Disclaimer: Dark Angel and its characters do not belong to me, but the plot is mine. This fan-fiction had been written purely for entertainment purposes. No infringement was intended and no profit had been made out of this.
A/N: Thank you for reading and reviewing the previous chapter. At long last, here's the final chapter of this story – FINALLY! I apologise for making you all wait so long. While I'm here, I'm going to take the opportunity to pimp my other works – So if any of you are fans of Inuyasha (Sesshoumaru/Kagome) or Naruto (Itachi/Sakura), feel free to check out my profile (grins).
Anyway, here is the final instalment and I hope you'll enjoy it.
Echoes of the Past – Chapter 10
Droplets of condensation graced the greenery overhead and dotted the long grass at his feet. The morning air was cold almost to the point of being frigid but still, the birds in the trees sang happily. The biting frost permeated his clothes, but he barely felt it. His eyes were fixed to the stones in front of him. Names had been carved onto the face of the stone as a tribute to those who had died during their missions.
Alec ran his hand over one of the stones. Manticore had made them to emulate headstones but he knew that there was nothing buried underneath. When any of them died, whenever possible, their organs were stored as a backup for future transplants. Manticore would not risk burying their supersoldiers in the ground just like that. It was far too risky. So they cauterised the bodies.
A flash of smile, the gleam of determination in her brown eyes, the swish of her dark hair when she turned around; all these images ran through his mind, making him smile. They had shared so much together and yet there was a limit to it.
It had taken a long time and a heart-stopping situation but he finally figured it out.
He touched the stone again and sighed.
It was time he let go of her. It was time he moved on and stop comparing the two of them.
"Goodbye, Sam," he whispered.
Eyes not leaving the stones, he backed away slowly only to halt at the faint sound of footsteps behind him. Glancing over his shoulders, Alec saw Ben walking towards him.
Three weeks of medication, therapy and rest had done Ben a whole lot of good. Although still somewhat thin, Ben was gradually nearing him in appearance. A smirk crossed Alec's lips. He could not wait to get his twin on the sparring mat to see just which one of them would emerge victorious. That was one way to wipe off the dark expression his twin always wore ever since he returned to Manticore. It did not take a genius to figure out that Ben had lost something in those years he had survived under torture. Still, Ben's gloominess rubbed him up the wrong way.
The other transgenic stopped before him. "Deck wants to see you in his office," Ben said, his features displaying its customary blandness.
"Yeah, I'll be right there."
Inclining his head at the headstone, Ben remarked, "They told me about her."
He must have a word with them about gossiping. Just because Ben was his twin, it did not mean that he wanted the guy to know everything.
Raising his brow, Alec retorted, "Yeah, so?"
"Something had gone on between you two, huh?"
Keeping his voice level, Alec replied, "It's none of your business."
The expression in Ben's eyes hardened. "Don't hurt Max. Or I'll make it my business."
Alec instantly tensed. "What's that? A warning?" he asked icily. It irritated him that Ben had the nerve to warn him off. Especially considering his involvement with Max in the past.
Ben stared at him stonily. "Take it anyway you like. But Max is the only one I have left and I'm not going to sit back and watch you hurt her."
"The thing between me and Max is exactly that. Between me and Max. It has nothing to do with you. So you can back off," Alec hissed.
"Oh, give it a break, the two of you!"
Alec spun around to find Max standing some distance away, her arms crossed over her chest as she frowned disapprovingly at them. She really should not be walking around but he knew that short of physically restraining her, there was nothing he could do. After all, Max's stubbornness was legendary, he thought dryly. He scanned her form, taking note of the white strips of reinforced fabric around her arms and neck.
Pointedly ignoring Ben, Alec fixed his full attention on her. "Hey, Max," he greeted, a grin making its way to his lips.
Glancing pointedly from one to another, Max remarked wryly, "Please tell me you're not barking at each other again."
Ben gave her a baleful look.
Smirking, Alec said, "Well, he's the one barking." Throwing one arm around her shoulders, he murmured into her ears, "I have no reason to bark, since someone has already picked me. I think the other one is jealous."
She shoved him away from her.
Taking a step back, he regarded her silently as she began to talk to Ben. Not for the first time, he was reminded of just how close he was to losing her permanently. Unbidden, the flashes of that day came to his mind.
"Max, NO!" he yelled helplessly as she plunged down the cliff.
