Disclaimer: I thought I owned Dark Angel, but it ended up being a dream. So Dark Angel (including its original plot and characters) belongs to James Cameron and co.
A/N: Well here we go. This is the last chapter, so I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and review this story. It's been a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy the conclusion. :)
'Cause I know if I'm falling, you won't let me hit the ground
If the boat is sinking, I know you won't let me drown
If the sun shuts down and decided not to shine no more (No more)
I would still have you, you, you, you, you, you, you
If we see the last day and they say we gotta go to war (To War)
I'll be fighting with you, you, you, you, you
Because it's us against the world
Us Against the World, Christina Milian
He was kneeling over her, staring blankly at her bloodied body without being able to move. He heard the loud thumping of his heart in contrast with the complete silence of her own, and wanted the dreadful noise to stop. He didn't want to hear it, didn't want to hear that strong marching drum that meant that he had been the one to survive instead of her. Tear tracks made their way down the side of his face, but he made no sound. He felt numb and hollow, like an emptied vessel.
His ears were ringing, but he still heard a gun being cocked at him and dimly remembered that the X7 was still in the forest. Still, he made no move to get out of the way, just continued to sit there in shock and caress the side of her face.
His head turned a fraction to the right, and saw Zack leaping onto the X7, pummeling her into the ground. Zack's eyes widened as he caught sight of Max's motionless body, and then his gaze flicked to Alec.
"What the hell are you doing? Help her!"
He heard the words, but still, he couldn't move. The sound of the gunshot repeated itself over and over again in his mind, just as the explosion that had taken Rachel's life had haunted his dreams for months afterwards.
"Are you just going to let her die?" Zack yelled furiously, struggling to keep the X7 down. "You don't care about her! You never did!"
A low growl made its way out of his mouth and all he saw was red as he started stalking towards the other transgenic. However, he stopped short, realizing the true purpose of Zack's words had only been to raise him out of his stupor.
He blurred back to Max's side, and this time he let the soldier in him take control. He assessed her injuries, tearing a piece of his shirt and pressing it forcefully against the bullet wound to staunch the blood flow. Then he lowered his lips to her cold ones, and breathed out once, and then again. It struck him as ironic that the first time he was really able to kiss her, it was to prevent her from dying. His hands then moved to her chest and started compressions. He had never been a praying man, but in that moment Alec prayed with all he had that she would start breathing again.
She will, he thought determinedly. He wasn't about to let her die. He wasn't going to fail this time.
He finished the compressions and placed his cheek against her mouth, giving another two breaths when he felt that she still wasn't breathing. A moment later, Zack appeared on her other side.
"I'll do the compressions. You do the breaths."
"I've got it," Alec answered, placing his hands over her chest again. "You keep watch for any more X7s."
He continued the CPR, but with each cycle he became increasingly desperate. Normal humans could last for 4-6 minutes without oxygen before irreversible brain damage would occur. X5s were tougher than that and could last several minutes longer, but they were already nearing the four minute mark.
"Come on Maxie," he whispered. "Breathe for me. You gonna let yourself be killed by yourself?"
They were nearing five minutes now, and he was fighting not to break down. His muscles rippled as he pushed down on her chest forcefully, but with every movement, more and more blood was dripping out from her wound. He choked back a sob and grit his teeth as he continued, trusting that Zack would cover them if anyone else appeared.
There. There was the tiniest flutter under his fingertips. He didn't stop though. He breathed into her mouth, unable to stop a single tear from escaping and landing on her cheek. He breathed again, thinking that he'd gladly give her all the oxygen he had – die for her – if only she would wake up.
The pulse grew a little bit stronger so that he could finally hear it, though it was still much too weak to sustain her for long.
"Zack!" he called. "I've got a pulse, but I don't know what we can do for her out here."
"We need to get her to Krit. He had the most medic experience. He can do a better job than we can."
Alec shook his head. "We can't move her."
"Then what? We can't take her back to Manticore. You know Max would rather die than go back, and besides – if she gets taken back there, she's as good as dead anyway."
Alec hung his head, conceding his point. "Fine. Let's go."
The two of them gently picked up her body and moved as quickly as they dared while they listened for that soft flutter, that small sign that she was still alive.
She'd live. He would make sure of that.
