Max was in the room with him.
She was looking slightly worse for wear. Her hair had grown dull and frizzy rather that healthy curl from before. Her hollow cheeks and pale skin only made her eyes look bigger, the awareness, intelligence and hunger in them all the more frightening. She sat on a chair, leaning forward, talking quietly with Jake, but as innocent as it seemed, it looked for all the world like a predator hunched over its kill.
She turned when Elliott appeared in the doorway and even that slight movement warranted a quick response from the armed soldier in the corner. The soldier was a woman, young and would have been pretty if her eyes were not dark and steely, her mouth a hard straight line that looked ill-suited to smiling. The nametag on her BDU top said, “Hurley.” Her gun was out and trained on Max, steady as the earth itself. She did not look afraid, merely ready. A glance out of the corner of his eye showed him Thomas had a similar reaction, though he’d stopped short of actually drawing.
Max lifted her hands, revealing the shackles around her wrists, attached by heavy chain to the ones around her ankles. She might never look harmless again; at best she looked cooperative and controlled like this. Perched on this bed, his eyes closed, just ready to either be eaten or caught in the crossfire, Jake was perfectly still, as unobtrusive as always.
“Nice to see you, Elliott,” Max said sardonically. “It’s been a while.” As usual, she ignored the kerfuffle she caused. Not for the first time though, Elliott thought he detected a weariness to her sarcasm, a sadness in her predatory eyes. Was she growing tired of being the outsider? Elliott didn’t think she would ever admit to it but he couldn’t understand how she could not.
She was the one exception to the warm welcome they’d received. Elliott would never say this to her face, not least because he didn’t want to wind up in her face, but he couldn’t really blame anyone for that. She was the first glimpse of the enemy most of the people here had gotten. She was not just the enemy, she was now the face of the enemy and what the world outside of Washington was up against. She was their destiny. They would either have to kill things like her or become things like her. She was an unwelcome reminder of the fate they could no longer avoid. Fate had flown over the walls in a Russian helicopter and was staring them in the eye everyday.
She was kept separate from everyone including all she might have considered an ally or a friend, though she was allowed these visits with Jake. Without them, those predatory glances became predatory instincts she was less capable of controlling. From all Jake had told Elliott of his relationship with Max before she was bitten, she hadn’t really shown him a lot of regard, and even less respect. Yet somehow he was a direct link to her humanity, the one thing that was keeping her from becoming the flesh-eating monster behind those icy blue eyes.
“Yes, you as well, Max,” Elliott replied awkwardly. She nodded. Perhaps she appreciated the gesture even if it was too little too late.
It seemed to break the spell for Hurley and she lowered her gun. Thomas in turn eased his hand away from the holster and actually looked embarrassed. To his credit, Thomas had tried to accept Max and even to be nice to her. Reaching for his firearm didn’t show friendship.
“Doubt it will help her stay human if everyone treats her like a monster,” he’d reasoned. But Thomas had had friends on the base in Oregon and while he didn’t blame Max directly for their fate, he couldn’t look at her without thinking about it. He’d tried. But it hadn’t gone much beyond that.
Hurley reactions weren’t hostility, just a cool, all-business attitude towards potentially gunning down a fellow human. Or whatever Max was.
“How are you, Jake?” Elliott asked.
Jake looked up from the bed and managed a weak smile when the firearms had been holstered. “I’m good, Elliott,” he lied. “Great.”
There was a long awkward pause before Elliott accepted that he wasn’t going say anything more. “Well, I have to get force marched back to my cell,” he said with a grin. Thomas rolled his eyes. “I’ll catch you guys later.” He nodded at Hurley, and her dark eyes flickered, as though surprised he’d acknowledged her. After a pause, she nodded back. No smile though and her eyes turned away from him as quickly as they’d come.