Numb. So numb. Gasping for air, he pawed at the ground, and withdrew in pain. His fingers had met glass. He stilled. He couldn't see anything. Where was he? He lifted his face into the air. Wind. There was wind. That meant he was outside.

Birds. He could hear the squeals of seagulls. He was by the sea. He needed to move. Move! As if obeying a command, his body began to shuffle forward. He couldn't see. He thought. Why couldn't he see?

He shuffled forward, and suddenly felt himself falling through air. This was his hell. Damn and blast. The water wrapped around him like veins. Where was the surface ? He wondered vaguely to himself. He couldn't breathe.

Why couldn't he see ? He asked himself again. Why couldn't he see ?

*******

Bane Maolan woke, shuddering. Except he didn't know his name was Bane. He blinked at his surroundings. He was lying in a cot. The sheets were of white cotton. The air was unmoving. It lay in the room like a dead man.

The floor was white. The bed was white. The walls were white. One wall was made entirely of a mirror, he looked at himself. He didn't know whether to be pleased or revolted by his reflection. His hair was a sort of deep auburn. Almost the colour of hibiscus. It was worn too long, and tied into a short little rigid ponytail at the back of his head. His eyes were dark, almost black. A thin red scar ran through his left eye.

Not to mention those on his arms. He looked down at his arms. Meticulous red slices inched their way up his wrist. Gasping in shock, he pulled up his shirt. They continued.

Swallowing down the bile threatening to excrete itself from his throat, he lifted his shirt. More scars. Thinner and less visible, but existent all the same. Who had done this to him ? He asked himself. Even more chilling, what if it wasn't any other but himself.

He pulled his shirt off his head, turned his back to the mirror, and tilted his head. A red maze, faint, but worrying, painted his back. But on top of the maze was a tattoo. An odd deep red creature. Snarling out at him out of his back.

Hastily, he pulled his shirt back on. Where in the hell was he ? He looked at the mirror. What was behind it ? He wondered to himself. He didn't understand. What was he doing here ? Who had put him here ? He walked over to the door. Even his walk felt unfamiliar. Odd and unmanageable.

His stride was long and strong and determined. He fingered the cool metal of the knob. Pleasant to the touch, he decided. Gripping it firmly in his long fingers, he twisted the handle.

What had he expected ? He'd asked himself later. He hadn't known. Certainly not this. Another white room. Except there were no mirrors in this room. There was simply a white desk with a white chair and an old japanese man in a white suit. Seated in the chair.

Bane didn't trust the man.

But the man in question, if he sensed Bane's automatic animosity, ignored it. He simply cocked his head, gave Bane a wide, blinding white smile and said, « Hello, Mr. Maolan. »

********
Tegan Fatin gazed out into the rain and wished with fervor that the goddamned sun would shine just this once. But it didn't. It wasn't supposed to. Not in the fall. And not in Vancouver. They were like tears, she thought. Somebody was crying. Perhaps the angels, she thought, or the stars. 'Or maybe it's me'.

For she was crying, crystalline drops of perfection filled her eyes until they overflowed and plummeted down her cheeks, leaving wet salty trails in their wake.

« Tegan ? » came a voice. It was soft, a deep baritone. A voice she was only growing familiar to.

She didn't answer. Simply stared out the window and watched the tears collide against the glass of her bedroom window. She didn't want to leave her home behind. But sher'd stayed over her time now. And they couldn't care for her. Not when they needed the money to pay for treatment. For Gwain's cancer.

But Gwain didn't deserve to have cancer. Gwain shouldn't have cancer. Things like cancer didn't happen to the Petersons. It just didn't make sense.

« Tegan, are you done packing ? We have to go. » came the voice again.

Without looking at the owner of the voice, she swept her bags up into her arms and strode out of the room. She loaded her bags into the back of her old jeep. Looked up at the only place she had ever felt at home in, and backed out of the driveway, into the rain, with the owner of the soft voice following closely behind her in a black BMW.

********
« Maolan ? Is that my name ? How do you spell it ? » asked Bane, stalling for time.

« Odd, isn't it ? It's pronounced (MAY-LAHN) but spelt m-a-o-l-a-n, I thought it was very creative, very interesting. And sort of odd, considering the fact that you're nearly a full blooded latin. »

« I'm latin. » said Bane, looking at his fingers, flexing them experimentally.

« Yes, you are ! » said the man, with the tone of a proud father.

« I'm in some sort of... » He searched his head for a fitting word, « Institution. » he finished.

« Yes. » said the man.

« Any reasons why I'm here ? » asked Bane, pulling out the chair across from the man, twirling it around expertly, and promptly seating himself, straddling it.

« Not that I can think of. As far as I'm concerned, you're free to go. »

« Free to go ? » asked Bane.