"Alec? Zack?" Syl gasped in surprise when she saw who they carried in their arms. "Maxie? Is she –"
"She's still alive," Zack said grimly. "Barely." He saw that everyone was already in the van, most of them injured in one way or another. "We need Krit."
Krit stepped over various limbs in the cramped van to get to where they were and stopped short at the sight of Max. He looked to the first aid kit he had in his hand.
"Shit. We're going to need more than this."
"We have more at the front," Syl said, holding one hand out to Logan, who handed her some antiseptic and bandages. The other hand remained firmly wrapped around the right side of her torso.
"You need to wrap up that wound soldier," Lydecker said while keeping his eyes on the road as he drove. She glared at him.
"If you bark orders at anyone again, I'm going to kill you."
She almost expected him to point out that he was the one driving, but he quieted after that.
"Max?" Logan called out questioningly. He swallowed with difficulty. "Will she… um…"
"Let Krit work, Logan," Tinga said, laying a hand on his shoulder. "He's the best medic out of all of us." She shifted slightly, adjusting Jondy's position on her lap. The redhead's head kept lolling to the side, and her left arm was displayed in an unnatural angle.
"Are you going to reset that?" Logan asked her.
Tinga chuckled. "Not while she's unconscious. She might attack me without thinking. She's fine, just a mild concussion and a broken arm, I think."
"Yeah, well those bastards broke my other leg," Ben grumbled. "I'm not going to be able to move anywhere."
"Just be glad I dragged you out of there before that creepy little kid broke more than your leg," Zane said. He seemed to be one of the few unharmed. "Besides," he said softly, "look at Max." His gaze travelled to the four transgenics grouped at the back.
"Is she going to be okay?" Alec brushed a few bloodied strands away from her forehead.
"I don't know," Krit answered honestly.
Alec's fist clenched. "What do you mean, you don't know?"
"Exactly that. She has substantial damage, but luckily the bullet barely missed a direct hit to her heart."
"I pushed her out of the way. It must've changed the angle slightly."
Krit grimaced. "The location of the bullet is tricky. It's millimeters from the aorta. I don't know if I can get it out without her bleeding out. We don't have the necessary tools here."
"I have a friend who's a doctor. He could probably get her a private room and the necessary surgery," Logan said quietly.
"No," Zack said. "We can't risk it. He'll have to run blood tests and stuff. He'll know she's not normal."
"He owes me a few favours. I can ask him to meet us halfway. There's a big medical center at Boise that he could use, and it won't take too long to get there." He glanced at Max. "Besides…" His eyes flicked to the three men. "Do you think she'll make it to Seattle?"
Zack closed his eyes, making a decision. "Fine. Make the call." He looked at Lydecker. "And you – that'll be your last stop. We'll leave you there, and you're never going to be in our lives again."
The man nodded, though his face was a little sad. "Understood."
Brin yanked Jace down as an explosion rocked the building. Plaster rained down on them as another explosion went off, this one a bit farther away.
"It would have been nice if they hadn't put so many charges," Brin muttered. "Are they trying to barbecue me?"
Brin grabbed Jace's hand and led her down the opposite hallway. Jace lagged behind, still uncertain, but Brin yanked her arm forcefully in order to get her to keep up.
Brin saw the lost look on Jace's face as well as the inability to decide which course of action to take.
Fine then. She would make it for her. She wasn't leaving this place without her.
"We're getting out of here. To hell with Manticore." She gripped Jace's hand. "That's us out there. That's our family. We don't belong here."
She tugged her along again, and then they were running towards one of the exits. During all the commotion that was going on, it wasn't likely that someone would stop them. Others would just assume they were running for cover or to get something done.
Shit. Brin stilled, yet her hand remained on Jace's arm.
"Ma'am?" She tried to make her voice sound as neutral as possible.
Renfro had her hands over her head to deflect any plaster that continued to rain down on them. "You must stop the fires at the western and main generators! Get down there!"
"Ma'am, with all due respect, there must already be soldiers working on that. If not, it shouldn't take long for the fires to die out themselves. I assume someone has lowered the oxygen levels in the air?"
"Get down there!" she yelled. She hesitated, and then said: "The fires won't die out fast enough. They could cause other explosions to go off."
"All of the explosions were synchronized to go off at the same time. Other explosions won't start unless –"
Realization dawned on both of them. Unless there are other charges set there.
