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History Lessons

by Northlight

Title: History Lessons (1/1)

Author: Northlight


Summary: Zack explains the world as he sees it.

Characters: Zack, Max, mild Logan.

Spoilers: Season 1, vauge for Blah Blah Woof Woof and The Kidz are Aiight.

Rating: R

Disclaimer: Cameron and Eglee.

Date: April 14, 15 2001.

Note: Zack is most probably out of character. I apologize for that. He just kept on mutating as the story progressed.

Bad, bad things happen to little girls alone in the world, Dee had told him. Blood inside out, breath death-hot against his cheek. Nicotine blood sex sin scent in a puff of air through lips. Moist red slash through milk skin, obscene in the delicacy of her features. Curved red brackets around pointed white inhumanity. (Shaking, shaking so hard that training is nothing but a bit of bad advice. That's it, baybee, oh God, yeah. Open wide and there's all sorts of ways to fight.) Moist heat against his neck, scrape of sharp teeth against his pulse before Dee drew back. Bad, bad things, she'd sighed. Kitten pink tongue smoothed across her teeth, tested the pointed tips of human fangs.

He's sitting in the home of a man he hates, his sister's breath washing against his bare thigh. Slim fingers move across ragged edges of torn flesh, pull back and her painted red fingernails are drown out beneath his blood. She rocks back on her heels, knees apart, and he can see cloth stretch between her thighs. She rises, and Logan hands her a handkerchief. Delicately dabs her hands like a diner in a high-class restaurant, polite and dainty and he remembers ancient little girl drawing blood streaked hands across the thighs of her pants. He remembers coming into base, hours later, blood flaking beneath her regulation-short nails.

He remembers (screaming, Dee's back arched, her fingernails digging into his hand. Head fell backwards, tight face lost to a mass of blonde curls. Wide eyes, agonized.) (Kip, his voice low and frantic, jumping with the static on the line. Zack, help me, Zack! They're crawling all over the place. Zack, Zack, hurry the fuck up!) (Mrs. Ellison, Del's next door neighbour, plump face set in concern. He just stepped out one day last week. . .) everything. If he closes his eyes, casts his mind into the past, he'll find himself wading through blood. Life hasn't changed so very much since Manticore--he still has blood on his hands, red dust beneath his fingernails.

He can feel the passage of time, a drag on his soul, a tightening in his gut. All patched up, and Max turns her back on him, finds Logan with her eyes. Bad, bad things happen to little girls alone in the world, Dee had said. Do you think you aren't alone, Max? he nearly asks. Do you think Logan and slow, soft, flesh and bone friends mean anything at all? Do you think they make you stronger? He's speaking now, sharpened words tearing at the flesh of his cracked lips: do you really believe in this, Max?

Wide shinning eyed stare. Weakness sunk right into her gaze, kitten soft. Anger bleeds out across her face and he knows she thinks he's trying to take her away from her toy-man and her fantasy life. Believe in what? she snaps out, edgy and angry, a kitten with arched back and bristling fur. The right to live my life as I see fit? The right to have friends? To enjoy myself? Not to constantly look over my shoulder?

He's tired of being nice, fed up of coddling this woman and her illusions. There are choices to be made. They expect orders from him, harsh words, an explosion of sound and fury. He has grown up, too. He's learned things since they first knew him. He keeps his words low, easy, a family conversation in the kitchen over supper. Do you really believe that you can be normal? He rises and notices Max tense, unconscious battle preparation.

He looks over her shoulder at his rival, tight lipped and narrowed eyed behind Max. Without even trying, he can think of a dozen ways he could spill out the other man's life before Max so much as moved. He has never stopped learning, has never tried to fool himself into a job and friends and a girlfriend. While Max has been peddling packages to nonentities, he's been learning to better survive. The outside world has been as good a teacher in cruelty as had Manticore.

Jondy, liquid smooth grace, gliding outwards beyond the reach of human muscles, upper lip drawn back in a snarl. Sleek blonde cat, barred teeth and unsheathed claws. Max doesn't move when he steps into her space, presses the pad of his index finger against her curled lips, feels sharp edges beneath soft flesh. You don't move like anything normal, he told her, soft rush of air against smooth flesh. You were ready to fight the moment I stood up. You flash your teeth in warning and it means something, it's a threat you can (you have) carried out.

