Back to him
Disclaimer: Belongs to whoever owns it, not me.
Pairing: M/A Angst
Summary: Six months on from the formation of their freak nation, Max has a question for Alec.
Author's Note: This is a one shot I wrote whilst trying to write the final chapter of 'Freedom on the Inside', (I'm still trying, by the way). Anyway, hope you like it.
Max was happy. She really was. No, the virus wasn't gone and no, White and the Familiars hadn't dropped dead, and despite the fact that she couldn't be together with Logan as she wanted; she was still happy. Why? Because she figured that so long as she was in love and so long as Logan still loved her; who cared about the damn virus? Sure they couldn't touch, but physical contact wasn't the be all and end all, now was it? No, Max was happy. So long as she kept repeating her mantra inside her beautiful mess of a head, she wouldn't have to think back to that day, back to him. . .
Terminal City was buzzing. It had been six months since the siege and the creation of this freak nation, and everything was running like clockwork. It was as if it had never been any other way. All the transgenics, of all series and nomlies were living, working and fighting alongside as they always should have been.
Max of course led the way. Many transgenics had disputed Max as their leader, never quite forgetting her treachery in '09, but after a rather surprisingly motivating speech by Alec; the transgenics had shut the lids on their doubts. They did however have one condition; Alec was to be Max's second in command. Of course, Alec didn't stop grinning for another week and Max would usually send him one of her disgust filled glares, snap an impatient 'shut up' his way or as customary, smack him upside the head. At first it seemed nothing had changed at all; but six months of living in the same conditions, constantly thrust into each other's company in order to sort out the daily problems of food, medical and power supplies, and the rather large scale effort to fight the Familiars and all other transgenic haters, put some invisible strains on their already tenuous friendship. Well at the very least, the strains were invisible to Max and were forced to be invisible by Alec.
Despite being a free spirited, happy go lucky sociopath for so long, Alec adapted well to his new responsibilities. It was as if Manticore had never left him. But in saying that, Alec wasn't going to let go of the girls and beer that easily. Along with bread and trytophan, Alec held alcohol to be an equal necessity and as Max had made him in charge of bringing the supplies into Terminal City, he used that power accordingly. It definitely kept the male X5's happy and so after an initial disapproval, Max decided to drop the issue.
That of course wasn't the only argument; numerous others had followed. In fact, on average, Max and Alec probably argued about eight times a day, and whilst it's possible to interpret the continuous arguing as a damaging blow to their friendship; the six months of yelling and working together had in fact had an adverse effect; though it was only Alec who had noticed this.
Alec was used to gorgeous girls but he'd be an idiot if he ever tarred Max with the same brush. Sure she was beautiful and gutsy like any other female X5, but there was just that something extra special about her. And that? Well, that was merely the trivial fact that he was in love with her, oh, and not to mention the fact that she was already taken. So, yeah, you can say it now; idiot. He was an idiot. But not an idiot that moped around all day. No, Alec decided to shove his little problem away and carry on as if nothing had changed and hence the continued verbal sparring.
Max, on her part, wasn't completely oblivious. Alec had changed, there was no denying that. He took his job seriously and the transgenics respected him, and from her own experience, she knew that gaining respect was no easy feat. And although they still had their issues, she didn't find his company to be as uncomfortable as it used to be. The ghost of Ben had been laid to rest and neither one of the X5's ever brought the issue up again. Well, that had been the case until that day . . .
They were laughing again and there was no more annoying noise than the sound of laughter when you're trying to think. Alec, in a lame attempt to block out the noise tried shutting the door to his office. But like everything else in Terminal City, the door was non-functional. The rotten wood was too small for the door frame and so a gap of at least two inches let him see and hear everything in the adjacent room. Sighing, he looked back down at the figures floating on the piece of paper on his desk. The cost of keeping 'transgenic capital' rolling was rocketing skywards. Everything was becoming more and more expensive as more of Alec's contacts fell through. It was old news that the government was cracking down hard on anyone found out to be helping the transgenics and it wasn't new news either that most were out there looking out only for number one.
Alec threw his pen back on to the table. The pitiful piece of plastic bounced off the desk and clattered to the floor of the tiny room. Leaning back into his chair, Alec ran a tired hand back and forth through his hair. His eyes by default moved to the gap in the door, but more precisely to the two people in the next room. For once, he actually wanted to go back to looking at the finances, because as it was, the current view wanted to make him hurl.
There they were again, holding hands and smiling saccharinely. Plastic gloves; he had had to come up with that hadn't he? Alec felt the strong urge to turn the waste paper basket into a sick bucket pronto. He didn't hate Logan. No, he rather admired him. But plastic gloves? It was what their 'we're not like that' relationship had been reduced to. But Max was happy. He hadn't seen her smile like that for too long; so who was he to comment?
Deciding he couldn't stomach watching the two lovebirds anymore, he attempted to stand up and retrieve his pen. The only problem with having an office that was about two feet wide as it was long and being six foot, was that moving around was a task and usually ended up in him breaking or knocking something over. And it just so happened to be the huge stack of files propped up on the side of his desk that fell to the floor with a loud thud, this time.
