Disclaimer: I don't own'em (unless they're originals). Please don't sue me. It's so not worth it.
A/N: This story takes place after the novels but ignores the cop-out virus cure.
Chapter 1: It's All Good
Terminal City Headquarters, 2021AD
Max Guevara looked around the table and let out a rare sigh of contentment. Things were actually going well for a change. She'd finally relaxed enough to let Original Cindy bulldoze her into throwing a party at Terminal City. She had to admit that it had been a good idea.
To some, the scene playing out might have been hilarious. Or surreal. Transgenics, transhumans and 'ordinaries' crowded together, moving in time to the music. The volume wasn't high – transgenic hearing made such excesses unnecessary. In the centre of the room, Joshua was dancing with Original Cindy and the sight made her smile. The canine-human hybrid was clearly enjoying himself though he looked like a grasshopper with a limp – those surrounding him graciously cleared a space for him. He didn't care what anyone thought. Opportunities to have fun were few and far between for the gentle giant and he was determined to make the most of the party. Even Mole was getting his groove on, his ever-present cigar weaving a smoke trail through the air. The lizard man was dancing with Gem, who was grinning up at him as she showed him some moves.
"Never thought I'd see Mole gettin' his groove on." To Max's left, Alec shook his head in amusement as he watched the usually gruff transhuman spin Gem across the floor.
"This is definitely a Kodak moment," Sketchy agreed, lifting his camera to take a photograph. Most of the time Max would have put a hand over the lens or snatched the camera away but she couldn't muster enough irritation to do so. It couldn't hurt to have a few pictures of a dancing transhuman, right?
"Wait till he sees the prints," Alec said with a wicked grin.
"You're not gonna make me show him, are you?" Sketchy asked, clearly not liking the idea.
"It's cool, Sketch," Alec told him. "I think Gem oughta do it. She'd love it." Max chuckled at the image that flashed into her mind. Gem was one of the few people within Terminal City who could tease the lizard man and get away with it. During and after the Terminal City siege, the young X5 mother and the transhuman had forged an unlikely friendship. Mole was extremely protective of both Gem and her beautiful daughter. Mole grumbled but grudgingly admitted that the kid was kinda cute.
At that very moment, little Eve was asleep in the arms of Terminal City's most unusual ally – Reagan Ronald, known to most as Normal. Ever since the Jam Pony siege, during which Normal had helped bring little Eve into the world, he'd been firmly in the transgenics' corner. Once Normal had gotten past his initial bias, he'd refused to be intimidated by any of them. He'd even "bip bip bipped" Mole. Max had never seen the lizard man look incredulous but it had been one of those 'freeze frame' moments. That alone made Normal's visits worth it.
Max's gaze flicked over to Alec, Normal's Golden Boy. His attention was focused on Joshua and Original Cindy. A hint of a smile touched his mouth as he watched them, a glass of scotch in his hand. Much as she hated to admit it, OC had been right – Manticore sure knew how to make 'em pretty. His hazel eyes were always full of energy and humour, something Max had come to appreciate over the last few months. Nothing was ever as bad as it seemed when Alec was around to lighten the mood. As if sensing her regard, Alec turned to meet her gaze.
"So when are you gonna have a dance, Maxie? This is your party, isn't it?"
"Joshua saved me the next one," she replied and managed to keep a straight face when Alec couldn't suppress a wicked smile.
"Should I call medical now or later?" he asked with good humour. "OC's gonna need it even if you don't." Max swatted him as he threw back the last of his drink. "I'm kidding, Max," he clarified. "Take it easy."
Eve stirred in Normal's arms and he looked down at her sleepy face, his lips twitching. "Hello there, cutie." The baby yawned and Max smiled in spite of herself.
"She's awake?" Gem asked as she came up to the table with Mole in tow. Sketchy tactfully slid his camera off the table and placed it into Alec's waiting hand so that it was out of the lizard man's sight. Normal carefully deposited the baby into her mother's waiting arms.
"She's beautiful, Gem," Normal said. Mole peered over Gem's shoulder and the baby smiled up at him, gurgling happily. He touched a rough finger to the baby's cheek.
"Yeah, wait'll she starts wailing," he said gruffly. Gem winked at Max, who stifled a smile. It was a running joke that the bad-ass, shotgun-toting, cigar-smoking transhuman had been tamed by a three-month-old baby girl. Mole backed up a step and nodded in the direction of the door, a fresh cigar in hand.
"Okay," Gem said calmly. Alec gave her a questioning look as Mole left the room. "I asked him not to smoke around Eve," she explained with a shrug.
"Fair enough," Alec agreed, reaching out so that Eve could grab his finger and hold on tightly. He smiled at the baby girl, by no means immune to her innocent charm. "Hey, she's got major grip," he joked.
"You have no idea," Gem said affectionately. "Do you want to hold her for a minute?"
"Me?" Alec was caught totally off-guard. "I'm not a baby person," he protested.
"Uh, hello? Genetically engineered killing machine right here," Gem pointed out, raising her free hand. Alec shrugged his response and Gem placed the wriggling child into his grasp. He had a hand under each of baby Eve's arms so that she kind of dangled, her feet resting on his lap. It didn't look terribly comfortable but the girl cooed and gurgled at the uncomfortable X5 now at her mercy. Max did her best to not laugh at him. After all, she wasn't exactly the maternal type either.
