A/N: This is a short told from Max II's point of view. Whether she found a new life, or died in the end, perhaps will never be known. But I'd like to think that either way, she's found a happier existence. :) I hate to label it as Angst (it's not), but... In the meantime, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Cole for Christmas

In the confusion of the battle back there, I made up my mind in an instant. There would be no point following Max's lot out of there, and Ari...it was best not to think of that now. We'd known each other for a very short time, but we'd spent a lot of time, and I'd come to think of him as something more than just a fellow comrade.

But there was no time to focus on that.

In the span of a week, I was successfully away from civilization, winging my way around the countryside with surprisingly, no word or sign of anyone following me. I wasn't stupid. They'd show up and shoot me out of the air eventually. On the rare occasion that I could get into town and swipe a paper, or glance at the TV's outside of the BestBuy, I could see a reason for not coming after me.

I was expendable, worthless. The bigwigs had their hands full right now, trying to hide and erase the evidence. I hoped Max was really grinding her heel in their backs, the lousy...

Temporary freedom before death was better than incarceration before death. I resolved to enjoy it. Even now, as I stood on the cathedral, facing a stinging white sky, experiencing my first real snowfall. I'd only ever seen it in simulations and videos relayed by the company. Even in my training to become Max, I'd never encountered snow before.

Never been so cold. I brought my hands to my face and breathed on them, amazed to see a cloud of steam arise and disappear.

"Dear, aren't you freezing?" An older woman and her two children, bundled up in scarves and heavy coats, had stopped beside me at the store window when I'd finally decided to come down and look for food. I'd been able to swipe an old blanket from the trash to put around my shoulders and hide my wings, and cut my hair to almost two inches to better camouflage from any company agents.

"Er..." Thirty degrees, and I was only nippy. But I had to blend in, even with a passing yes or no. But before I could get the words out of my mouth, she'd already taken off her scarf and bound it tightly around my neck. "Wha..."

"There. You'll catch your death out here! Where are your parents?"

I could only move my mouth soundlessly. Kindness was not something I was used to...nor deserved. My last few months after my failure to destroy Max had been a living hell. I'd barely counted as a sentient being back there. And now this woman, who had, without expecting anything in return, was trying to protect me. Me.

Suddenly everything, from Ari's death and the battle and the fights and punishments, the pain, the still-healing fractures and bruises - everything - weighed on my shoulders and almost sent me to my knees. She noticed me sway and took my shoulder, which tensed. "At least come on, out of the cold."

I shook my head. "N..No. I need to get going. My uh, my parents are waiting for me nearby."

She looked at me doubtfully. Her kids watched me with large, curious brown eyes. But that was the way things had to be. What, did I expect to suddenly be adopted by loving parents like those naive pigeon-kids? I looked away.

The woman gave my uninjured shoulder another squeeze. "Keep the scarf at least, okay?"

"Thank you," I murmured, and hurried away, uncertain. Humans were the enemy, weren't they? Grownups were our enemies, that's what I was taught. The world was ending because of the likes of her. The scarf was bright red and hand-knitted, and warm, though, and smelled of cinnamon...maybe not all of them were bad, after all, then. She didn't have to do that.

Weeks of travel by foot and air, looking for noplace in particular. Dyed my hair, picked up a patchy old trenchcoat from someone's house, along with some of their food while they were gone. Winter got colder, and found myself squatting at some abandoned, heavily-rusted whaling vessel on the coast.

These two-foot, nasty lead hulls rise above me as I make a home in its core, living off the rats and seabirds and fish in the area. This thing is an ecological disaster, rusting off in the water and probably poisoning the life around it. Its smell was acrid and suffocating, so I slept topside, where there was fresher air.

I don't have an expiration date, but I'm sure I'll die one day. Spending my days scratching out figures in the grime like a caveman, playing Tic-Tac-Toe, writing lyrics from songs I've heard and liked. As it gets colder, I sit by the light of a flourescent lamp, and shade some of my harder-worked drawings in: people with claws, people with guns. Angels fighting wolf-headed monsters. Twin Angels, fighting each other, and one losing, the winner standing triumphant upon her neck.

Those Angels, fighting side-by-side against a dark encompassing smudge, with a winged wolf beside them.

An army tearing down the walls at Lendenheim, and the Angels escaping.

The Last Wolf dying.

Little by little, I was sketching my history, and what I knew. It became an obsession, as the past became the present, and the lonely fallen Angel documented what she'd done that day - caught a fish, found a can, noted a storm. Talked to a wolf-shaped snowdrift about nothing in particular. (Maybe someone would come along and read them someday, and wonder what the heck the artist was tripping on.)

And, I was sketching my ideas: a star-shaped monument for the Wolf; the Angel and her flock, standing tall and bright against the smudges; her twin, the lonely fallen Angel standing beside a human look-alike with short hair, a scarf, and a human family standing behind her. My drawing hand faltered. You don't know what I would have given to come with you, Max. You may not have a human family, but at least you have a family at all. People to care about you, and love you, I concept I never could come close to understanding until the end.

The sky is white, the seas are gray and brown and choppy, ice chips floating on the foaming spume; the deck and rails are slippery, and I have my first Christmas: I'm going to give myself the thing I'd always wanted, but could never have.

Never had a Christmas before, but from what I hear about it, you get a gift by a tree. I don't have a tree, but I do have an old flag, and when I turn on the electrical and get the floodlights going, it brightens the place better than any old tree could. For my present, I had to go to shore to buy a few things and bring them back, but they lay before me now on the deck, beside a mirror from the cabin, and a freshly sharpened machete.

My hair is two-inches long and black. The Angel looks more like the Human by the day.

A radio fuzzes out holiday tunes as I begin: firstly, I do that thing they call crying, and make sure I have it all out. It takes a long time, and eventually I have to stop because my head hurts and my eyes are cold. And then I begin to swallow what I bought, and, as I pull my shirt over my head and kneel bare-chested in the cold, the feeling in my skin gradually fades away.

I'm not cold anymore, I'm quite numb. Perfect. I toss the empty plastic container over the side and examine the machete next.

Nat King Cole is singing on the box. I've always liked his voice. "Coal" is still on my fingertips where I've been drawing, and is the color of m hair. I think it will be my name. I am the black smudge of my twin Angel, what I could never be of her, of what I once represented. I am the smudge that is the company, the smudge that is the human race, the smudge that ruins that clean white wall. "Max" is reserved for the warrior that earned it; I didn't deserve it. "Max II" is only a rip-off.

I will be me, myself. Just another smudge on society. Maybe I'll fit in.

I will belong to me alone.

The blade flashes. My reflection in the mirror, though a little hazy, is prefectly certain, perfectly confident in its decision. I sing quietly with the radio in the gusting wind, holding the first numbed wing firmly beneath my arm. My scarf whips in the wind.

"Merry Christmas...to..."

My name is Cole.

I hope I don't bleed to d -