DISCLAIMER: All "Dark Angel" characters belong to James Cameron and Charles Eglee (Cameron Eglee Productions) and "Dark Angel" itself belongs to FOX.

ARCHIVE: With permission

The Best Laid Plans 2: Death and Life
By Valjean

******************************

Chapter 1
Plans

"Had any mysterious phone calls lately?" Max asked.

Alec looked up from his plate of food, raised one eyebrow, and regarded her over the restaurant table, his expression unreadable. They'd been sitting in the New York cafe for the past hour, watching the front of the museum across the street, checking out the crowd flow and the way the guards were positioned. The job was tonight, and this would be the last chance they had to make certain the sector police hadn't changed their schedules or added more men.

"What?" Max said. "I'm just asking. I mean, it's not as if you're exactly forthcoming all the time."

Alec set his fork down forcefully on the edge of his plate, the resulting clatter loud enough to make a pretty passing waitress turn around and look at him. He automatically flashed her an apologetic smile, then turned a scowl on Max.

"Looks like I'm cramping your style," Max commented, noticing the waitress still looking a bit wistfully at Alec.

"She's not my type," Alec said, biting the words off sharply as he took a sip of wine. He did, however, steal another glance at the girl. "At least not anymore. And yeah, sittin' here with you does make it look like I'm off the market. Remind me not to take you along when I'm really on the prowl."

"Since when isn't anything with an X chromosome your type?" Max prodded him. "And, by the way, you can tone down the sarcasm. I know you've got taste when it comes to women. You picked me didn't you?"

"Since I realized that bein' with ordinaries gets them killed," Alec interrupted, stating the fact bluntly, his hazel-green eyes challenging. "And I'll be as sarcastic as I want, Max. You may be in charge of savin' the humans, but you're not in charge of me."

"Fine," she said, her own good humor evaporating, and wondering what was wrong with him. "Now, about those phone calls. Any more lately?"

"I'd have told you if there were any more," Alec said sullenly, picking up his fork again and swirling it in the spaghetti that remained on his plate.

"Look," Max said, leaning forward a bit. "If this double agent stuff is too much for you then--"

"It's not too much for me, Max. In fact, it's what I trained for all my life, the sneak and creep, undercover crap. Just worm you way into someone's confidence then betray 'em. Easy as pie."

"Yeah, but this is Lydecker we're talking about," Max said quietly, not liking the way Alec was spinning about this. "You know we can't mess around with him. Even though he's helped us, he's hurt us too, remember? You especially. And if he finds out you're pretending to report to him about Chimera when you're really gathering intel about him and Sandeman who knows what he'll do to you."

Alec shrugged. "Spank me maybe?"

"Kill you maybe?"

"He'd have to catch me first."

"Sooner or later he's going to want a face-to-face meeting," Max said. "Have you thought about that?"

Again the shrug. "So, I meet with the guy. Tell him I'm doin' my job ... protecting his precious 452, the freakin' Special One. Tell him how things stand on the island."

"I don't need your protection," Max said quietly. "I can take care of myself."

"Of course you can." But he was looking at her a bit too intently now and she found it hard to meet his eyes.

"I'm just saying, that if Lydecker wants you to meet with him, don't go off on your own. Be sure you tell me and take back-up. Or better yet, make him come to Chimera."

"He wouldn't kill me. Not now. Not after he's had so many chances."

"Alec, have you ever thought that this whole thing might not be just about me? It might be about you too? What if Lydecker wants to get his hands on you again."

A smirk. "Sounds kinky. You really think the old guy is into--"

Now it was Max's turn to throw down her utensil in exasperation. "Idiot! You were one of Manticore's finest, one of their elite soldiers. You don't think Lydecker just might want you back still?"

"For what, Max?" Alec said. Then he noticed the waitress staring at him again and lowered his voice. "Manticore's long gone. The only rebuilding that's being done is on Chimera, and last time I checked you and me were pretty much in charge there. Lydecker's a go-between for Sandeman's people and as far as he's concerned I'm just the messenger boy. That's all there is to it. Hell, he helped us get our people to the island, didn't he? If he wants to get his hands on me or anyone else all he has to do is charter a boat and come knockin' on the barrack's door."

"The shift guards are changing," Max said, looking out the window at the museum, abruptly changing the subject.

Alec's eyes followed hers. "They've added another team," he said. "Not surprising with that big shindig tonight." He looked at her. "You sure your ex has got tickets for you two? This King Tut's party is supposedly sold out."

"Logan said he had sources," Max replied. "And he's not my ex. We were never really like that." She turned back to him just in time to see him silently mimicking the words "we were never like that." She scowled. "Are we done here now?"

"Guess so," Alec said, pushing his chair back and standing up. He took out his wallet and put some bills on the table. Then he looked up at Max and smiled impishly, a speculative gleam in his eyes, his bad mood of a moment ago seemingly banished. "Does this count as an official date?"

"No," Max snapped. "It does not count as a date. This is work."

