Disclaimer: I do not own, nor have I ever claimed to own Dark Angel, Max, Logan, Manticore, or anything else that belongs to 20th Century Fox or James Cameron. I'd like to, but I don't have those delusions of grandeur.
Content warning: Not a pretty story folks, I'm sure you know that if you've made it to chapter nine. Depending on the type of trama this chapter may be triggering for survivors.
Dedication: To all of the readers I've left waiting for so long, and to my best boo Kimmy.
Max and Logan talked late into the night until finally Max began to yawn. After desert Logan had brought her a mug of chamomile tea liberally dosed with honey. He'd placed it into her hands gently pressing them against the sides of the mug, knowing that she'd appreciate its warmth. She'd been constantly cold lately, no matter how many sweaters she wrapped herself up in, or how many blankets he'd given her.
Maybe I'll sleep tonight. Max thought hopefully. Since the memories had started coming back she'd seldom had a good nights sleep, and despite the fact that she was engineered not to need much rest the lack of it was beginning to wear her down. Logan walked her to her bedroom door, holding her hand in his very gently. As they reached their destination he squeezed her hand, and told her: "If you need anything, call me or come get me, all right?"
She paused wanting to say more, but not sure what. After opening her mouth to speak a few
times, only to have to close it when she found nothing to say she finally said:
"Good night Logan."
"Good night Max..sleep well."
Max walked through the door to the guest bedroom, and changed into her night clothes: a soft cotton camisole and loose pants that Logan had given her when she'd started staying the night with him. The soft fabric comforted her, and as she slid between the worn flannel sheets she sighed in contentment. The soft mattress beneath felt heavenly against her and she snuggled into as she allowed the accumulation of stress to drift away as she fell asleep.
Zack waited impatiently as he watched Logan tidy up the apartment and ready himself for bed. Now that he knew what was going on with Max, he wanted to get to her as quickly as possible. Finally he saw Logan close the door of to his bedroom, then he waited twenty minutes to make sure that he had the chance to fall asleep. He swung from the roof cutting the rope at just the right angle to land him on the balcony one floor below Logan's apartment. He climbed up and stealthily entered the apartment, moving quickly to Max's room.
She was sleeping soundly and he stopped for just a moment to watch her. She's beautiful. Of all his siblings, Max remained the one closest to his heart. In sleep she bore quite a resemblance to the little sister that he'd loved so dearly, and she had an air of innocence that stirred his protective instincts to the utmost. What ever he's done to you Max, he'll pay for. Then it'll be just you and me, the way it always should have been. He placed a hand over her mouth tightly to muffle any sounds of surprise, and shook her shoulder gently.
Max was floating somewhere warm. There was sunshine here, and she was safe. Then she felt something covering her mouth, and darkness started to drip from the sky. She was back in the bad place, and she couldn't find her way out. It was night, and she was running, trying to find somewhere to hide. Somewhere safe gotta find somewhere safe, or he'll get me. She curled up into a little ball in the corner thinking that if she made herself small enough that maybe he wouldn't see her. She shivered and closed her eyes tight, then felt strong hands lifting her from the ground. She couldn't fight him, he was too strong and she heard him say, "Close your eyes, and open your mouth Max. I've got a surprise for you."
She couldn't breathe, and there was something in her mouth. She tried to pull away, but hands gripped her shoulders painfully. It hurt, she hurt, but she couldn't stop it. She couldn't cry, because he'd punish her. Soldiers weren't supposed to cry. She couldn't scream, because she was effectively gagged, and no one could save her. No one could save her from this, because no one knew. No one knew that she'd been bad, no one knew that he had to punish her. He hadn't told anyone that she'd been a bad soldier, and that he'd had to punish her. Zack wouldn't know, he wouldn't be ashamed of her. She'd do better, then he wouldn't punish her again…
"Close your eyes, and open your mouth Max. I've got a surprise for you." She struggled to keep her mouth closed, this had happened before. She'd learned that none of his surprises were ever good. She squeezed her eyes closed tightly, and pressed her lips closed as hard as she could. She shook her head no, over and over again, but it didn't matter. Her lips were forced apart, and she couldn't breathe, and there was something warm and thick, then the salty taste. From blood from her lip or somewhere else she couldn't tell, and then she was choking again.