Of course Renfro would have charges already in place, in the event that Manticore had been exposed. She could burn the place down, and all anyone would know was that a VA hospital had perished in a freak accident, along with all the "patients" inside. Plausible deniability.
"You were going to kill us," Jace said. "We're… we're nothing to you."
She must have already known that, but it was only hitting her now. Jace's jaw clenched and she surged forward in one fluid move before Brin could stop her, taking Renfro in her arms and letting her fall to the ground a second later.
"Then you're nothing to us either," she spoke to the woman's lifeless body.
All of a sudden the facility rocked again, and more explosions went off. Smoke clouded the air and more and more debris was littering the floor.
Brin took Jace's arm again, but Jace stopped her.
"The barracks! They're on fire!"
A loud pounding sound resonated in the halls as the transgenics trapped in their barracks started to slam themselves against the doors. Then they began yelling until all that could be heard was the crackling of the fire, the yelling and the pounding.
Brin pursed her lips. "We need to get to the Control room."
They ran down the hallways, trying to block out the anguished cries coming from the others, some of them children no more than 6 years old. Brin kicked the door open to an empty room, rage building inside of her as she realized that whoever worked here must have ran and saved himself while the rest of them fried.
She looked at all the numerous buttons, trying to figure out which ones to push, but she shook her head. There were too many.
"I'll do it. You take watch."
She and Jace traded places, with Jace frantically typing away to open the barracks and Brin keeping her gun at the ready. She raised it as a figure formed through the smoke, heading their way, but didn't fire.
"510," she acknowledged.
He had pulled his shirt off and held it against his nose and mouth in an effort to avoid inhaling the fumes. "What's going on? All the doors are locked off."
Brin thought for a moment. "We've been betrayed by command. 798 is attempting to reopen the doors."
He looked shocked at first, then stern. He coughed twice, and then tore off a part of the shirt to hand it to her. "I'll help. Let's get those doors open."
Between the three of them, they managed to open all of the cells within a matter of minutes. They tried to use the overhead speaker to transmit a message to all of the transgenics, but it was no use. The system was fried and it probably wouldn't have been heard anyway.
Then they were running. Brin couldn't wipe the look of glee off of her face as they cleared the exit and were now making their way towards the fence. This was it.
They were free.
It had been several hours since Max had come out of surgery, but all Dr. Carr had said was that they had removed the bullet, yet she had lost a lot of blood, and all they could do was wait. On the way to the hospital they had lost her twice, but somehow they had managed to bring her back both times.
Alec had never been one to believe in miracles, but somehow he had managed to suspend his disbelief long enough to pray for one to happen.
"She'll make it, right?" Zack asked. His voice was more subdued than usual, and he had long since put away the gun that he had pointed toward the doctor as a precautionary measure.
"It's touch and go at the moment," Dr. Carr answered. "She's in critical condition, but you guys managed to slow the bleeding before you got here, and like you said," he nodded at Krit, "the bullet didn't pierce the heart, which would have a required a heart transplant. Those are good things. All we can really do is wait."
"Thanks Sam," Logan said, shaking the man's hand.
"Anything for Eyes Only," the doctor responded. "You let me know if he needs anything else."
Logan could feel the inquisitive glances from several of the transgenics, but none of them said a word.
"Can I go see her?" Alec asked. He expected someone – probably Zack – to cut him off and demand to go in first, but surprisingly even he stayed quiet.
Dr. Carr sighed. "I don't advise it, but as long as you're quiet I'll get the nurses to let you in. Just give me a moment."
Zack grabbed hold of the doctor's arm. "And all the tests you ran, all the results… where do those go?"
Carr nodded at Logan. "I've given him all the papers. Your secret's safe with me."
He left, and Zack turned to Logan, shoving his hands in his pockets and rolling his shoulders.
"Thanks," he said grudgingly. "For… all this."
"Don't mention it. Max is my friend too." Logan nodded toward the door to Max's room, where Dr. Carr was just walking away. "Alec, I think you can go now."
"You do realize he's in love with her, don't you big brother?" Jondy stepped up beside Zack, her left arm temporarily in a sling. Another couple of hours and she wouldn't need it anymore. "You're going to have to stop growling at him if he's going to be a part of our family."
