Disclaimer: You know the usual drill.

Summary: In a world where "Proof of Purchase" had ended differently. Alec struggles to find his place and make amends.

A/N: I hadn't planned to post this here originally, but then I figured there are Alec fans who aren't necessarily fans of M/A, so they probably wouldn't have had the chance to read this over at NWP.

Many thanks to the wonderful Deb, for beta-ing.


- Darkness -

He could still see her eyes. When he closed his own, that was the image that assaulted him. Wide, brown, framed by long curling lashes…

They'd been lovely eyes, he realized now. A detail he'd overlooked so easily in the perfection of her face when he'd had time and opportunity to admire both. And one he couldn't seem to move himself past now that it was too late.

Passionate eyes. Alive. And burning with a fire he'd wished to warm himself by…but had been too afraid to get close enough to do so. A fire he had instead extinguished.

"Excellent work, 494"

He took another gulp from the bottle in his hand, the bottle that grew lighter with each passing moment, in contrast to his body, which seemed to only get heavier, weighed down by some invisible burden. His throat stung. So did his eyes, and he wished that he could hold the acrid liquid responsible for both.

Without purpose or destination, he staggered aimlessly through the street, the neck of the bottle grasped tightly between curled fingers like some sort of lifeline.

"I'm sorry."

Green eyes meet brown, pleading for understanding. Pleading for forgiveness.

A thousand emotions flitted between them in the expanse of mere seconds…

The watch on his wrist read just under nine minutes.

There was blood staining his hands. Some had even managed to make its way under his fingernails…imprinted into his very soul, he was sure, if he'd had one to begin with. And even if he'd had one, once, it would have been forfeit long ago. Maybe surgically removed during one of his trips to Psy Ops, along with the memories of the places and people all the blood had come from.

A laugh escaped his lips, a bitter choking sound that echoed through the empty street. He stumbled toward a building and fell against the cement wall, lending it his back, the weight of his body.

If only they'd removed his conscience as well, and the guilt…god, the guilt.

"I'm sorry. There's no other way."

Eight minutes and counting. Another sip and a hand brushed across his mouth, wiping up the excess liquid that spilled. An ache welled inside his chest where he was pretty sure his heart should reside, but instead there was just this black hole that seemed to suck in anything that got too close…

And once he'd thought nothing could be worse than Manticore - that nothing could make him worse. Apparently, there had been room for naiveté in him yet.

"Excellent work, 494."

A hollow gaze and mechanical shift of his head.

"Yeah, whatever." Voice empty. "Can we save the congratulations for later?" Words lacking spite. "The chip?"

He felt himself slide down the length of the wall, until he was sitting, legs splayed out in front of him, loose grip on the bottle. The cement was cold and rough against his flesh where the t-shirt had bunched up on his back.

He closed his eyes and swallowed hard as a memory pounded in his head, a relentless image haunted him.

All he could see was her dark gaze. Her accusing stare. Her pleading expression.

"I don't want to die."

His eyes popped open. Six and a half more to go.

His breath left his mouth in rapid bursts, expelling small white clouds that hung before his face before dissipating into the air. He brought the bottle back up to his lips.

If he could turn it off…. All he wanted was to turn off the video playing inside his head. He wanted to crawl inside his bottle, drown himself in the liquor and forget. He wanted Manticore and its scientists to come and extract the image from his brain, so he could go back to playing soldier and pretending nothing else mattered.

"What if I said I changed my mind?" A wry grin and gauging look. A test? A little torture to pass the time? "After all, you tried to shirk on your end of the deal - what if I did the same on mine?"

He would have laughed, had the mere thought of doing so not been so painful. Instead he turns his empty gaze on him.

"Is that what you're saying? Because let me know right now so I can be on my way."

An unanticipated response. He'd been expecting what? Begging… pleading for his life, perhaps? No. No more of that. He's tired of groveling, of scrounging about for these little extensions… just a few more days here, a few more hours there. Prolonging the inevitable.

"What, that's it? No fight, no nothing? After the fuss you put up last time, even turning on your own kind - you'd just crawl away to die?"

"No, I'd walk away, go get myself a few drinks. And some time after that would come the crawling and dying part."

A brief laugh and an incredulous look. "With… twenty-five minutes left?"

"You'd be surprised just how much alcohol I can consume in twenty-five minutes."

Make that four. Just four more.


A heavy weight in his hand as he tries not to look into the pleading eyes.

"I don't want to die," soft voice, willing her to understand.

The sharp glint of steel in the darkness as he raises his hand and prepares to strike.

A strange noise sounded in the back of his throat, and he gasped for breath suddenly. His hand clutched tighter at the bottle, taxing the strength of the glass.

Two minutes, forty-seven seconds.

A dark laugh, and a small box appears in his hand. A few quick punches of the buttons and, "There. Disarmed." Just like that.

A flicker of something, finally, through green eyes. Wariness.

"Hey, you've got the clock right there. If that thing runs out and you're still alive, you'll know I was telling the truth. If not… well, it won't be your problem any more, will it?"

His hand raised the bottle to his lips weakly, but even the effort to drink was too much this time, as another barrage of images fell over him.

"I'm sorry."

Can't she see that he doesn't want to do this?

"There's no other way."

That, underneath cocky exterior, underneath that carefree act, when you strip away the fancy genetics, the years of training - all he is, is an animal trying to survive. That's all he's ever asked for. Survival.

A hard swallow, the tightening of a jaw. A soldier's mask struggles to slip back in place.

One minute, five seconds. The bottle slipped from slack fingers, falling to the ground. The liquid remnants eagerly escaped their glass confines.

Her pupils dilate. A choked sound leaves her lips.


But that isn't him any more. Maybe never to begin with. In that moment, he realizes that maybe they were right not to give him a name, just a number, a designation. Maybe he is nothing more than what they'd claimed - a tool, an instrument of death and destruction.


"There's no other way."

The knife descends. And in that moment, there is a glimmer of understanding.

A throbbing had begun in the back of his head. His vision blurred.


Because, as he'd stared down into the wide, empty gaze, he'd seen…

"I'm sorry. There's no other way."


"I don't want to die."

… she hadn't wanted to die either.

His eyes turned to the counter on his wrist.


"Goodbye cruel world." Somehow, the sarcastic tone he'd intended fell just short of its mark.


The grimace that twisted his lips might have been intended as a smirk.


His eyelids fell shut of their own accord and he waited…



No small popping noise. No brain matter spraying over the sidewalk. No cancellation of X5-494. Nothing at all, but the sound of his own harsh breathing in the empty night.

A strangled sound fell from his lips as eyes reopened, vision too obscured by hot fluid to be of much use.

Gasping words left his mouth, "Whaddaya know?"

He'd kept his word after all.

And then his head fell forward, body shaking with pent-up emotion as relief surged, mixed with bitter disappointment.

"Excellent work, 494."

No, that's not the end. Although, that would be interesting if it were. Hmm... But it's not.