Bullets and Butterflies
Title: Bullets and Butterflies (1/1)
Summary: Asha isn't always nice.
Spoilers: Season 2, nothing specific.
Characters: Asha, Max, Logan
Rating: R--violence, language, sex (both non-explicit f/f and m/f)
Distribution: If you want, take it.
Disclaimer: Dark Angel belongs to Cameron and Eglee.
Date: Dec. 18-19, 2001.
Note: This is a longer, possibly clearer version of "Butterflies and Bullets." Some new stuff, some copy and pasted from v1.
Asha isn't quite sure how long she has been here. Her watch broke when she fell during their rushed retreat. It still reads one twenty-five. She feels like she has been in this too-small room for hours. It may have been minutes. Time, Asha has learned, takes on a different form and texture when she is frightened. The air feels too heavy and her heart is beating too fast. She notices every little noise and jumps with each of them. Asha knew there was a possibility--a probability--that she would be detained at some point, even interrogated. Thinking about it, hearing about it, it isn't the same. She was so sure that she could handle this moment, and now that it's here, she is choking on her fear and her tears.
There is a man in the room with her. They are seperated by the width of the rectangular table that fills this grey space. He hadn't given her a name--he doesn't need to, she is nothing and he wants her to appreciate exactly that. He isn't anyone that Asha would have paid attention to, before. He isn't one of the handsome men Asha has watched, flirted with, taken to her bed. Dark hair is creeping back down his skull, leaving his forehead too high, too shiny in the buzzing lights. His eyebrows are dark and heavy over steady brown eyes, and Asha is looking at him so carefully now that she sees that the left is slightly smaller than the right. His nose is too big and a bit crooked, and his lips are too thin. Asha thinks that this man's face will be clearer to her to the end of her days than is that of the first boy she had sex with, even now.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Asha says, again, and her voices cracks more every time she speaks. Her eyes dart away despite Asha's desire that they stay steady. They stop at her watch, still one twenty-five behind cracked glass covering.
Metal legs scrape against the floor and Asha's head jerks up at the sound. Her eyes are wide as she watches the man move from his side of the table towards hers. Quick bursts of breaths escape Asha and she starts to rise to her feet. "I didn't do anything," she says, and she hates that her voice is a shrill whine. "Let me go. I didn't do anything!"
His hand is heavy against Asha's shoulder as he drives her back into her chair. Pain jolts up through her tail-bone as she solidly reconnects with her seat. He looms behind her, still holding her in place as he leans down, mouth level with Asha's ear. "I've broken better liars than you. Don't play with me, girl," he says on breath filled with the scent of cigarettes.
"I don't--" Asha says.
Her denial is halted by a hand at the nape of her neck, forcing Asha forward. She yelps and chokes as her face strikes the table. Her cheek aches and she can taste blood. The table is still shaking and the styrofoam cup her tormentor has been ignoring since he first set it down topples. Coffee puddles outwards, soaking into Asha's hair, sprayed out across the table. She feels his weight across her back, his forearm pressed tight against the back of her neck.
"I want names. I want locations."
"I don't know anything," Asha says, her words slurred around pain and the table pressing against her cheek. She is crying and she can't stop herself. She wanted to right the world, wanted to make things better and she hasn't been with the S1W for more than a few months and she's starting to think that she might simply disappear from this place.
She is bruised and bloodied, her arm screams in pain, her ribs ache with her every breath and Asha's vision has gone dark. Her face itches with dried tears and she's distantly glad that she is no longer crying when the prisoner transport screeches to a halt. She jerks against her seat and slides limply, too tired to straighten herself. There are shouts, the sound of gunfire and the back of the van is flung open to sunlight and Drake's grim face. He shoulders his weapon and clambers towards Asha. She won't let herself faint and though she clutches at Drake's arm, she reaches the ground under her own power and lets Autumn press a gun into her hand.
"You're okay," Autumn says and Asha can't say anything at all.
