded, "We haven't really had a chance to talk to you about what happened these last few days. Sit down."

All three transgenics complied.

Max felt uneasy. All her life she had seen Lydecker and Manticore as the bad guys, but now, nothing was as black and white anymore. All she could see were thousands of shades of grey in between, and it deeply unsettled her.

"We're letting you go."

A stunned silence filled the room. Alec sat with his mouth ajar, Ginger looked as if he couldn't have possibly meant her included, but Max, Max had somehow seen it coming. They had done a lot for them these past months; they had risked their lives on doubted orders on a number of occasions, and so it was high time they got something in return. But then again, Lydecker wasn't known for altruism, and so her expression bore nothing but the resemblance of weariness.

"Why?" Alec asked.

"Because you've earned it."

Max fumed at Lydecker's answer, "Because we earned it?" she asked incredulously, "Well I guess we have been good little soldiers, and since you removed what people perceive as humanity in us, I guess its only right that we have to fight for our freedom."

Lydecker sighed, "You're angry Max, and I think I understand that-"

Max scoffed, "No you don't. You can't possibly know the hell you've put each and every one of us through when you brought us into this miserable world. And now you expect us to be grateful? To believe you're doing us the greatest kindness by setting us free?"

"You're wrong."

"Oh I am, am I?"

"We're not letting you go for some perverse, twisted reason. We're letting you go because we know it's the right thing to do. I don't expect you to believe me or to trust us, but the option to leave is there for all of you whenever you want it."

Ginger, found it appropriate to speak up, "Why me?"

Renfro answered her, "Because neither 494 nor 452 will leave without you."

Ginger glanced at both Alec and Max. She knew they both wanted out, and so it pained her to say what she would say next, but ultimately she knew they would understand. They probably felt the same way,

"I'm not leaving without Joshua."

Max looked up, a stinging sensation of shame running through her veins. She had been so caught up in the drama, she had very nearly forgotten about the big guy.

"Joshua?" Renfro asked, her eyebrows raised, "Are you talking about the human-dog nomlie?"

"He's not an anomaly," Alec snapped.

Renfro cleared her throat, "Whatever he may be, the world is not ready for him or any of them."

"I'm not going without him," Ginger said firmly.

"We cannot let him go. He cannot live a life out there. Is it fair to subject him to that?"

"Was it fair to subject any of us to this?"

Renfro fell quiet.

"At least give him the option," Alec said finally, "He's intelligent enough to know what he wants."

Lydecker contemplated this before nodding, "Fine. Bring him up here."

Ginger almost smiled as she stood up and walked hurriedly out of the office.

Max and Alec shared a brief glance, comfort and reassurance emanating from each other for the other's benefit. They sat in silence, until Ginger made her reappearance along with a very confused and understandably frightened looking Joshua.

Renfro's eyes bulged at the sheer size of him, and Lydecker himself shifted uncomfortably in his chair. In contrast, Max and Alec's expression bore that of pure delight.

"Hey Big fella," Max smiled, getting up and hugging him.

"Joshua, buddy!" Alec grinned, also hugging him.

"Max, Alec, ok?" Joshua asked.

"Yeah we're fine," Alec smiled patting him on the back.

"Why am I here?" Joshua asked, his confusion once again surfacing.

Max looked at Lydecker, silently asking for permission to explain it to him herself. Lydecker nodded.

"Joshua, Manticore is letting us all go. You, me, Alec and Ginger."

His eyes widened in hope, "Really?"

Max nodded, smiling grimly.

"Little fella not happy?"

"The thing is Joshua, there's nobody like you out there. People out there look like us; they're not ready to see something as special as you yet. They're afraid of things they don't understand."

Joshua's face fell, "I can't go?"

"No, Josh, that's not what I'm saying. Of course you can, but I just want you to understand that you'd only be trading one basement for another. Is that the kind of life you're willing to live?"