Dark hair dances about her face as Max shifts back slightly. Painted lips, the colour of sex, sin and seduction, lower over solid white waiting agony. Logan's face is stiff behind them, weak hands clenching against the arms of his wheelchair. (Don't listen, don't listen, Max! You're normal, just stay here and I'll remind you of that so often you'll even believe it.)

Tinga, twitching heat. She's calm, sensible, has never woven sex around her as have Max and Dee. Time a tightening low in her belly, rush of wet heat and she had been animal need, humanity drown out beneath instinct. You move through this life, trailing the scent of want, an animal call awakened with the shift of time. Does he know, Max? Does he know that you turn hot and wild and he stops mattering, everything stops mattering except the need within you?

He remembers Yvonne, panting through open lips and smeared lipstick, sweat-slicked skin. Remembers the feel of bare flesh beneath his hands and lips and teeth. Rising wave of sensation and bones cracked beneath the force of his desire. You figure that he's ever wondered what happens when you forget what you are, Max? When training and control slip and you forget that they aren't as strong as us, that they don't knit back together torn flesh and cracked bones? You ever clamp down to the sound of a scream?

Long dark lashes flicker, slide low over shocked eyes. Full lips curve into rounded shock, open space waiting for words. Logan's voice, a sharp explosion behind them. Leave her alone! You can't order Max around anymore, and you can't scare her into obeying you, either.

Bends forward, lips brushing against Max's cheek before settling near her ear. You think he'll still love you when he realizes you'll never need him like he wants you to? He can't play knight to your damsel. He won't even be able to soothe your emotions because he can't understand them, can't even begin to comprehend what our past, our bodies and training have done to basic human emotion.

Fuck off, Zack! a sudden cry. I'm still human, despite everything they've done to me, I am human.

He remembers Syl, blood coating his fingers. Unconscious motion, fingers at his mouth, tongue swirling around the taste of blood and pain. Head lowered, tongue moving against jagged shoulder wound, blood and saliva, and neither of them had thought to say anything. He catches her shoulders, turns her to face Logan. Nose buried behind her ear, dark hair climbing against his face. Tell me you've never looked at him and seen prey. You don't even have to strain to hear the sound of his heart. Pounding, loud and fast and he's nervous, isn't he, Max? You can nearly hear the blood rushing through him, rich and hot and so very near. Humans are good at survival, Max. Don't think that there isn't something inside of him that doesn't know and fear what you are.

Max isn't a mindless animal. I'm not frightened of her, Logan snaps.

I'd never hurt Logan, Max says. I've never seen him as anything other than a human being, a good and generous and wonderful man.

He steps back, lets his hands slid free from Max's flesh and the scent of fear-anger-denial. His voice climbs back to normal, words falling hard and cold across open wounds, no longer weaving knowledge about her. Have you ever wondered why I've never mentioned the others to you, Max? Dee and Kip and Del? He leans against the kitchen counter, arms crossed before his chest. He cocks his head, narrows his eyes and watches her.

You've barely told me about any of the others.

They're dead, Max. Dee in the grass, miles outside of town, legs apart, skirt hiked up over her hips, screaming as her baby tore its way into the world. Kip fell in love, wore a wedding ring the last time we spoke face to face. Set up a home and he called me two months after the wedding. They'd caught him by the time I got there, Max. Guns pointed at him, and his hands were pressed against his face, shoulders shaking as he cried. Del decided that I was no better than Lydecker, that he was tired of taking orders from anyone. Project X got ahold of him.

No! and her hand presses against her mouth, teeth pressing hard against the soft inside of her lips.

He had left Tinga at the Canadian border. Drove through a concrete ribbon cut through the land, flicker of dulled yellow stripped on hard grey futility. Hands shook against the wheel, and he'd pulled over, sank into packed earth momentarily soft with rain. Leaned his head back, open palmed hands pressed tight against his eyes. He could still smell Tinga and fear and dry tears in the car. Close, so very close, the beast on his back, teeth sunk into the back of his neck. Knowledge and experience twitching their way through his muscles and he opened his mouth in a silent scream. He had nearly lost himself completely. Had opened his mouth and betrayed those in his command with his caring and his need. (How could I ever forget anything about you, Max?) Opened his eyes to empty road, drew his hands away from his damp face. Opened the window and sucked in breaths of rain and wet earth.