Zack looked over at her in shock. He certainly hadn't expected to be thrown on his ass tonight, certainly not by his little sister. The same little sister who was apparently still asleep, and shaking and whimpering, curled into a ball in the corner. This isn't good. What's happened to you Maxie? He moved to her side quickly, and moved to shake her again to wake her from what was obviously a horrendous nightmare. He tensed this time preparing himself so that he wouldn't be taken by surprise. Before he could wake her he heard Logan come into the room.
"Max!" He saw Zack in the floor with Max and for a bare instant relief flickered across his face. Then he processed the situation. "Don't touch her Zack, it only makes it worse."
Logan was silenced as Zack slammed him into the wall. "What did you do to her?"
"Like hell you didn't, she wasn't like this when I left. So what the fuck did you do to her." Max whimpered again, and started trembling harder. Zack growled deep in his throat, and Logan had a good look at the instrument of his death. He was slammed against the wall again, and winced both at the feeling of his back slamming into the wall and the loud shattering of the lamp that had fallen from the table Zack had jarred. "I swear that I'll kill you if you're responsible for this."
Max blinked rapidly. She'd been lost in her nightmare, trapped in her memories, and then she heard a loud shattering of glass and woke up curled up in a ball in the floor. What the hell happened? She looked around for a clue, and saw first the broken lamp then Zack pinning Logan against the wall with the murderous intent in his eyes. "Zack! Stop!"
She leapt to her feet and caught Zack's arms pulling at it rather ineffectually. "He hurt you Maxie…I don't care why. I don't care how. He hurt you. And he damn well will pay for it." Max tugged at him harder briefly noting the pain that flashed in Logan's eyes at the accusation.
"No Zack…he didn't. He didn't hurt me."
"Then what the hell was that?" He gestured with his head towards the corner. "You were terrified Max. That doesn't happen without a reason. And since I know for a fact that you weren't having this problem last time I was here, miracle boy here has to have done something in the meantime to cause it." He looked down at her tenderly. "You don't have to lie for him Max. Whatever it is, I'll help you fix it. I promise."
"Zack…I'm not lying for him. He didn't hurt me. I'll explain everything, but let him down please?" He wavered indecisively for a moment. "Please Zack…"
He'd never been able to say no to her when she'd used that voice. It was softer than normal, had a slightly pleading quality to it, and had always turned him inside out. Reluctantly he let Logan down, but pinned him with an icy glare. "This isn't over yet." He turned to Max, reached to wipe away her tears, but froze as he saw the same flinch that he'd seen with Logan earlier. "Maxie what's wrong? What happened?"
"Zack could you give us a minute?" Zack glared at Logan for that suggestion, but Max quickly nodded.
"It's ok Zack, I promise I'll explain, but I need a minute to pull myself together ok?"
He looked at her with those beautiful eyes that he loved so much filled with tears, and he decided to humor her, anything to make her stop crying. He hated it when any of his sisters cried, but with Max it was beyond any torture Manticore could have devised. "Alright, but I'll be right outside." He glared at Logan. "And if you even look at her the wrong way, you're going to wish I had killed you a few minutes ago." Logan nodded his agreement, and Zack left the room mildly mollified.
Max closed the door behind Zack, and then collapsed sobbing quietly into Logan's waiting arms. "God Logan, how do I tell him this? I never wanted him to know."
"Baby it's ok…he loves you. He is not going to blame you for this, because it's not your fault."
"That's just it Logan, he's not going to blame me. He's going to blame himself, for not being able to stop it." She sniffled and then laughed bitterly. "You know that's one of the threats the bastard used to keep me from telling anybody. He told me that I'd been a bad soldier, and that Zack and the others would be ashamed of me if they knew. He said if I did what he wanted he wouldn't tell him."
"Max…" He rubbed her back slowly in soft circles.
"Logan, please don't tell me it's going to be ok. Because right now I'm about as far from ok as I can get."
"Alright I won't tell you, but what can I do?"
"Could you go check on Zack for me, he should be ok now. I'll keep an ear out, but I really need to be alone for a few minutes."
"All right sweetheart, call me if you need anything ok?"
She nodded. "Ok."
Logan exited the room with his hands up in the classic 'it's not my fault don't kill the messenger' position. "Alright miracle boy, what the hell did you do to Max?" Zack growled, and Logan just managed not to gulp nervously at the feral look in Zack's eyes.