"Fine," Alec said, his eyes still sparkling with mischief. "You're the mother of my child and the love of my life but you won't go on a date with me. Figures. In which case your half of the tab comes to fourteen dollars and sixty-five cents plus tip. And remember, the wine was your idea. You can pay me back later."

"Jerk," Max muttered under her breath as she put money on the table and followed him out of the restaurant. But she couldn't help the little smile that touched her lips. Alec could be incredibly annoying at times, but in spite of that ... in spite of his many other character flaws ... she loved him more than life itself. He was a good man at heart and a huge part of her world now, their destiny linked by genetics and a fate neither of them quite understood, not to mention a sexual chemistry that made their lovemaking so intense it bordered on the supernatural.

Lovers. Partners. Mates.

She watched him walking in front of her, a Manticore soldier who'd lived through and survived the horrors she'd run from as a child. Someday she knew she needed to tell him how proud she was of him -- someday when he wasn't being such a total jackass.

*****

"No," Alec said to Mole, looking over the equipment in the pack while he sat with the lizard man in the back of the cargo plane that had brought them from Wellington, New Zealand to New York 12 hours before.

A nice Lear jet would of course had been more stylish, not to mention speedier -- commercial travel out of the question with the transhumans along -- but even Alec realized there were limits to Genetically Empowered Inc.'s budget. Therefore, the ancient transport plane and pilot borrowed from a certain smuggler acquaintance had to do.

"I want the lighter weight rope, that super fiber one we lifted from the military warehouse last month."

"It's strong enough," Mole said. "And light. But it'll tear your hands to ribbons if you're not careful."

Alec held up a pair of black gloves.

Mole shook his head. "It'll cut right through the leather. Believe me, I've used this cord before. You're better off with the old fashioned nylon."

"Just put it in the bag," Alec said, counting the grappling hooks and testing the small pulley he'd be using.

The lizard-man shrugged and looked at Joshua. "Fine. But don't come whining to me tomorrow when your hands are a bloody mess."

Alec took stock of himself one last time -- black cargo pants, t-shirt and form fitting jacket, gloves, lightweight pack with all his gear ...

"Are the wire cutters in there?" he asked, rummaging through the bag.

"Right here," Mole said, holding up the cutters. "And here are the jumpers, as well as the meter. You'll be able to check the current on the alarm wires with this, make sure they're all re-routed."

"And the phone signal?"

Mole pointed to another electronic gadget. "It'll mimic the dial tone so the alarm system won't think the connection's been cut."

"All set then," Alec said, reaching out and picking up the Glock 35 lying on the table beside the back pack. He tucked the weapon in the waistband of his pants, in back beneath his jacket.

"You know, if one of the hover drones scan you and pick up that gun you'll be screwed," Mole said. "Maybe you'd better leave it here tonight."

"The hover drones are also programmed for body thermal scans," Alec said grimly. "They're just as likely to spot me that way as with the gun. Besides, Glocks are usually invisible to the scanners, mostly plastic."

Joshua, who'd been watching the preparations, spoke up for the first time. "Alec," he said. "You be careful tonight."

Alec looked at him, his head cocked to one side, and smiled. "What's with you guys? You'd think I'd never pulled a job before. It's just a simple heist. Max goes to the party with Logan, hides in the museum until it closes, I reroute the alarms and take out the guards, then we jack King Tut's crown or necklace or whatever that scientist guy wants for his fee. He winked at Mole. "Didn't I tell ya not to worry? That we'd get whatever we had to?"

"Yeah, yeah," the lizard man said. "You X5's think you own the world when it comes to stealin' stuff from ordinaries."

"Hey, what can I say? We put the 'cat' in cat burglar."

I'm just sayin' that there's gonna be a lot of security tonight, what with all those other jobs that have been pulled around the city lately."

"None of which we did, I should point out," Alec said. "That's why this heist is so beautiful. Transgenics will never be suspected. Hell, we're not even supposed to be in the country. According to Senator McKinley and his cronies all of the so-called mutants are now 'incarcerated' on an isolated island off the coast of New Zealand." He grinned again. "The New York sector police will just put this down to another robbery by the same gang that's been hittin' those jewelry stores and banks."

"It's a good plan," Joshua said, clapping Alec on the shoulder. "If nothing goes wrong."

"Hey," Alec said, hoisting the backpack. "This is me and Max we're talkin' about. What could go wrong?"

To be continued ...

There is one upcoming chapter in this story that might not be acceptable for fanfiction.net's new guidelines. Anyone who wants to read "The Best Laid Plans 2: Death and Life" in its entirety as I write the story is invited to my website: http://www.michaeleaston.com/DA/DAfanfic.html. I also have a number of other DARK ANGEL M/A fanfiction stories there that I've not made available on ff.net as of yet. I even keep an email list of interested readers whom I notify when I post new work on the site.

Also, I'd like to encourage all M/A DARK ANGEL fans to read Max Collins' official prequel novel BEFORE THE DAWN. True, Alec isn't in the story (yet), but there's lots of canon background material in the book that would be pertinent to Alec later on. Plus, Mr. Collins says that Alec and Joshua will be "centerstage" in the DARK ANGEL sequel novel SKIN GAME coming out next February. -- author's note