"Damn it," Alec cursed as he crouched down to pick up the unorganised chaos scattered across the floor.
The sudden noise finally tore Max's eyes away from Logan's and towards Alec's small office that was adjoined to her much larger one.
"Alec?" she called.
Max's voice startled Alec some more as he struggled to get up under the weight of the files he'd picked up. Had he been in his right mind he would have remembered that his desk had a very sharp corner; as it were he hadn't.
The files were once again scattered across the floor as Alec stood clutching the top of his head, swearing incomprehensibly under his breath. That was the sight that Max met when she pushed open his door.
"Alec, what the hell are you doing?"
Alec didn't meet her gaze as he crouched back down for his second attempt at clearing up,
"Hi Alec, are you ok? Yeah I'm fine, how are you Max? How's Logan?" Alec mimicked with clear sarcasm dripping from his voice.
Max crossed her arms across her chest in that usual way she did when she meant 'this', whatever 'this' was, was serious.
"I'm fine Alec. So's Logan," Max answered equalling Alec's expression, "Now back to my original question, what the hell are you doing?"
Finally managing to pick up every last bit of paper, Alec stood up and dumped the load from a height on to the table. The loud thud didn't result in a blink from either of the transgenics, but Logan who was watching everything from his seat practically jumped right out of his chair.
"Going through the finances," Alec answered still not meeting Max's eye.
"What, you had to do them here?"
Alec laughed, "Well uh unless you haven't noticed Max, this is my office."
"Yeah I can see that," Max retorted, taking a derisive 360 degree glance at the state of the room, "But was it absolutely essential that you did them now?"
"Uh," Alec paused dramatically, "Yes it was."
"You knew Logan was coming in today, the least you could have done was given us some privacy."
"Well I wasn't listening to your little conversation if that's what you're worried about. In fact I was actually trying to block my ears so I didn't have to listen to your racket."
"We were not making a racket!"
"Ok, fine, but I'm asking you to leave us now."
Alec smiled before walking around the side of his desk and sitting himself back down in his chair, "I was gonna finish this," he said pointing down at what he had previously been working on. He watched as Max's face contorted into an impossibly calm glare. He just couldn't help himself. He loved pushing her buttons and seeing just how far she could go. A loud, shouting enraged Max was however far less scary than a stonily silent and seething Max. Alec couldn't help but feel a little worried as Max turned her back completely against him and walked out of the room. He watched, well more rather heard her talking to Logan,
"Can I talk to you tomorrow?" Max asked.
"Sure," Logan answered, "What's going on?"
"I think me and Alec need to have a little chat," Max said this loud enough making it obvious that she wanted Alec to have heard at least that part.
Logan nodded, seeming to understand. Getting up, he slowly ran a hand through Max's tamed curls before whispering a "bye."
"Bye," Max attempted to smile but as soon as Logan disappeared through the door, the scowl returned full force.
All the while Alec had been watching the entire scene with an inexplicable knot twisting tighter at the pit of his stomach and as Max turned back towards him; he replaced his torn expression with an accustomed smirk – his foolproof trademark.
Max took a deep breath as she came to a halt in front of his desk,
"You know I really would have appreciated it if you had listened to me just this once."
Alec was a little shocked to say the least. He had expected an onslaught once Logan had left the building and he wondered just how long the civility would last.
"Well it is my job to look after the figures and you're the one who's going to be kicking my ass come Monday, if the books aren't up to date."
"Yeah but you know how dangerous it is for Logan to come here and you could have done the books later; it wouldn't have killed you."
She always managed to do this. Soften her tone a bit, put on a sincere expression and Alec was a big time sucker. Somehow she always made him feel like scum. But after six months of this, he didn't feel like apologising just so quickly. Instead he sat in silence, letting Max do all the talking, especially as she seemed to be on a roll.
Moving the files to the centres of Alec's desk, Max sat down on the edge with her back to the male X5 before exhaling deeply. She didn't speak. She just sat there kicking the heel of her left foot rhythmically against the wood of the table.
'Now this was weird,' Alec thought silently. It looked as if Max actually wanted to tell him something and he knew well enough that she was a great one for procrastinating,
"Are you jealous?"
Max spun around to face him with such speed he didn't have a chance to recover from the shock of the question,
"W-what?" he sputtered.
"Are you jealous?"
"Of what exactly?"
Alec laughed, "You really do think highly of yourself, don't you Maxie?"
"I'm not joking Alec. I'm completely serious. Are you jealous of me?"
"I repeat, of what exactly?"
"My relationship with Logan, my position of responsibility in Terminal City, my family-"
"Wow, the list's endless," Alec interrupted.
"You're avoiding the question," Max said seriously.
"Yes I am," he admitted, "But I just have one question, why? Why does it matter?"
"For one it'd explain you behaviour recently."
"What my newly found dedication to work?"
"No, I mean yes, that and other things."
Max bit down on her lower lip, obviously not comfortable with the next few words that would leave her mouth.
"I've seen you staring . . . at me and Logan."