"Max." The girl in question turned to find Logan Cale standing at her shoulder.
"Hey," Max said automatically, beaming at the scruffy cyber-journalist.
"Looks like quite a party," Logan said, indicating the improvised dance floor. He looked over at Alec, who was gingerly sitting Eve down on his knees. He looked worried that he might break her. "Making new friends?" Logan asked as the baby's legs began kicking energetically.
"What I do," Alec replied smoothly, looking up at the blue-eyed, bespectacled human.
"See, you're a natural," Normal told Alec encouragingly. "She loves you."
A grinning Gem looked up at Logan. "Hey. How's it going?"
"Good, everything's great," Logan replied. "How's Eve doing?"
"You can see for yourself," Gem said proudly. "She's thriving." She looked at Normal again. "Thanks for watching her for me."
"My pleasure," Normal replied graciously. Gem smiled and held out her hands to Alec, who swiftly placed the baby within her mother's reach. He looked extremely relieved.
"Okay, guys, I'm gonna head home. If I don't get her down now she won't sleep at all."
"We'll see you tomorrow," Max said warmly.
"Bright and early," Gem said with a nod. "Good night."
"Good night," the group replied as Gem walked out of Headquarters, where Mole was undoubtedly waiting.
"Damn, that boy's whipped," Alec mused.
"I'm not whipped," Logan muttered, thinking back to a conversation in the sewers.
"I was talking about Mole," Alec told him patiently. Logan didn't reply as Max looked from Alec to Logan and back again.
"Am I missing something?" she asked. Alec shook his head and handed the camera back to Sketchy.
"It's all good, Maxie," he assured her, pulling his wallet out of his pocket. "Who's up for another round? I'm buying."
"Sounds good," Max told him. "Make mine a beer."
"Normal?" Alec asked. "Logan? Sketch?" Sketchy immediately nodded.
"No, thanks," Logan replied politely as Normal also declined on the grounds that he had to chase after a group of reprobates the next day. Alec walked over to the makeshift bar, leaving an odd group in his wake – Logan, Max, Sketchy and Normal.
An awkward silence prevailed for a long moment.
"So how's business?" Logan asked finally.
"Good, really good," Normal replied quickly. No-one seemed to think of anything to say after that. A full minute passed without anyone talking.
"Little Fella!" Max had never been so relieved to see Joshua. The dog-man happily bounded over to the table with Original Cindy in tow.
"Hey, Big Fella." Max greeted Joshua with a hug that he enthusiastically returned. "Looks like you were having fun out there."
"Like dancing," Joshua gushed. "Like dancing very much. Good music!"
"This boy's got skills," OC told them with a smile and Joshua beamed at her praise.
"Max dance now?" Joshua asked. "You promised."
"Yeah, I promised," Max agreed with a smile. "Come on." She held out a hand and Joshua led her out into the crowd just as Alec returned with another glass of scotch and a pitcher of beer. He grinned when he saw where Max was headed.
"Guess this means you get Max's share," Alec offered, winking at OC.
"Damn straight," she agreed, holding out Max's glass for him to fill. With a chuckle, Alec began serving the drinks as everyone turned to watch their fearless leader dancing with Joshua. Even the usually serious Logan couldn't keep a straight face.
"Hey Sketch?" Alec caught the reporter's attention and made a quick clicking gesture with his fingers. Sketchy immediately snapped a few pictures of Max and the Big Fella and nodded at Alec.
"Doubles anyone?" Alec asked mischievously.
Far from Terminal City, a young woman was minding her own business as she strolled down the street. To anyone watching – anyone with a Y-chromosome, at least – she was quite an eyeful. She had long tousled blonde hair shot through with flashes of vivid purple, a beautiful face and the kind of body most women would gladly kill for. Dressed in tight low-slung jeans, a midriff-baring black singlet and black boots with a few pieces of simple silver jewellery, she looked like a punk rock devotee – but a classy one. She even moved gracefully, her hips swaying gently as she walked.
"Hey, pretty girl!" A man who'd had one too many drinks called out to her but she didn't slow down – she didn't even acknowledge that he'd opened his mouth. "I said – Hey!"
She finally stopped and turned around, one hand on her hip as she watched the beefy man approach her. He stunk of beer and cigarettes, the odour totally unappealing to her sensitive nose.
"What do you want, brain trust?" she asked impatiently.
"Just you, baby," he leered as he looked her up and down appreciatively.
"Keep dreaming, Sasquatch," she replied smoothly with a shake of her head as she turned away, intending to walk away from her red-faced, beer-bloated admirer.
"Bitch!" He raised his arm and took a swipe at his prey.
Naturally, the blow never landed.
The drunk found his wrist locked in a vice-like grip and the fingers squeezed until he cried out and sank to his knees, the pressure making the bones creak under his skin. The drunk suddenly found himself gazing into the most unnerving eyes he'd ever seen. They were a striking blue-green… and they were cold as ice. Belatedly realizing what he'd attacked, the drunk cowered.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry… Arghh!"