Zack grumbled. "Whatever. But if the asshole hurts her, then –"
"Tone down the overprotective thing. You look and sound like a caveman."
Zack's lips quirked to the side. "That so, little sister?" He jokingly swiped at her but she blurred out of the way just in time.
She slung an arm around his shoulder, and nudged Zane playfully with her hip.
"Maxie's gonna be fine. She's got a lot of people who love her waiting for her."
Alec closed the door softly and then made his way over to a chair beside the bed, eyeing the surroundings with distaste. He hated hospitals, especially the smell of antiseptic floating through the air. It was just all so clinical, much like Manticore.
They didn't have to worry about Manticore anymore though. The DNA lab was destroyed. They'd shut down. He just hoped that their victory wouldn't be at the cost of Max's life.
It hurt to see her there hooked up to so many machines to keep her alive. Max was a strong, fiery woman who had never looked as fragile as she did now. The colour had leached out of her usually rosy lips and cheeks, leaving them pale. Her dark hair lay limp to the side of her face, and it was only the gentle rise and fall of her chest that reassured him that she was still breathing.
He took her hand, clasping it lightly in his own.
"Just your resident pain-in-the-ass, coming to bug you as usual. Don't think that just because you got shot you get a vacation from me annoying you." He chuckled a bit, but the sound was anything but humorous.
"I remember when I met you right after Rachel died. I think you nearly bit my head off in the first minute." He smiled. "But you had me from the get-go. Took me a long time to figure out why. My running theory was that I was just strangely attracted to abusive women who didn't like me."
He turned her hand over, running the pad of his thumb across it. "Then I found out who you were. One of the '09ers, someone from Manticore. You can imagine how weird it was when I figured out I didn't care. It didn't matter that you were a traitor – I still wanted to be around you. And then when you found out what I was, I wasn't alone anymore. I had a friend."
He lowered his lips to the skin on her palm. "You were my first friend, Maxie. All of us at Manticore were supposed to be perfect in every way: attractive, strong, and intelligent. But you taught me so much more than they did. You taught me how to be a human being; you showed me that it was okay to trust other people, even ordinaries, and that family came first. You showed me that it was okay to feel. And that's something that I'm grateful for. So I guess that's why I fell in love with you. You did your own thing: you're strong and loyal. I've always admired that about you."
He tangled his fingers in her hair, refusing to let any tears fall. There wouldn't be any reason for them – she would wake up, and everything would be fine. He knew that. Max was too strong to die.
"You always said that surviving wasn't the same as living. So that's why you need to fight Maxie, fight hard. Because if you die on me, I can survive. But I can't live without you."
He almost expected her to wake up, just like they usually did in the movies at a profession of love. But her eyes remained closed, and her breathing even.
"Come on Maxie. Come back so you can kick my ass for turning into such a sap."
She didn't move and this time he couldn't stop the tears that were threatening to overflow. Why couldn't something go right for once? Just this one time. Why couldn't she wake up?
He stood, wiping his face with his shirtsleeve. He should go. The others had every right to sit there with her as well, and he had already been in there for a long time.
He walked to the door when the heart monitor blipped irregularly for a second. He turned around, thinking that he had been imagining things when it made the noise again. His eyes flicked to Max, who was still. He focused on her, and finally noticed an almost imperceptible crinkling of her nose. His breath rushed out and he went back to her side.
"Max? Max, can you hear me?"
It took another minute, and then there was movement behind her eyelids. A few minutes more and her eyelids flickered, finally opening all the way.
"Hey," she croaked. She coughed. "I feel like I've been shot. Again."
"I know what you mean," he said, taking her hand again. "Shark DNA my ass. You were out for hours. What made you come back?"
She smiled at him. "Well, I was kinda enjoying the quiet, and then I realized I sort of missed your constant babbling. Weird, huh?"
"You heard my big long speech though, right?"
She shook her head, and then winced at the pain from that. "Nope. Didn't hear nothing."
His jaw dropped open. "Seriously? What about that whole theory that people in comas or whatever can hear what other people say?"
She frowned pitifully. "Was it incredibly deep?"
He rolled his eyes. "I'll write it down for you, later," he joked. A serious expression came over his face. "You could have died on me. And if you had, I would have brought you back to life and then killed you myself."