« Yes. »

« Without any answers ? »

« There are none I can give you. »

« This is insane. »

« I think you ought to go. »

« But I don't want to go. This isn't fair. I don't understand. I wake up in a weird room in a mental institution and somehow I'm getting off too easy. Why'd you put me in a mental institution in the first place ? » he asked. His voice hadn't been raised, but had intensified in anger.

« That's usually what happens when we come across a lunatic raving about fairy tales and magical creatures that just so happens to possess a lot of money. You asked us to wipe your mind clean. We did. You are free to go. »

« Go where ? » asked Bane. He couldn't believe this. He had a life to live. Except it didn't belong to him anymore. He just wanted to wake up and remember everything. Everything.

« We have the key to your flat, if you would like to go back there. »

« What could I possibly do? » snapped Bane bitterly.

« Whatever you want. » answered the odd man, smiling, amused, grinning still, he held out the keys.

Snatching them out of his hand, Bane glared at him, « I'm glad you think this is so funny. » he snapped as he headed for the door.

« To the contrary, Mr. Maolan, » he said as Bane swung the door open, « I feel your pain. » he cried as the door slammed upon him.

********
It was a nice house, Bane noticed, walking in, dressed in a whited t- shirt and some stiff new jeans. But it didn't feel like a home. The only thing that seemed to make sense at all to him was a guitar. Handmade, he noticed, but well-crafted. It would have been ten times more comforting if he had known how it came to be that he knew that it was handmade and well- crafted. Perhaps he made it himself ?

His eyes scanned the make. A glossy black all over. And in the middle was a circle of words in red.

Gravedigger*when you dig my grave*could you make it shallow*so that I can feel the rain* Gravedigger

The last word, grave digger, was the same as the first. 'Dave Matthews'. The name popped into Bane's head, but he couldn't identify it.

The house itself was a window-rich penthouse. The theme colours were black. Which was all very well, because Bane didn't think he'd ever be able to stand the colour white ever again. The floor was black marble, and the walls were painted blood red. Black curtains, black curving couched, black carpet under the black coffe table.

The kitchen was a large flurry of metallic appliances. The counters were also black marble. The drawers and cupboards black wood. A little cooking island in the middle sported a bar.

Pouring himself some whiskey, he wandered into his bedroom, and nearly suffered a hear-attack. It looked like a tiger. But it was black. Black all over. It lay stretched regally on top of an almost infinitely large circular bed. Stretching, it slinked off the bed, and came to rub itself around Bane's legs, purring all the while.

(A/N- I do not think tigers purr. But as you can see, this is no ordinary tiger)

Bane automatically braced himself for this. 'Perhaps he was used to this too ?'

Reaching down to rub the head gingerly, he saw that it didn't bite his hand off, and checked the silver collar. « Cybele - Nurturing One »

« Cybele, huh ? » muttered Bane, « You gonna take care of me, nurterer ? »

As if to answer, the tiger looked up at him with icy blue eyes, ran a rough tongue over his fingers, and slunk away soundlessly.

« There is no way. » thought Bane, looking around his house, « That I am staying in this sorry little hole of marblesque money-filth. »

He opened his closet gingerly, afraid to see what would be inside. He didn't want to know. As he rolled it open, he winced. A row of tuxedos. The inside of the closet door was adorned with nine rollex watches, he counted. He pushed a button and watched, terrror-filled, as it began to move. Nothing. Hunching down, he crawled into the back of the closet.

Jackpot ! Jeans. All broken in, all ready for the wear, all black and dark blue, and all worn to the point that they almost seemed to exult his character. Unhurriedly, as that was Bane's way, he pulled a black pair on. Smiling a slight bit to himself, he pulled on button up t-shirt, leaving the buttons open so as to let the cool San Francisco air fan over his bare chest, he slipped his guitar into it's cloth case.

Reaching into a drawer almost instinctively, he pulled out a wallet, proceeding to check the ID to be sure it truly belonged to him. It did. He slipped it into his pocket, and strode to the door.

Checking the hallway, he beconed to Cybele, and quietly, they slipped into the elevator.

The ride seemed to go on forever. With a ann irritating little 'ding', the elevator rolled open, to reveal the parking lot. Softly, he padded across the parkling lot, weaving through expensive cars. He swung the door open and stepped out into the night, the tiger close on his heels.

********
Tegan rolled to a stop outside the house. « It's horrible. » was her first thought.

Four floors of expensive victorian antiques just begging to be smeared by something disgustingly stereotypical. Like chocolate. Or tea. Or the pulp from her brain.

She stepped out of her 'vehicule' and got a better look. The house was large and white. The porch was ligned in white marble columns, and opened out onto the gardens.

The gardens. A maze of flowers and trees and stone benches. Bushes and shrubberies that grew so high it was almost impossible to 'not' get privacy. She pulled out her duffel bag and jogged up the steps. Gingerly, she rang the doorbell.