"I didn't do anything to her. I would never do, even think of doing anything that would hurt her like that." He gestured with his hand towards the bedroom. "Believe me or don't, but I love her. I would never, will never hurt her like that. And if I do, you won't have to come looking for me, I'll find you."
Logan met his searching gaze, and finally Zack nodded reluctantly. He hated to admit it, Logan was telling the truth. He hadn't done this to Max, which would have made things so much easier. He could have killed Logan, taken Max on the run with him, and everything would have fine. But now…now wasn't the time for wishful thinking. Now he had a sister who was about six feet from the edge.
Satisfied that Zack was not an eminent danger, Logan brushed past him. He quickly found a bottle of strong whisky and a shot glass. He plunked them down on the coffee table in front of the couch, where Zack had reluctantly settled. "You might want to fortify yourself. What's she's got to tell you, it's not pretty."
"It'll take a little more than what's in that bottle to get him anywhere close to fortified Logan, but it's a nice gesture."
Zack's eyebrow rose in disapproval. "And you would know this how?"
"What? You think that I've never tried to get my drink on?"
"I was hoping. Now what's going on? What is it that you need to tell me?" His eyes met hers, and softened. "What happened to you Maxie?" She sank slowly onto the couch next to him, and curled her legs up underneath her. That in itself was a bad sign, she and Jondy both did that when they were afraid. She looked so nervous, and so closely resembled the little girl who'd crept into his bed to listen to Ben's stories in the still of the night.
"It happened a long time ago…I made myself forget, just like they taught us. Because if I didn't remember, it wouldn't hurt. But now I remember again, and it hurts." Her voice was so soft, so fragile. She sounded broken, she wasn't supposed to sound broken. She hated it, she hated being weak. "It hurts and I hate it, because I'm supposed to be stronger than this!"
Zack moved to pull her close, wanting to comfort her, but pulled back as if burned when she frowned and flinched. "What hurts Maxie? Tell me what's wrong, you've got to tell me so I can help you fix it." He looked at her then, his eyes so filled with love, and she just couldn't bare it. She closed her eyes tightly, and tried not to cry. "Zack…no one can fix this. No one, not even you."
"You don't know that until you let me try."
"Remember how you always used to stand between me and Lydecker during observation missions?" He nodded, his confusion written on his face. "Why did you do that?"
"I don't know. I just never liked the way he looked at you, it was always different. He never looked at you the same as he did the rest of us, and I wanted to keep you safe."
"I guess part of you knew even then."
"Knew what Maxie?"
"You were right Zack, he always did look at me differently than the rest of you. Told me that it'd always be our little secret, and that no one ever had to know. That as long as I was a good girl, he wouldn't tell you that I'd been a bad solider, and you'd still be proud of me. You and the others would still love me, all I had to do was keep quiet."
At this point she was crying again, silent trails of sorrow streaming down her face. He reached to touch her slowly, carefully this time, and she didn't flinch away. She let him brush away the tears, but wouldn't look at him. "I can't…I can't…I can't…" She pulled away from him roughly, and pulled her knees up to her chin, and wrapped her arms around them tightly. Then she shook, trembled like she had earlier in the corner. Trembled with her face pressed against her knees and shielded from view by the long strands of her hair.
She continued so softly that only Zack could hear, and even that was through sheer panicked effort. "Can't tell you, said it would always be our little secret, but why do I have to remember…why don't I get to forget?"
"Maxie…listen to me. What ever it is, you can tell me. Nothing, nothing will ever make me stop loving you Maxie. Nothing. Now tell me what happened?"
"I can't…I can't…" She kept repeating the two words and started rocking back and forth on the couch. "I can't…I can't…I can't tell…"
"You don't have to tell me Max…I know."
She looked at him with the stunned eyes of a wounded doe, and asked. "You know?"
"I didn't…not really, not before this. But I suspected. It's part of why we escaped. I knew something bad was going on, I just didn't figure out what until afterwards." She flinched away and leapt from the couch as if stung when he tried to lay a comforting hand on her shoulder. "It's ok Max…It'll be ok."
Words that neither man in the room could understand flew from her mouth punctuated by sobs, and she sank to the floor, curling once more into a ball and hiding her face. Logan met Zack's eyes, and when neither of them could comfort her with words both sank to the floor with her, and did the hardest thing that she could have asked of them. They held her, sandwiched safely in between them, and let her cry.
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