Far below, the waves beneath crashed over her, blocking the small body from his view. She could not possibly be conscious after that fall. No, he had to get to her before she drowned and there was no time for him to lower himself down on the rope.
An idea occurred to him. His eyes scanned the terrain below, noting the locations of the rocks and the areas of deep sea water. A fraction of a second later, he found the perfect spot. He tightened his grip on the rope and kicked away from the cliff.
He swung out once, twice and when he knew that he was over the right spot, he let go. Spinning in midair, he manoeuvred his body into a dive position. The wind sped past him, faster and faster until the waves were right before his eyes.
He splashed into the water arms first. Gritting his teeth against the freezing cold, he opened his eyes and began to swim. The salty water stung his eyes each time the waves splashed over him, but that was the last thing he was concerned about.
Max. She was there a second ago, but where was she now? He had to find her.
Holding his breath, he dove fully into the water. A muffled rumble reached him just a moment before he was pounded by a particularly forceful wave. At the back of his mind, it registered that part of the island was probably sinking into the ocean. They must have detonated too many explosives. Spotting a piece of falling rubble heading straight for him, Alec kicked away swiftly. He was beginning to get a little disoriented, but he could not afford to surface to check his bearings. He could not risk leaving Max in the water longer than necessary.
As he swam deeper, his eyes began to adapt to the dimness of his surrounding. Pieces of broken furniture floated past him, and he cursed inwardly at the additional obstruction.
Then he saw a mass of dark hair.
Heart thudding erratically, he sped towards her. When he reached her, he immediately pulled her into his arms. It was then that he noted with a sinking feeling that she was not moving at all. Her eyes were closed and her entire body was floating limply in the water. And there was no sign of air bubbles from her nose or her lips.
She was not breathing.
No he would not panic!
Lungs bursting with the need for air, Alec held on tight and kicked up, all the while hoping fervently that Max was still alive. It seemed like forever before he finally reached the surface. He gasped greedily for air the moment his head broke through the water.
"Max!" he choked out, shaking her desperately.
She was not responding. He needed to get her to dry land. Forcibly suppressing his growing fear that Max might not make it, he scanned the remains of the island until he detected what looked like a stable piece of ground. Ignoring the fact that he was already pushed to his limits, Alec swiftly made his way towards it, carefully keeping Max's head above water.
When he reached, he immediately lowered her to the sandy ground. His hands went on her chest and he began to pump as he counted in his head. Forcing himself to focus, and not panic, he lowered his head and began resuscitating her.
Then she moved.
He froze. "Max?" he whispered anxiously.
Then Max began to cough, spilling out spurts of seawater. Her body spasming, she continued to cough as he helped her up, wrapping an arm around her shoulders to keep her upright. A strangled sound of relief escaped him as he pulled her tighter against him. She was alive.
She was ALIVE!
"A-Alec…" she choked out breathlessly.
"Hey…hey… Don't try to talk. You almost drowned back there," he murmured gently.
Her eyes widened as she glanced sharply at him. She seemed to be growing more alert. Then he frowned in concern as another coughing fit overcame her.
What did I tell you? Just rest for a while, alright?"
She clutched at his arm. "H-How…"
"You didn't think I'll just let you drown after what you just said to me, right?"
She blinked at him for a moment, and then when comprehension dawned, her cheeks reddened. "Oh… that."
He grinned. "Yeah, that."
A scowl made its way to her features. "Just forget I said that, alright?" she muttered.
He snorted. Trust Max to make light of what she had declared to him. Then he leaned down to nuzzle her neck. "You wish. It's not everyday that some violent chick tells me she loves me, you know?"
Her lips twitched. "Well, don't get too used to it."
There was a faraway look in Alec's eyes. Guessing that he was thinking about something weird from the various expressions crossing his features, she snapped her fingers in front of his face.
"Earth to Alec!" she called out.
His expression instantly cleared. Smirking, he slung arm around her shoulders and tightened it. "Miss me already?" he drawled.
Rolling her eyes, Max retorted, "Yeah, right."
"Alec, Deck is waiting," Ben interjected flatly.
Alec shrugged as he released her. "Well, I've got to go see what Deck wants from me."
Max gave him a warning look as he leaned down to kiss her, knowing that he was deliberately doing it in front of Ben. Honestly, the two of them had better get along soon before she took matters in her hands and bashed their heads together.
