[size=9]Rhy'din, alternate timeline - 3 years ago[/size]
"This is a mistake."
They sat in the abandoned remains of what had once been a popular inn in the section of town formerly known as WestEnd, near the docks. Now people simply called it the End, and it was home to all those that had not fled the city, that wished to avoid the scrutiny of the Tower. Once it had been a warmer, cozier place, with a fire that burned all hours of the night and staff that worked at all hours, welcoming sailors and workers alike in for a night's rest or a few drinks after a hard day.
Of course, she didn't remember it that way. She had only seen it as it appeared to them now - cold, dark, the dust of years gathered upon every surface, the hearth bereft of the flames that had once burned there. She had been "born" well after this place had been shut down when the owners left it.
The man across from her was easily twice her size, dressed as ever in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, feet bare. Golden-green eyes appraised her coolly, a calm radiating from him that spoke of a deep inner peace that was completely out of place from the world they lived in. His deep baritone voice had a purring undertone to it that was like chocolate to her ears. In another time and place, he would have had women following him everywhere, she imagined.
But it wasn't another time, or another place. They were here, now, in this rubble heap of a city.
And he was going off to commit suicide.
When he didn't reply, she sighed, staring at him. "You can't save her, you know. There is no saving her from what he made her into."
He finally spoke, his purring rumble seeming to reverberate through the cold stones of the building around them. "You know that word doesn't exist in my native tongue."
She sighed, rolling her eyes. "So it's not just you. Your whole race is crazy."
"Anyone else of my race would want to kill her for what she is."
"Which makes a lot more sense, in my opinion."
The green-gold eyes regarded her solemnly, a hint of sadness in them. "Do you really think so? I saw her, Isabella. When she was sent for me, I saw the way she looked at me. For just a moment, she wasn't that...twisted thing he made her into. She felt something. And so did I...something I can't explain, except to tell you that I saw what we could be...if things weren't the way they are."
She took a deep breath, sighing it out with a sad air. "You're in love with her."
He shrugged. "I don't know what I felt. It was only a moment, and then she fled. Whatever it was, though...I have to know."
"You know the chances of surviving what you're thinking...and even if you do manage to get away with her...the probability of success is practically nonexistent."
"Don't you get all technical with me."
She glared at him. "I'm trying to make you realize that you're being illogical."
This time he actually smirked at her, a felinesque expression of smugness on his features. "I don't expect you to understand. You were crafted and programmed for a specific purpose. And you're only a couple years old. Logic is not the end-all, be-all of the universe, Isabella."
She tried to glare at him again, only to find that there was no conviction to it. He was right, after all. Her gaze dropped to the table between them, looking at her hands. "You were the one of the first faces I saw when I came out of the cell. Other than Di, you're the only friend I have...at least since Leo..."
She saw his hand emerge from the edge of her vision, which was clouding, swimming as tears came to her eyes. It covered hers, tiny in his by comparison. For just a moment, as she always seemed to in his presence, she felt fragile, even knowing she was stronger than he by several orders of magnitude.
"You cared for him deeply. I know. So tell me something, Isabella..." His hand left hers to cup her chin, lifting her gaze to meet his. "...if it were him in her place, and you in mine, what would you do?"
Damn him. He knew the answer to that question. Her only reply was silence as the tears fell, her body slumping slightly in resignation. Finally she just nodded, pulling her chin from his grasp and looking away.
She did not look back as she heard him rise from his seat and start for the broken door, dust stirring up to reveal shafts of moonlight streaming in through the holes in the crumbling facade of the shop. It wasn't until he had nearly reached the exit that she finally stood herself and spoke.
He halted, his head turning to speak over his shoulder. "Yes?"
She couldn't believe she was doing this. But she didn't see any other choice. Her feet moved, her steps graceful and fluid as she moved for the door and interposed herself before it, looking up at him.
"Your chances of success alone are minuscule. You're going to need assistance."
He looked at her, confused. "No one will help with this. The Shadow has killed too many for any to want to show her the slightest mercy. Who did you have in mind?"
"Me, you imbecile."
She put her fingers to his lips, silencing him. "Diana may be the most advanced artificial intelligence ever created, but she operates according to set guidelines and computational logic, factoring odds and playing things safe." She took her hand away again. "But like you just said...this isn't about logic." She smirked at him. "Think of it like this. If it were me in your place, and Leo in place of the Shadow, would you let me go alone?"
For a moment it looked as if he were going to try anyway, but instead he simply shook his head in resignation. "You truly are a Batten."
From anyone else, it would have been an insult. Instead she smirked, his earlier smugness echoed back at him in her features. "Among other things."