Title: Children of a Broken World - A Long Way to Eden

Author: Ashantai

E-Mail: ashantai@hotmail.com

Archive: Please ask!

Pairings: None

Rating: R

Spoilers: None.

Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel, wish I did, don't sue me please.

Summary: Set a few years after the escape, where is Syl? First in a series of vignettes about the post-escape X5s...


"Do you like it there?" the woman asked; the child across from her pushed the greasy french fries around in her ketchup and didn't answer. "Sylvia?"

"It's fine," she mumbled, listening to a conversation about ten tables away in the busy McDonalds restaurant. A teenager was breaking up with his girlfriend; what a horrible place to do something like that.

"They seem very happy to have you with them." Syl wished she'd stop talking. It was Friday, she was tired, and she hated these meetings where her social worker pretended to care about her well-being as she ate disgusting fast food.

"Yes, Gail."

"They told me you get along pretty well with your brother. Jared, is it?"

"That's right," Syl said, and allowed a brief smile to cross her lips to appease the woman.

"Sylvia? Look at me." She looked. "What's wrong?" Syl looked away for a moment, started to speak, then bit her lip.


"I can't help you if you don't tell me what's the matter."

"No," she whispered in a voice only she could hear. "You can't help me." Gail sighed, and Syl was overjoyed when she took another sip of her Coke and then picked up the tray.

"Are you done?" she asked; the girl nodded. Gail threw out Syl's uneaten meal and turned to smile at her. Social workers are so dense, Syl thought. She was screaming for help; why couldn't the woman see it?

"Oh, here's your ride," Gail said, looking past Syl to the parking lot. Inwardly, the girl breathed a sigh of relief, not bothering to turn around. Then her caseworker frowned and she walked toward the door. Syl turned to see her talking to someone, a man; Gail was in the way so she couldn't see who he was. Then she waved her over, and Syl stood and walked obediently to where the two were standing. Her whole body chilled as she realized who the man was.

"Your uncle's going to drive you," she said; Syl's heart began pounding with fear and her hands started sweating. After a moment, her teeth were chattering in her head as she gazed up at him and he smiled down at her. Gail looked confused. "Are you cold?"

"Yes," she said softly. Gail handed Syl her coat and she put it on; inside the sleeves, her hands and arms were shaking. It was like one of her seizures, only worse because she was so damn afraid that her heart caught in her throat and refused to budge. She felt like she was choking as her caseworker waved goodbye and her foster uncle led her to his pickup. She climbed into the seat, didn't look at him. He didn't seem to mind as he slid in next to her.

"Michael and Claire won't be home until late," he told her as he started the car, naming her foster parents. "And Jared's at a friend's house overnight. So Michael asked me to take care of you for the evening. We'll go to my place."

"That's okay, Uncle John," she said in a near-whisper; he insisted she call him Uncle John. "I can go home and stay by myself." He laughed, and the sound caused chills to run up and down her spine.

"Thirteen years old... you're such a little girlie," he said in a voice that made Syl shiver. Then he reached out and she began rocking slowly in terror as he laid a hand on her skinny thigh and squeezed. "Besides," he purred at her. "We'll have lots of fun." He massaged her thigh lightly before he drew his hand back, and Syl promptly threw up.

He kept glaring at her the rest of the way to his run-down, cheap old house, and by the time he slowed the truck to a stop she had puked twice more. He punched her in the face the second time and the skin under her eye split open, blood trickling down her face. Then he made her clean the inside of his truck. He stood over her, watched her do it, while she sobbed with no sound. Then he took her inside, and her hands began sweating again in terrible anticipation.

"Get over there," he said, pointing to his large, king-sized bed. It stank of him and, yes, even her; she walked over and sat down on it, still weeping. He took off his shirt, then looked up at her; his face hardened, he walked over and punched her in the face.

"Stop crying!" he yelled as her head did a 180 from the force of his fist. She stopped immediately, an ability belonging only to children who no longer have hope, and laid down, turning away as he started to remove his pants. A moment later she felt his weight on the bed beside her; her body started shaking once more, and as she felt him reach out to grab her clothes and pull them off, she forced her eyes closed and tried not to feel what he was doing.