Silently, she watched as he walked away from them.
Alec had changed towards her ever since they got back from their last mission. She guessed it must have something to do with the fact that she had almost died. Or maybe it was due to her sudden declaration. A small smile crossed her lips. It figured that something like that had to happen before they sorted things out between them. But at least now she knew that he felt the same towards her.
A sudden shuffling sound reminded her of Ben's presence. Turning around to face him, she asked curiously, "So, why are you out here? You're normally at your physical at this time."
"The medics cleared me yesterday. I came across Deck and he wanted me to pass a message to Alec to see him in the office."
She quirked a questioning brow.
Shaking his head, Ben added, "I don't know what it's all about."
Nudging towards their quarters, Max grabbed his arm. "Let's get back in. It's cold out here."
He nodded. Walking together side by side in companionable silence, they made their way across the grounds towards the three-storey block they shared with Unit 5. Her cell was the only place they could talk in private. Elsewhere, they would be subjected to curious stares and nosy questions.
As she pushed open the door to her cell, Max recalled the last time Alec had found them in there. His sarcastic remarks had been enough to tell her that he was jealous of Ben being in there. It was quite sweet really, considering his usual cocksure attitude.
Her musings were interrupted by Ben. "What's on your mind?" he asked as he sat on her bunk.
She grinned as she joined him, leaning against the wall. "Just remembering what Alec looked like the last time he found you in here."
"You really like him?" Ben asked gruffly.
She lowered her eyes. "Yeah, I guess," she muttered quietly.
Her eyes shot up. "What do you mean why? I just do."
Ben sighed. "Promise me you'll let me kick his ass if he makes you cry."
"I don't cry," she denied flatly.
Ben quirked a brow. "I've seen you cry before," he pointed out.
She gave him an incredulous look. "Oh, come on, Ben. I was a kid back then."
"Are you saying that you haven't cried since then?"
She glared at him mutely.
"I rest my case," Ben finally said.
Max groaned helplessly. "This big brother act is getting old."
"It's not an act. Anyway, better a big brother than a jealous rival, right?"
A slow grin made its way to her face. "Yeah, I guess so," she said softly. "You know, Alec isn't that bad."
He raised a disbelieving brow.
Gesturing at nothing in particular, she continued, "Sure we have our problems, but who doesn't?"
Linking his hands behind his head, Ben leaned against the wall. "Yeah."
As her gaze fell on his thoughtful expression, she could not help but think of how things had been without his presence. She had missed him, and she was glad that he was there, that they had found him alive during that mission. He had suffered so much that it was a miracle that he managed to survive at all. How long more would he have lasted if they had not turned up when they did?
Guilt washed over her suddenly. Swallowing past the lump in her throat, she murmured, "You know, we should have looked harder."
Ben glanced sharply at her. "What are you talking about, Max?"
She shrugged. "You know. When you were gone, we should have looked harder for you."
A heavy silence descended upon them. Then Ben shook his head, sighing as he did so. "It's a big world, Max. You wouldn't have found me if I didn't let slip about Manticore."
"I'm glad you did."
A bitter smile crossed his face. His voice was filled with self-recrimination when he bit out, "But I broke. They tortured me and I broke. I-"
"Shut up, Ben!" she burst out, horrified that Ben was actually beating himself up over something stupid like that. Taking a deep breath, she continued in a calmer voice. "Look. You kept it together for more than eighteen months. And that's a lot to ask from someone, even a transgenic."
He stared at her wordlessly.
Then slowly, his lips tilted into a smirk. "Hey, what do you take me for? I'm the best out there," he declared cockily.
She could only roll her eyes in exasperation.
Feeling slightly irritated, Alec left the building which housed the mess hall and made his way down the covered walkway. Where was she? He had waited until everyone had left the mess hall, but there was no sign of Max.
Someone was seated on one of the benches along the walkway, he noted.
It was Biggs.
Alec quickened his steps until he came up to the dark-haired transgenic. "Hey Biggs, have you seen Max?"
Biggs looked up from the knife he was sharpening. "Huh? Max?" He frowned thoughtfully. "Not since breakfast this morning."
"She didn't show up for lunch," Alec muttered as he sat down on the bench beside Biggs.
A gleam entered the dark-haired transgenic's eyes. "Maybe she's with Ben."