Autumn is the one who showed Asha how things work. Asha remembers numbers and names and locations in Autumn's wry voice. Autumn is the one who taught Asha to load a gun and she is the one who swore when Asha's aim wasn't anywhere near precise. Autumn stays with her when the others scatter, and she stands before Asha and dabs at her face with a damp washcloth until the material is stained pink.
Girls, before, were friends or rivals or nothing much to think about at all. Autumn wouldn't have been either of the first two, not to the Asha of before. She wasn't pretty or witty or charming and Asha sometimes thinks it horrible that she had talked about saving the world when the self of her memory had been edging along the lines of petty and shallow.
Asha remembers high school, and Liz who never dated boys and remembers what she heard and what she said. She still slides into bed with Autumn, wriggles under her arm and clutches Autumn's hand below her breasts. Autumn hums comfort into Asha's hair as Asha cries--Asha loves her then and there and rolls in Autumn's arms and finds it isn't so strange. She'll have to apologize to Liz one day, Asha thinks, before remembering that it's far too late for that and there had hardly been anyone at Liz's funeral at all.
She dies in September. Autumn's lungs fill with blood--a knife wound dark against her chest--two blocks from her home for a cheap watch and twenty bucks. Asha has forgotten how to cry by now, though she wants nothing more. Instead, she spends the next several nights on the streets and isn't sure whether she has shot the boys who killed Autumn and can't quite care whether she was wrong. She doesn't feel any better, but she doesn't feel any worse, and Asha figures that's all she can really hope for.
Asha is a careful actress. She is strong now, and she is hard. She is pretty and she smiles and flirts and wears low cut pants that hug hips that roll and sway with her every step. Asha is a bit of sex, a bit of innocence, and she has given up bravado in the face of authority in favour of wide eyes and quivering lips. Asha is more practiced at guileless innocence now that she was when she was a teenager sneaking home from parties and from dates. She plays that she is nothing like threatening and most people believe her.
Drake used to work with Asha's mother. He brought her to the S1W, and he is the one who led her to Logan. She didn't know Logan, wasn't quite sure she wanted to trust him--she played shaky bravado over a core of vulnerability and Logan hadn't acted as if he minded the blood on Asha's shirt or the gun she wouldn't release. He has become more to her--she wants him, she dreams of him, she loves him, even--and he still hasn't figured her out. Logan thinks she is strong, he doesn't see that she is hard. He lives in his rich apartment amongst his expensive toys, towering over a broken city, and Logan doesn't get his hands dirty, doesn't know.
Logan is a lot like the boys Asha used to watch, he is nothing like the only men she allows into her life and into her body now. Asha has become accustomed to quick fucks with men she finds in bars and with fellow S1W operatives--she is using and used all at once and she tells herself that she doesn't mind. It was business the first time she met Logan--and she might have sex to save her life, but she wouldn't take herself off the job because she liked his hands and his voice and wanted to nuzzle at his neck. She could have seduced him later, but she liked him by then.
When Asha was young, her father brought the family to church every Sunday. They would find a pew towards the front and Asha's parents would listen while Asha and Emily played thumb-war between bodies held otherwise still by the force of father's disapproval. Father believed in God, in goodness, in morals that had gone out of style before Asha was born. He respected Asha's mother, and loved her, and their life together was filled with looks and smiles and touches. If he could see her now, Asha decides--fucking and fighting and killing--she would disappoint him. Asha tries not to think of her parents. She tells herself that she was born into the S1W and that love and faith and hope are nothing to her.
Logan makes her think of things that she should not. She thinks that he is a man who would talk about making love instead of fucking, a man to whom the distinction would make a difference. Asha decides that Logan would be careful in bed, that he wouldn't hurt her or leave her wanting. She thinks that they would share morning showers and Logan would wash her back and kiss the scar on her shoulder and make her forget how it came to be there. They would eat breakfast together, real food, a leisurely meal like Asha hasn't had time for in years. They would be--impossible, and she is a fool.
