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And I Thought For a Moment That You Cared

by The Inimitable Pooh Bah

Thanks to: bk for betaing.

Date: May 11 and 13, 2001

Rating: R

Summary: Sometimes there's nobody in the world who understands. Post-ep for "Hit a Sista Back."

Disclaimer: Dark Angel belongs to James Cameron, Charles Eglee, and/or FOX.

Feedback: poohbah@gray-eyed.com

Website: http://www.gray-eyed.com/

Archive: List archives and by submission. Do not archive or repost without permission.


"You bastard," she hisses.

I can't think of anything to say to that. This isn't right, this isn't what I expected from Van. She knows we're soldiers, she knows this is war, she knows troops go down. She's never forgotten any of that, not once. Not like Zane and Max, trying for home and normalcy even though it means forgetting what we are. Not like Syl and Krit, always abandoning discipline and everything approaching common sense. Not like Mab, crying her crocodile tears for the foster family she left in Miami, the lover she left in Phoenix. Van doesn't deny the reality of what we are, doesn't mind it, sometimes even revels in it. Every time I see her, she's hacked Manticore's computers again and found out something new about our DNA or fresh training methods or the progress in the search for us. She tells me all of it, with a morbid, intellectual glint in her black eyes and her teeth bared in cold delight.

Her teeth are bared now, in a furious snarl. It's not right, that utterly feral expression of too-human rage. "You bastard! You heartless, lying, incompetent bastard! How could you let this happen?"

I spring to my feet, glaring hot at her. Van glares back cold and controlled, but her anger is just as dangerous as mine.

"Can't you see I did all I could?" I snap at her.

"What did you do? You sat around on your smug ass while they took Brin back to Manticore and ripped away every last scrap of the girl we knew. You ignored Case's existence even though he meant so much to your sister and you knew he wasn't normal. You knew Lydecker would be interested--you saw it all coming a mile off, and you still just stood by while they took Tinga away, back to Manticore."

Van is starting to make me feel cold, and I move across the tiny room for all the good it'll do me. "I helped them get out of Tinga's building when the troops moved in." How the hell could Van not remember that? Tinga would have been gone long before, if it weren't for me. Max, too. "I stopped them from taking Case. I--"

"None of that makes up for what you didn't do," she growls.

"I'm not incompetent! I've kept you all safe for ten years-- that's not incompetence." So many times, I've rushed to save one of them from their own foolishness. Max's return to Seattle, Syl and his cocky defiance, Zane and his stubborn attempts to put down roots.

Van scoffs. "Tinga's gone. Brin's turned on us. Ben is dead. You haven't kept us safe."

"Brin and Tinga went of their own free will."

"Is that so?"

I pace back across the room and sit down on Van's sofa. I don't answer her.

She whips out a cigarette and lights up.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"What does it look like?" she asks, smoke curling out of her mouth.

"You're asking to get lung cancer and die."

"Fuck you," she hisses. "Fuck your rules, and fuck your logic. Look at Brin--she did everything right, ate her vegetables, took her tryptophan, exercised to keep her body perfect. Look how she got sick."

"A genetic fluke," I say. "It's not an excuse to abuse your body."

"If that ever happens to me," Van says wistfully, "I'm going to put a bullet through my head and be done with it. Better than having my mind wiped clean and filled up with everything I ran away from." She exhales smoke and watches it fade to nothing as it rises.

"Van, put it out."

"Of course, she wouldn't have been brainwashed if you'd gotten off your self-righteous ass and made good on your promise to go back for her. What was that, you asshole? Was it just to give her false, sentimental hope, so it'd be easier for her to live?"

"It wasn't a lie. I keep my promises."

"And a fine job you did there, fucker. It's too late to save her, now that she's turned. Tinga's gone just like her now, and if you don't do something soon they'll turn her too. They'll both be just as far gone as Jack on that autopsy table and Ben in his fucking barcoded grave. Three of us lost in less than a year, Zack, and we almost lost you too. At this rate, none of us is gonna see thirty, not alive and free."

Thirty, eighty, twenty-five, what the hell does it matter? Survival is survival, however short or long you can make it. If none of them survive to thirty alive and free, it's their own faults for not being the fittest. There isn't very much happiness or love in the world, and it never lasts long enough to matter--and there sure as hell is none in Manticore, ever. If they'd only get that through their heads, and realize that meaning and joy are worthless if they make you vulnerable, then maybe they would see thirty, alive and free.

How can Van blame me for someone else's carelessness and stupidity? Tinga's gone because she didn't listen when I said sentimentality would get her killed. Brin's gone because she thought Manticore would hurt less than dying, and didn't try to see why I'd die rather than back. Ben died because he never listened to my warnings about being so obvious he practically begged to be caught. Max is in constant danger in Seattle because she won't listen to me and leave while she has the chance to save herself.

Van isn't listening. She hasn't listened all evening.

"Put out that fucking cigarette!"

Van glares at me. "Do you honestly think either of us is gonna live long enough for it to matter?"

"Put it out!"

"No."

"Bitch," I hiss.

"You really got a stick up your ass, Zack," Van snaps. "What's the hell is wrong with you?"

"Have you ever had to call all your brothers and sisters to explain that one of them had gone back or died or sacrificed herself for a stupid sentimental lie?"

"No, but how hard could it possibly be, that it justifies how you're acting? Did you tell the rest of them with the same detachment you told me?"

"Have you ever listened to Mab crying?" I ask. "I barely mentioned Tinga being gone before she started. I had to wait five minute for her to get a grip on herself so I could warn her about Brin. Do you think that was easy for me?"

"I thought we mattered to you," Van murmurs, staring at some far- off point and blowing smoke.

"You do, all of you do."

"I thought Tinga mattered."

"God damn it, Van, she does!"

"I thought wrong, Zack," Van says. "You didn't give a flying fuck what happened to Brin, and you don't give a flying fuck about what happens to Tinga, and you don't give a flying fuck about any of us." I stand up again, let my arms hang useless at my sides. This isn't how it was meant to happen--Van was supposed to see where I was coming from, agree that Tinga had been stupidly emotional, tell me there was nothing else I could've done.

"I thought you would understand, Van," I whisper.

"And I thought for a moment that you cared."

I cared once, and all it did was hurt me. Manticore was so much worse the second time, and it was all for a girl who didn't give a rat's ass.

"I want you to leave, Zack."

"Fine."

And I go, back out the window and into the night, alone. I will away the tears forming for Tinga, try to block my fury at the bastards who have weighted the dice against us from the very beginning.

It makes no sense any more to care.


[ END ]


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