"Tell us about the Good Place, Ben."

"In the Good Place you're happy all the time. You never have to worry or be afraid. In the Good Place no one ever gets hurt, or yelled at, and you never have to cry."

"I'm in the Good Place, I'm in the Good Place..." she told herself over and over again in her mind as she tried not to register her foster uncle's movements.

"Shut up," he said, smacking her face. She felt a bruise forming; apparently she'd been saying the words out loud.

"In the Good Place everyone is laughing, and there's warm food and comfy chairs everywhere you look. No one is mean; no one wants to hurt you. People are smiling all around you, and the air smells like flowers all the time."

Tears slipped down her cheeks at the peaceful memory; when she was young and safe. Her foster uncle had removed her shirt, she knew, and her bra. Now he was fumbling with the fly of her jeans. Syl began hyperventilating, but John mistook it for passion as he always did and closed his sweaty, foul-tasting mouth over her own.

She couldn't breathe! She was going to die here, right now, under this pig of a man, and no one would find her because he'd get scared and dump the body. He was here, lying over her, sweaty and grunting and disgusting, and she would die because she couldn't breathe. All of this was comforting to Syl, but the sad reality was that she could actually hold her breath for nearly five minutes, and John never lasted that long.

He'd gotten her pants off, finally, grabbed them in his damp, sweaty hand and pulled them down with her underwear, tossing them aside. He was repositioning himself on top of her; she was shaking with fear at what she knew would come next. Inside, she hated herself. But all she could do was lie there, trying not to feel what he was doing, and wish she was dead, because the will to fight had left her a long time ago.

Just as she could no longer ignore him sliding in and out of her like a slippery, slithering snake, there was a loud crash as the glass of his bedroom window shattered and a tearing sound as the curtains were ripped away from the staples that held them crudely in place. John jumped up fearfully, trying to see what it was. Syl thought it must have been a storm that had given her these few more agonizing moments of waiting, and sat up in the bed to see what her foster uncle was cursing about.

But as she took in the scene before her, she realized that it wasn't any object that had been blown through the window, but a person had actually jumped through it. The thought of someone deciding to rob her foster uncle's house just as he was raping her almost made Syl laugh; almost. She watched with a bored fascination as he scuffled with the intruder, honestly not caring who would win, figuring that whoever did would come and have his way with her anyway.

The thief was much shorter than John, she saw through the darkness, but he seemed to be winning. Her foster uncle looked ridiculous, fighting with no clothes on, losing to that short little man. Syl looked around for her clothes, but realized that in his haste to get them off John had thrown them against the chair on the other side of the room. She would have had to go through the fight to retrieve them, so she pulled the bedsheet around her naked body instead and hugged her knees.

A moment later, her uncle went flying out the window and landed with a loud thud in the yard below. Syl backed away against the headboard as the intruder slowly turned on her. He was young, and fairly handsome, but that didn't mean she wanted him anywhere near her. She pulled the sheet tighter around her shoulders, knowing she was beautiful and wishing, not for the first time, that she wasn't. The guy walked over to the bed, sat down next to her. She shied away from him; he was breathing hard- was it from the fight or because of her? He reached out a hand to touch her and she jerked away.

But he persisted, laying his palm against her cheek and caressing the back of her ear with his index finger; it was not a sexual gesture, but a calming, compassionate, even loving one. It was then that she saw the tears on his cheeks, registered his body shaking with suppressed rage, caught sight of the flicker of anger in his eyes left over from the fight, saw the firm way he held his chin. She looked at him, and it was as though every event of her entire life had been leading up to this moment. She leaned into his hand briefly as he continued to gently caress her cheek and then, with a soft sigh, fell into his arms.

"Shshsh," he whispered, wrapping his arms around her tightly and threading his fingers through her soft blonde hair. She hadn't felt so safe since- she couldn't remember when she'd last felt so safe. He whispered in a soft voice, gentle, "It's okay now."

"I know," she choked out around tears, clutching him tightly. "I know that, Zack."