Joshua stayed impossibly still and Max felt unbearably guilty. She desperately wanted to leave Manticore, leave it all behind, but not if it meant leaving the rest of them behind. She could also feel Ginger's guilt, it was clear as daylight; she thought that she was stopping them from leaving, but Max understood. Joshua couldn't live a normal life out there, and it wasn't either one of their faults. And if Joshua decided to stay, then they would to, but Max could only hope he didn't feel pressured to leave so that they all could.

Alec spoke up, "Josh, this is your choice entirely, and we really don't mind what you choose. The important thing is we stick together."

Max looked up and gave Alec a small smile. It was amazing how he had changed over the year, yet managed to stay the same old, cocky, self sure, smart alec, they all knew and loved.

Joshua's eyes scanned the room, carefully watching every single person in the room, before his eyes finally settled on Max's patiently waiting face.

"Ok," he said simply.

"Ok, what?" Max asked.

"I'll go with you."

"You sure you understand everything we told you? It's not going to be easy," Ginger said.

Joshua nodded, "I want to go."

There was a brief silence of acknowledgement and final realisation. They were finally being let free. But Max didn't feel all that free. Though she would now have friends to carry the burden with, her life would continue to be lived through lies. In that sense, being back at Manticore had been a blessing; she was able to be herself. Whatever it had done for however, it was still a sore reminder of what she had been moulded into and she knew she wanted nothing more than to escape from it. If living on the outside was the first step towards that, Max was ready to grab it with both hands. Acceptance of who they really were would only come later; if it ever did at all. And so she smiled, "Ok then, let's do it."

"So remind me, what are we still doing here?" Alec asked, his head cocked ever so slightly to the side, and staring down at Max, who was standing beside him.

"Joshua said he had one last thing to do."

"Oh," Alec mouthed as if that answered it all.

They were still within the grounds of Manticore, well more precisely standing in the middle of a small clearing in the dense forest that surrounded the facility. Ginger and Joshua had left them there and told them to wait. That in itself probably wasn't the wisest thing they could have done; Alec was probably the most impatient person she had ever met, barring herself.

"I bet they've just left us here," he said.

"They wouldn't do that."

"And how can you be so sure?"

"I just can, you idiot," Max snapped hitting him on the arm.

"Oi, no need to get nasty. And here I was thinking you'd ease up on me since you're madly and deeply in love with me."

"You really are an idiot, you know that?" Max said staring up at him.

"I know, an idiot who's madly and deeply in love with you."

That did it. One look at his adorable, yet completely serious face, all the tension from Max's body left her. All her worries about the uncertainty of all their futures evaporated into the cold air, and all that was left was a definite tranquility and surety; whatever life had in store, they would face it together.

"Did you hear that?" Alec said suddenly, ruining the moment.

Max sighed inwardly, she shouldn't have expected anything less from him, "What?"

"Max! Alec!"


Spinning around on the spot, Max searched for the owner of the voices. All they could see were trees and more trees and the Manticore building not too far in the distance.

"Over here!"

"Look," Alec said pointing over the top of the trees.

There on the roof of the Manticore building was the unmistakeable shapes of Ginger and Joshua.

"What the hell are they doing up there?"

Max's eyes focussed in on them. Joshua was carrying what looked to be a large plain brown paper bag. Stepping up to the edge of the roof, and with Ginger standing right beside him, he threw the contents of the bag up into the air.

What Max saw, brought a serene smile onto her lips, echoed by the turn of Alec's lips. Reaching out she searched for Alec's warmth, and she didn't have to look that far; he too had reached out for her hand. With their fingers intertwined and their hearts bound together, they joined Ginger, Joshua, and even Renfro and Lydecker, and the hundreds of Manticore soldiers staring out the windows, in appreciating the beautiful simplicity of the moment.

For a single moment in time; the sky had become a white spectacle of peace and hope.

Joshua's paper doves were finally flying home.


A/N 2: It took me long enough, but it has finally come to an end. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I never thought I'd ever get as many reviews as I did for this, but I really appreciated each and every review you sent my way, so thank you.

SmilinStar xxx