Alec cringed at his makeshift declaration of love, but it didn't matter. He knew she understood what he was trying to say. He bent over her, putting one hand down on the mattress and then kissed her, a real kiss this time that had been a long time coming. He parted her lips with his tongue and finally tasted her, his body burning with desire. He felt her suckle on his bottom lip and moaned at the sensation, adjusting his head so that he could kiss her deeper.
They were so occupied that they forgot that they were in a hospital.
With Max attached to a heart monitor.
Which was currently soaring off the charts.
Finally a nurse walked in to see what was going on with her monitor, and gasped in surprise at the scene.
"Out! OUT!" she yelled, swatting Alec. The elderly woman had a surprising amount of strength as she pushed him towards the door. "Young people today," she muttered.
"Alec!" Max called, right before he was thrown out the door. She grinned. "I can't live without you either, dumbass."
He grinned back. "So you did hear –"
"Dude, can you quit macking on my sister? I gotta piss and you guys are blocking the bathroom." Krit tapped his foot impatiently against the floor of Alec's apartment.
Alec took a second to breathe and turned his face sideways. "Use that enhanced bladder of yours and hold it."
It was several days after the raid. The hospital had insisted on Max staying at least another two days after her "miraculous recovery", and she had humored them, figuring that Manticore couldn't come after them anymore and she might as well reap the benefits.
Like the Jell-O. Max had developed an affinity for Jell-O. Especially the strawberry kind.
There was a knock on the door, and Jondy bounced over to open it, allowing Logan to roll in with several pizza boxes on his lap.
She licked her lips. "A man that comes bearing food. I think I love you." She bent down, grabbed the pizzas in one hand, and gave Logan a quick peck fully on the lips.
Alec almost laughed outright at the look of distress and helplessness on Zack's face. Logan just looked stunned, but somewhat pleased as well.
"Guys, move," Krit said again, rolling his eyes. "Or I could just piss right here. It's your floor, Alec."
Max smacked her brother upside the head and they moved reluctantly, choosing to plop themselves down on the couch, Max sitting on Alec's lap. Zane turned on the TV and flipped through the channels, searching for something to watch.
Alec's eyes caught something, and he motioned for Zane to go back. "There."
"We have just received breaking news. Several days ago, a VA hospital located in Wyoming burned down, at first leading the authorities to believe that everyone had tragically died in the fire. However over the past couple of days, there have been a growing number of sightings by locals of what they are calling 'mutants'. Let's go to Bob Callaway, the first person to report one of these sightings."
A man in his fifties appeared on screen, talking eagerly into the microphone. "Yeah. I woke up a coupla days ago because something was making a huge racket in my backyard. So I went around back, and found this – this lizard man, digging through my trash. Scariest thing I ever seen in my life."
The news returned to the newscaster. "There have been hundreds of other reported sightings in states close to Wyoming. Just yesterday, Liz Friar of Idaho said that what appeared to be a dog-man came running around the corner chasing a cat. At 11 o'clock this morning, Casey Rollins from Colorado claims that a panther lady tried to attack her and was only driven off when police shot at her. The big question is: who – or what – exactly are these people, if they can be called that, and what is their intention toward the general public? In other words: Are. They. Dangerous?"
"What the hell happened?" Ben murmured. "We didn't burn the place down. We didn't set nearly enough charges for that."
"Yeah, and we didn't set everyone free, either," Syl added. "I doubt Renfro would have."
Zane sighed. "There goes our freedom. We're exposed now. Sure, they only know about the transhumans, but it's probably only a matter of time until they find out that there are transgenics that look exactly like them."
"How could this have happened?" Zack asked.
"Doesn't matter. It did, and I guess we're just going to have to deal with it," Max said. "They're family."
"So what do we do?" Alec asked, wrapping his arms around Max. "It's us against the world now. Things are gonna get ugly."
"We'll do what we've been doing our whole lives," she answered. Everyone turned their heads towards her, waiting expectantly for an answer.
A/N: Well there you have it folks. I actually finished this story. Before anyone asks, no, for the time being, I do not have a sequel planned. While I'd love to continue the story, I don't want to delve right into a sequel immediately, just because that's often how I quickly lose interest in what I'm writing. BUT I do have some ideas for a sequel which is why I kept this story so open-ended, so we'll see how that pans out.
Thanks again to everyone who has read and reviewed this story. I really appreciate it. :)