I'm not telling you this to hurt you, he says and it's almost the truth. I want you to know what I do, to know why I think that moving is the best. And I want you to choose, Max. Come with me when I leave, or stay here. Make a choice, and I'll abide by it.

Max's back straightens. I. . . closes her lips shut over the denial he knows is awaiting him. She pauses, deliberating, and the conclusion is already known. I can't just leave. I won't spend my entire life running. We won't ever be free from Manticore if we don't stop letting them rule our lives. She touched his shoulder. I'm not going to let myself get caught.

There was a choice that each of them had found it necessary to make. He hadn't been able to fit himself into the outside world, hadn't been able to imagine himself spinning tighter and tighter back into the Manticore mould. He had placed more of his hopes on Max than she could hold. She would bend and crack beneath his knowledge. He would not risk himself to her again. He lays his hand against her cheek, warm soft flesh. Lowers his head, dry brush of lips against her forehead. Goodbye, Max.


Freedom, Max. You've got your freedom. He smiles, empty and calm. She's chosen, and there's no chance for either of them. She's a liability he will no longer fool himself into believing he needs. Take care of yourself he says and thinks that maybe she'll understand one day. Maybe he loves her--more than he should, more than she wants. Love won't help him survive, won't help him guard those who depend on him. Love was weapons against him, cuffs against his writs, the hum of an engine around him. Love was the shriek of metal, wailing rush towards hard ground and oblivion (don't want to go back! don't want to die!) and waking up in memory-blue hell jacked up to full colour.

You don't understand, he remembers Zane saying, tight and angry and tired. Brother at his side, life in tatters around him, the clothes he'd thrown around him before they'd ran. He understood then, understands now. He knows that life and freedom seem like anything but while Manticore lays cold and hard against their souls. Even good soldiers make mistakes, sometimes. He remembers Yvonne and desire and rumpled sheets scented of chocolate spice. Swirl of loss and longing as he crouched between Dee's legs, slick blood flesh resting in his hand, slight movements of small chest and a rising wail. Remembers the joy in Kip's voice, I love her, Zack. . . God, I never thought that I could ever care so much about someone (human).

He understands more than any of them do. Maybe they think him cruel, Lydecker's spirit embedded in their brother's flesh blood bone being. He has nothing against their happiness. Take joy when and where you can find it, he thinks, but appreciate such for what it is. Temporary. Make love to your wife. Bend your heads together and laugh with your best friend. Splash pink yellow green paint on your bedroom walls. Just realize that this is but one moment in the total span of your life. You'll love, you'll loose, you'll live. You'll suffer losses, emotional, physical, and you'll think that you won't live a moment longer with the aching in your head, your heart, your soul. And time passes, and you're alive, and you've adapted, and you've learned that nothing last forever. Everlasting love, normalcy, myths for the weak, for people without Hell snapping at their heels, animals curled hungry and waiting behind their eyes. A temporary distraction, fleeting, unreal, nothing to embrace with a passionate disregard of one's real truth. Is the brush of his hand against yours, the shift of his lips into a smile really warmth enough to stand the frigid numbness within Manticore? He'd burned for Max. They'd strapped him down, cut through his body, sank lies into his mind and Max had turned distant and brittle and had cracked to pieces within his mind.

Bad, bad things happen to those all alone in the world. He'd held warm blood streaked flesh in his hands until small legs stopped moving, tiny fisted claws unfurled. Listened to the silence around him, echoing lack of life in the woman beside him, the child in his hands. He'd laid the baby on Dee's stomach. Stood there and watched them burn, sizzling flesh and the scent of burning hair, flickering fingers of flame moving across their bodies towards the sky.

Rises so early the world still sleeps around him. Sits astride his motorcycle, fixes his helmet atop his head. Max's hand warm and weak and nothing against his jacket's sleeve. Turns dark visored blankness towards her. You'll be back? she asks, cautious, glad he's leaving her to her fantasy, worried at what her denial means.

He shrugs. Eventually (no). Sometimes, you simply have to cut your losses and run. He's told his brothers and sisters that again and again. Maybe, he thinks with a jagged twist of thought and lips, it's time he takes his own advice.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Northlight

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