Alec sat there staring at Max as if he had been zapped by some alien ray gun, before letting out a guffaw so loud that Max's heart missed a beat. He was now laughing uncontrollably in his seat as Max glared coldly at him.
"Alec?" She intoned seriously.
"Why would I even want to be staring at you or Logan? Are you sure you're not imagining things?"
"Fine you know what?" Max snapped jumping off the table, "If you're gonna be an asshole about this, I know of hundreds of other places I could be right now. Why did I even bother entertaining the thought that me and you could sort this out?" With two long strides, she was out of Alec's office and already half way across the floor of the next room.
"Max, wait," Alec called from behind her. Turning around slowly, she watched as Alec made his way over to her. She stood with two hands stuffed into the pockets of her jeans and with an expression of both fury and sadness. The hybrid of emotions made her all the more beautiful to Alec.
"I'll answer your question on one condition though."
"What?" Max asked not liking the direction that this was taking.
Alec came one step closer to her, "That what I say doesn't leave this room. And I'm not talking about you chatting with Original Cindy; I'm talking about you carrying it around in your head. Nothing's gonna change and you have to forget I said whatever it is that I am about to say, deal?"
Max shook her head, "It doesn't work like that-"
"Take it or leave it Max."
Max sighed, "Fine."
"I'm serious too Max."
Max nodded, "I get that."
Alec took a step back before laughing nervously, "Hmm, where to begin?" He looked directly at Max, scrutinising her under his gaze, "I suppose I'll start with your 'responsibility in Terminal City,' as you put it. And the honest truth there is that I couldn't care less. I'm happy with what I'm doing and to be perfectly frank, I couldn't and wouldn't do your job even if you paid me, oh I dunno, a million pieces of that lovely green stuff. Yes Max, money."
Max let a small smile, she could tell when he was being honest and that sounded like a perfect Alec answer.
"Your family?" Alec's jaw tightened as his expression hardened. "I'm happy you found something that made you feel normal. After all it's something that sets Ordinaries apart from us. They always know that they came from somewhere. That someday they must have had a family; and you created that with Tinga, Zack, Brin . . . Ben. But I'm happy being just me. I don't need other X5's telling me who I am, Max. I'm me, and I don't need Ben to do that. You said it yourself, I'm nothing like him. I made me. I don't need family because I'm not like them Max. I'm a transgenic, I accept that."
Max's smile had left her face a long time ago, this wasn't a topic she shared easily with Alec but if she thought this was hard, it was about to get a lot worse.
"And what was the other thing you accused me of being jealous of? Oh that's right, your relationship with Logan. Funny that one, you know? I'm kinda torn."
Surprise didn't come so quickly to Max as she had assumed it would.
"On the one hand I'm not jealous. Here let me give you a demonstration," Alec taking a complete change of direction, walked up to Max and without her even realising it, he had grabbed her hand. The one still covered in a plastic glove from her encounter with Logan.
She stood watching, opening and closing her mouth like a fish, not knowing what to say.
Alec weaved his fingers around her gloved ones and then looked down at her face,
"Poor guy," he smiled, "I guess this is what it feels like." Moving his fingers up her hand he rested them at the top of her wrist, at the point where the glove ended. Gently, he rolled it down and eased it off her hand. Taking the plastic glove he dropped it on to the floor. Effortlessly, he then entwined his fingers back with Max's; flesh on flesh. Max suddenly became aware of every single nerve ending in her fingers and palm as she relished the unpredictable softness and warmth of Alec's skin.
This was going some place dangerous and she realised she was going to have to say something but Alec saved her the effort. In an instant, he dropped her hand. It fell limply to her side; feeling cold and rejected.
He said nothing.
One look was all she needed for her answer.
In the depths of his hazel green eyes, she saw an array of different emotions; of which one stood out by far the strongest. It was an emotion she easily recognised; she herself identified with it and for the first time in her life; Max was lost for words.
"Remember the deal Max."
"Alec, I . . ."
Max nodded mutely.
Alec grinned, but that sparkle was no longer there, "I guess I should get back to it. Like I said, you'll be kicking my ass come Monday and it's not gonna happen this time Maxie." Despite his attempt to shake off just exactly what he had exposed, the feeling of both relief and remorse overpowered him. Averting his eyes from Max, he moved out of her way and out of the room; the complete opposite direction to his own office. Max was oblivious to this detail, her brain was much too occupied with the recent revelations she had just heard and witnessed.
A deal was a deal. And as hard as it would be to push Alec's feeling aside, Max was a girl of her word. In saying that though, what she had promised was near enough impossible. Everyday something nagged at the back of her mind. And every time she looked up, whose hazel green eyes would she meet but Alec's. And every time that happened, she would feel unbearably guilty.
She was in love with Logan, and love shouldn't be shrouded in guilt. She should be happy. And that she was; or at least she told herself she was. So long as she kept repeating her mantra inside her beautiful mess of a head, she wouldn't have to think back to that day, back to him. . .
A/N 2: Please review, I'd be great to know what you thought, thanks for reading.