Max is at the window, and Logan is looking at her, has been looking since she arrived. The sun is out and it reaches through the window, lighting at Max's hair. She stands in profile, the curve of breast and ass displayed against a backdrop of blue sky and sunlight. Her neck curves as Max leans her head towards the window and Logan swallows. Asha slides a fresh clip into her gun and wonders if Max is fast enough, if she is good enough, to dodge out of the way if Asha were to raise her weapon and shoot--right now.
Asha can remember being shot: the first time, in the back--the last time, grazing across her hip. She remembers hiding in sewers, clutching an empty gun. She remembers sparking fear at calloused hands bunched in her torn shirt. Her memories are a reason not to like Max, and she doesn't, not Max, not Logan's reaction to her. Max uses soft kitten eyes and full lips and Logan is a sudden slave to people--soldiers!--made to survive. Asha is scarred, inside and out, and yet Logan treats Max's pain as if it is unique, greater somehow than that of those he's fought for in the past.
Max is strength and vulnerability and Asha has played that same game and Logan has never looked at her as he does Max. Asha closes her eyes and fumbles her gun back into its holster. They are standing closer together when Asha dares open her eyes again and she can see Logan's fingers trembling against his thigh at not touching Max.
Hating Max is easy--easier even that dreaming about Logan.
They don't know whether Logan will live or die the first time Asha kisses Max. They are at the hospital in the washroom down the hall from where Logan lies, pale and still. Max is all pain--her indrawn shoulders, her wet gaze, and her lower lip trembling. Asha hates her--for her grief, for being allowed to love Logan. She wants to hit Max--she wants to blacken her eyes, she wants to split open full lips, she wants to, she wants to--and she grabs Max and presses her against white tiled walls and makes Max's grief strangle in her throat.
Later, when Logan is better, Asha and Max find themselves at his apartment. He isn't there, but he's all around them--his equipment, his art, his life--and they land on the neatly arranged sheets in Logan's spare bedroom. She doesn't like Max but she presses her hands against Max's naked back and opens her mouth and kisses her in the darkness. Asha breathes against Max's skin: oh, oh God, even though she can't remember the word of God, recited in church when she was a little girl; even though she doesn't believe any more, maybe never will again.
There is a kind of triumph in the veiled uncertainty in Max's touch, in having her off-balance, in being the one who is ahead in this game. Asha doesn't know why Max lets this happen. She doesn't really care. Autumn is dead, has been for years, and its been weeks now since Asha has gone out on a mission. Her nails are starting to grow, a bit crooked, a bit jagged, and Asha thinks that she could tear Max up from the inside.
Max is the one to leave, and Asha sits on rumpled sheets and drowns in sex and anger and a bitter kind of victory. She thinks about not taking a shower, of greeting Logan smelling of Max and sex--but Asha has learned not to lay out all of her cards, and this is a weapon as painful as any other. Asha stands under a hot spray of water and thinks that she might one day brush her lips against Logan's stubbled cheek on her way towards his ear where she'll whisper that Max tastes like cinnamon. She knows that she can hurt Logan. Asha likes having that option.
Asha is shaking beneath cold water and she can't remember when she sank towards the bottom of the shower, how long she's been there. She sees her parents kissing every morning before they part ways. She remembers the first time a boy broke her heart, curling against her mother and wondering how she'd know love when she found it. She thinks of her father, and he had talked of forgiveness and understanding. Asha wanted to save the world, wanted to make things better--and she's told herself that she loves Logan and yet she dreams about hurting him. She doesn't know whether she has always had this harsh tangle of bitterness, anger, fear, hatred building inside her--whether this is her or the gun at her hip, the pain in her mind.
Asha is in the living-room, lacing up her boots when Logan comes home. His hair is tousled, cheeks reddened by wind and chill and Asha's breath catches in her throat. She looks away and tugs her laces tight. Asha pulls on her coat, tucks her gun away beneath it and tells Logan that the S1W needs her. Sometimes, before she leaves, Logan will touch her--a brush of his hand against her arm or her back, a one-armed squeeze of her shoulders. She doesn't get close enough, not now, not when she thinks she might scream.
She can feel the gun at her side and Asha thinks that hurting is easier than not.
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