Alec shot an irritated look at him. His unit mates and every other person in Manticore seemed to find amusement in pissing him off about Ben and Max. He wondered who was the one who had spilled the beams about their previous relationship in the first place. These things were meant to be private, damn it.
"What?" Alec bit out tersely.
Biggs sobered at his tone. "Just kidding, alright?"
Alec waved a dismissive hand around. "Nah, it's alright. I guess I'll just walk around until I find her."
Just then, Laney and Ren walked up to them. Taking in their sweaty state, Alec surmised that they must have been training.
Raising a brow, Ren remarked, "You're looking for Max? I think I heard her voice back in the cells before I left for the training grounds. She must be talking to Ben or something."
Alec shot to his feet instantly. Without a single word to his unit mates, he strode past them and jogged down the corridor. The building housing their sleeping quarters was just a short walk away, but he was feeling impatient suddenly.
Ben was in her cell again? What was he doing in there? Why couldn't they just talk outsidelike any normal friends?
Glowering, he quickened his steps further until he reached the building. Without pause, he ran up the steps. He was probably acting ridiculous, but he could not help it. There was nothing going on between them anyway, right? He should not be worried at all, right?
Then why was he running?
Gritting his teeth, he forcibly slowed his steps as he neared her cell. Deep breaths, Alec. If Max saw him like this and guessed what he was thinking, she would definitely sink a right hook in his face. His actions made it seem like he did not trust her. And that was not the impression he wanted to give her. They had gone through too much for him to mess it up just because he was feeling possessive.
Possessive? Where did that come from? Smacking his head with his palm, Alec released a heartfelt groan. Fine, maybe he was a little possessive. Hell, he might as well go all the way and admit that he was whipped.
The door to her cell was slightly ajar.
"Max?" he called out, then extended his hand to push the door open.
His eyes flicked between the two figures in the cell. Ben was sitting on her bunk with her, but there was a healthy amount of space between them, much to his relief. Giving himself an inward shake, he mentally reiterated once again that Max had chosen him, not Ben.
"Hey," she greeted softly.
Keeping his expression casual, he leaned against the doorframe. "You didn't show up for lunch."
Before he could answer, Ben shot to his feet. "I've got something to do," he announced gruffly.
As Ben slid past him, their eyes met. For a moment, they simply stared at each other. Then something unspoken passed between them. With a slight nod, Ben broke their gaze and resumed his journey into the corridor.
He turned to Max to find her wearing a curious expression.
"Uh… What was that all about?"
Alec shrugged as he stepped fully into the room. "Beats me."
But he knew. In that one moment of contact, Ben had given his okay for them to be together. Alec had thought that he could not care less what his twin thought until a while ago. But judging by the relief he had felt, he was obviously wrong. He did not really need Ben's approval, but it was a nice thing to have.
Keeping his tone light, he remarked, "So… you were catching up, huh?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Among other things."
"Care to share?" he asked, throwing an arm around her shoulders.
"Hmm… He said he'll beat you up if you make me cry," she said, poking him in the ribs.
Twisting away from her without losing his hold around her shoulders, he adopted a wounded look. "I'm hurt that you'd even think that I'll make you cry."
She grinned. "Ben's just looking out for me, you know."
"Yeah, I know." He sobered before he added rather uncomfortably, "Look, I'm not big on these sappy emotional stuff…"
She raised an astonished brow.
"But since you already said it, I thought you might want to know that… I… uh…" he faltered uncertainly.
A slow grin spread across her face. "Spit it out, Alec."
He scowled at her. "You're not making this easy on me, are you?"
Chuckling, she shook her head.
He rolled his eyes, and then reached up to cup her cheeks in his hands. "I love you, alright? Just thought I should say it," he muttered gruffly.
Her expression softened instantly. Sliding her arms around him, she rested her face on his chest.
"Yeah, I know."
Enveloped by her warmth, Alec closed his eyes and buried his nose in her hair. He could never have imagined that they would end up like this, considering the two tragedies that had brought them together. But he was glad of it. He was glad that they had met. Because at that very moment, he realised that he had never felt so content, so at peace, in his entire life.
And it was all because of Max.
A/N: That's it! The story is all done and it marks the end of my Dark Angel fanfiction days. Please review if you could – It'll be greatly appreciated, thanks!