Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. I am writing this purely for non-profit amusement.
A/N: This story picks up halfway into Hello Goodbye, modified to suit my liking! I have actually set up a framework for the story before I even started typing, but next thing I knew, it grew a mind of its own and started writing itself. It was meant to be a short standalone story, but it dragged on a bit.
Play-along: Chapter 1:
Back at Max's apartment, Alec and Max were having a conversation about Ben.
"I killed him," Max said, not seeing the surprised look on Alec's face as she tried to hold back her tears.
"He asked me to, so I did" Max said, her voice broke slightly and her eyes filled with tears "And then I ran. I saved myself. And I just left his body there for them to take away,"
Tears ran down Max's cheeks. Unsure what to do in the face of a sobbing Max, Alec tentatively put an arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her hair tenderly.
"Max, I'm sorry," Alec whispered. He knew how hard it could be to be forced to kill someone you cared about. He was not able to do it himself. He was thinking of Rachel, and of Max, as he remembered the time he had the micro-explosive lodged in his brain-stem.
He was also sorry he brought the topic up. Sorry he made her re-live her pain of losing Ben. He squeezed her shoulders, "It's late, and you should get some rest,"
Max nodded, taking a deep breath to calm herself. She looked at Alec, "You shouldn't go back to your place. They might look for you there. Stay here tonight,"
Alec rubbed the back of head, hesitating, not wanting to impose on her more than he already had done, considering the state she was in. "You sure? I could crash at Joshua's,"
"Its okay, Alec. Like you said, it's late. You could take the couch,"
"Okay," Alec replied, moving towards the couch. Max gave him a small smile and went back to her room.
It was the middle of the night. Alec was woken up by the sounds of strangled sobs coming from Max's room. He slid off the couch and tip-toed quietly to the room, wanting to check if she was alright. He stopped beside her bed, seeing her tear stained face and the restless tossing of her body. He reached out a hand to gently soothe her, careful not wake her.
Max's eyes opened at his touch. He froze, tensing himself in readiness of some form of attack. She started at him with luminous eyes, wet from her tears.
"Hold me please," she said in a small voice, shaking from emotion.
A look of surprise crossed his face then he nodded slowly, climbing into her bed and putting his arms around her tenderly.
With Alec's arms securely around her reminding her of the comfort she had back in Manticore with her siblings, Max soon fell asleep.
Alec had expected to be battered into a pulp when Max woke up to find him in her bed the next morning, (Never mind it was her who invited him in!), but was pleasantly surprised to find her in a good mood. All that talking must have done her some good, he thought.
"You better lay low until we get this whole mistaken-identity thing sorted out" she said, hugging her arms around her body to ward off the morning chill as she walked him out of her apartment.
Alec nodded, "Yeah, maybe I'll crash at Joshua's. Think he'll mind?"
Max grinned, "Are you kidding? He'll love it"
Alec turned to face Max, "Well, thanks for saving my butt, again. Must be hard, huh? Having me around? Some guy with Ben's face, making you think about things you'd rather forget?" he felt a lump forming in his throat, regret in his eyes for just being who he was.
"Yeah. That's probably why I'm such a bitch to you sometimes. Sorry… I really don't mean it, sometimes," Max said, looking down sheepishly. Deep down, she knew that she was a bit harsh on Alec. Even OC thought that she should let up on him. She couldn't imagine that of all people, she had actually confided in Alec. Probably because he understands what its like, and he doesn't judge, she thought. She felt better now that she got the entire incident off her chest, she was glad Alec was there to listen.
"Maybe," Alec said with a smile, moving closer to Max and putting his arms around her, he said, "Or, you know, maybe it's 'cause I'm such a pain in the ass sometimes…"
Max smiled as Alec detached his arms from her shoulders, and said, "Be careful"
"Always," he replied as he cupped her face in his hands and gave her a long kiss on her forehead, "Thanks, Max"
Across the road, Logan was standing partially hidden by his car. He clenched his hands into fists as Alec put his arms around Max. What does he think he's doing?
Alec turned his back to him, facing Max.
Then Logan heart practically stopped as he saw Alec leaning down to kiss Max. Jealously flared up inside him, flashing across his eyes.
Later that day, Max visited Joshua. Alec had forced him to make Annie leave for his own protection, but he had taken it really hard, and now Max was desperately trying to console him. In his distracted state, Joshua had absent mindedly started fiddling with the pendant hanging around his neck, drawing Max's attention to it for the first time. As the pendant fell to his chest, Max saw the Familiar's caduceus symbol on it.
Max grabbed the pendant in her hand, "Joshua, where did you get this?"
"Father gave it to me," he answered.
Max removed her glove from her hand and compared the pendant with the matching symbol on her palm she got from the fight with the familiars. 'I need to tell Logan', she thought reluctantly. 'But I don't want to see him. I don't want to risk infecting him again.'
Logan's apartment was in darkness as Max went over to the whiteboard and hung the pendant on it. She drew a circle around the pendant and added arrows from 'Sandeman' to 'Breeding Cult'. She stood staring at it for a moment before turning to sneak back out. Then the lights suddenly came on.
"Hi there!" Logan greeted Max with fake joviality.
"The lights were out. I didn't know you were home," Max said lamely. She looked closer at Logan. 'Has he been drinking?' she wondered, detecting the smell of alcohol in the air.