The woman who answered the door was tall and thin. Frighteningly reminiscent of Cruella DeVille. Surpassing her birdlike face and tight red lips, not to mention the wide glassy blue eyes. There was the hair, that was definitely NOT in the likeness of the mayhem-maker of the sickeningly irrasible disney movie about...-Tegan cringed- dalmatians.

The woman's hair was short and stylishly. She wore a short black business skirt, a white blouse, and jingly jewelry. Her feet were incased in what looked like sensible brown shoes, until you noticed the stiletto heels oh-so-subtly inserted on the back.

And then the worst happened. The woman hugged her.

Tegan remained stiff in the woman's arms.

« Hello ! You must be Tegan ! I can't tell you how pleased we are that you're here. We love meeting new people. It improves positive extroversial social energy vibes. »

Positive extroversial social energy vibes ? Was extroversial even a word ?

« Not a talker, hm ? That's alright, I understand that you might be a bit shy. I'm Ms. Hertz ! But that's alright, you're dorm-mates aren't very talkable either ! »

Even as she said this she was sweepign me into the house. I gasped. It was a white staircase, going up fro both sides and moving into a hall- like place. The ceilijng of the entryway (which was huge), was dome-like, and, like something reminiscent of 'Beauty and the Beast' it was painted with little naked baby angels.

Why was everything in this place like something out of Walt's twisted mind ?

The floor was black marble, and the walls were painted an odd dark blue. Various paintings with subjects that made Tegan think of roadkill were posted up all over the walls.

As they climbed the stairs, the hall became more apparent. The walls here were a brownish beigish pink. The doors were white. And pretty. They traversed to the end of the hall, and then climbed into an elevator.

It was like a black cage, thought Tegan, similar to my mind. They drifted up three floors to the very last, the very largest.

As the stepped out of the elevator, Tegan was greeted by a herd of smiling women her age with wide full smiles and clonelike bodies. The epitome of media's proper woman. It was disgusting.

She surged through the crowd of women yelling, « Ms. Hertz ! Ms. Hertz ! »

But the woman expertly led Tegan to the end of the seemingly endless hall. She opened a door, oddly painted black, and led her through, shutting the door, and effectively shutting out the noise fo the Hertz clones.

This was a bit more normal. The door opened into a kitchen, and the kitchen opened to a living room on the side, and a long hallway on the other. All the walls were painted a rather cool, dull blue. The lights were off. Non-existant. The blinds were drawn.

« Welcome to your new home, Tegan ! Girls ! Oh, Girls ! » she cried out, smiling like a lunatic.

Quietly, a group off oddities marched out of their rooms and surged into the kitchen. Tegan counted five. All of them were solemn faced. One seemed to be made of black, with the colour in her skirt, her tights, her boots, her sweatshirt, her hair, and her eyes. Ms. Hertz called her Sierra.

Another was dressed in a white robe. A single curl of blonde hair twisted out from beneath her cap. She seemed almost pretty, were it not for the fact that she looked like she could murder. If she wanted. « Francine » whispered Ms. Hertz.

« It's France » the girl mouthed.

The third wore a bright red dress. And though she was solemn faced, her green eyes twinkled, and dimples had appeared at the sides of her mouth. Her short cut curly dark hair fell into her eyes. « Nadia » continued Cruella. The girl waved.

The next wore jeans and a grey sweatshirt. Her hair was a rather ordinary dark brown. Her eyes too. But she had an aura of determined strength. She didn't look mean or friendly. Just neutral. Her name was Rain.

The last awed Tegan to no end. Her hair was fiery mass of curls and waves and dips, cascading down her slender back. Enviously, Tegan fiddled with her own depressingly straight tawny-coloured hair. This girl's eyes were bright blue, so blue you could drown in them. Tegan's eyes were hazel. This girl's complexion was creamy smooth. Her features were almost elfin. Tegan's complexion was tanned and frecked. Her features were almost ordinary. This girl had the most wonderful name in the world. Veretta. As opposed to Tegan. Which would you pick ?

As soon as Ms. Hertz disappeared soft smiles returned. Grinning, Nadia sank into a couch, anf turned to Tegan, who was stil standing by the doorway, awed, and shocked.

« Isn't she horrible ? » asked Nadia, helping herself to some cookies on the table.

« Yeah. » said Rain, « You'd better hope she doesn't start liking you. » she said.

« Why ? » asked Tegan, going to sit with them.

« Because. » said Sierra, who still hadn't cracked a smile, « Hertz's love hurts. » ********
Bane settled under the tree, his back to Cybele. The warmth of the tiger's fur soothed him, but he still found it difficult to fall asleep. The night lulled him on an unfamiliar ride through flowers ten feet tall and lizards with wings, and scaly dogs and horses. Still, he forced himself awake. Perhaps it was because he was afraid he'd never wake up again.

********

A/N - Wow, my third try at a fic. Hope I do well. If you are reading this, please please PLEASE review ! I love reviews, I answer to all my reviews ! Gtg, everyone ! Bye ! Thnx for reading !