"'Cause if you did, you wouldn't have come, huh?" Logan smirked.
Max ignored his comment, "I found this around Joshua's neck. He said Father gave it to him. It's the same symbol the breeding cult uses"
"So Sandeman is one of White's cult loonies, huh? Woo-hoo," Logan said drunkenly while pouring another drink.
"Logan, there's a connection between the breeding cult and Manticore," Max said, her patience running thin. She did not peg Logan as the drinking type, but evidently he was.
"Maybe I oughta do an Eyes Only hack, huh? I mean, this is a big news day. In case you hadn't noticed, I tried paging you. Wanted to talk to you, but, uh...guess you were busy," Logan said sarcastically, walking towards her.
Seeing that she could not get through to him when he was in this state, Max tried to leave. Logan blocked her exit, while she tried to get pass him without touching him. Getting irritated, she said, "Cut it out"
"I could keep you here all night. Or at least till I drop dead" Logan laughed maniacally.
"I've said everything I needed to say,"
"I don't think so. I think there's something else. Or is it someone else?"
Confused now, Max frowned, "What?"
Logan looked into her eyes, "I needed to talk to you, so I came by your apartment...and I saw him leaving…I mean, if I've got it wrong, just say so" he stammered.
Max looked at him silently. Alec, she thought. He saw Alec leaving.
"Tell me it's not true," Logan pleaded.
Anguished look in her eyes, Max said, "I can't… It's over between us,"
Logan's face reddened, "So it's true then? You left me for that screw-up? Tell me. I want to hear you say it" Logan spat angrily.
Max could not make herself say the words.
"I don't believe you," Logan said, snorting, "You just want an excuse to drive me away. No, I don't believe it,"
Max shoulders hunched in defeat. She really did not need this conversation. She started walking towards the door again, and this time Logan made no move to stop her. At the door, she turned, "Whatever you have to tell yourself, Logan. We're done. Get used to it," she paused, hand pushing the door open, "and for the record, Alec is not a screw-up,"
Logan stared at the door swinging shut behind Max's retreating back.
A couple of nights later at Crash, Max, OC and Sketchy was sitting at a table with beers in their hands, observing the antics of yet another girl at the bar who was throwing herself at Alec. A blonde this time.
"I cannot believe his luck with chicks. I mean, how does he do it? I tried every one of his tips, but still nothing" Sketchy said despondently to OC and Max, who laughed at the expression on his face.
"You fool, have you seen yourself in the mirror? Max's boy over there is hot. He doesn't have to do anything. They offer themselves up to him," OC said, her afro curls bobbing up and down as she shook her head at Sketchy's ignorance.
"He's not my boy," Max said in reflex. Hmm, what OC said was true. It was the girls who keep throwing themselves at him. He just appeared to be such a slut because he always humored them. As if its such a sacrifice for him, Max snorted. He was probably more than happy to please them all.
"Hey, boo, Logan's here. Think he's looking for you," OC nudged Max, indicating the door.
Max looked up and caught Logan's eyes. He smiled. She groaned, Oh no, not again. Really not up to another session of relationship talk, she thought. Max stared fixedly into her beer, wishing herself anywhere but there at Crash.
Logan reached their table, "Could I talk to you for a minute?" he said, looking at Max, then pointedly OC and Sketchy. Max was disgusted, she could smell the alcohol on his breath. Is he drunk again?
Getting the hint, OC and Sketchy got up and headed towards the pool table. OC gave Logan a warning look as she brushed past him. He ignored her.
"What do you want, Logan?" Max asked impatiently.
Logan looked around them, ignoring her question, "So where's your boy-friend?" He eyes locked on Alec with the Blonde. He raised his eyebrows, and smirked at Max, "I wouldn't have said you were the sharing type, Max. Tsk…tsk… Or is it over already?"
"It's none of your business how I run my relationship, Logan," Max said, rapidly getting annoyed. She was not sure if she was more annoyed with Logan or with the fact that Alec was ruining her cover story.
"Ah, Max… You can't expect him to be serious. You can't keep him on a leash. He is an animal," Logan said condescendingly.
Max could feel her hackles rising. "I can't believe you actually said that. Comparing us with animals? Haven't you heard? We ARE part animal. And I don't want to keep him on a leash. I don't have to. We have an understanding," Max said.
"You can't lie to me, Max. I know there's nothing going on between you," Logan taunted her.
"What do I have to do to convince you, huh?" Max said in exasperation, her temper flaring. She thought it going to be hard to break off because of her feelings for him. She did not anticipate that it was going to be hard because of his utter refusal to let go, even when she had. Her irritation with the entire situation was actually making it easier for her. She got up suddenly; flashing a glare at Logan's startled expression.
Max stalked over to the bar.
Alec noticed her approach purposefully towards him out of the corner of his eyes. Uh-oh, what did I do now? he thought, fear rising slightly. Keeping a wary eye on Max, he smiled to the blonde in front of him, "Look, sweetheart, you might want to go to the washroom. It's cute, but there's a little smudge on your face,"
The girl gasped, hand raised to her cheeks, and turned to rush to the washroom.
Phew, just in time, he thought as Max reached his side. He felt her grab the back of his neck. Huh?
"Play-along" she hissed at him, "or I'll kick your ass so hard you won't be able to sit for a week,"
"Wh…" his eyes grew larger as she pulled his head down and captured his lips in hers.