DISCLAIMER: As usual, DA belongs to Cameron/Eglee and Fox.
A/N: Here's the final few missing scenes. There was so much emotion in TBA, but right after this episode we had some Borrowed Time, Harbor Lights, Love in Vein and Fuhgeddaboudit…which showed us that Max and Alec were sort of back to their old selves. So, I had to think of a way to explain why. Hope this does it justice.
Max watched Alec sleep. His face was relaxed and soft, his lips slightly parted. He looked boyish in his sleep, especially without the smirk that was always on his lips. Yeah, I was right all along, she thought humorously. He really is just a big baby.
He mumbled in his sleep, suddenly tensing. He shook his head from side to side and his hands swallowed bunches of his sheets into his clenched fists. She realized that his nightmare was beginning to re-enact itself in his mind.
She quickly laid a cool hand against his forehead and began to stroke his hair gently. "Sshhh…it's okay," she cooed softly. He quieted down almost immediately, subconsciously moving closer to where she sat on his bed.
She couldn't really believe she was doing this: holding him, stroking his hair, whispering quietly to ease his fears. It didn't really feel wrong—just that there was this tiny little voice in her head that kept saying she shouldn't be doing this. After all, he was still the bane of her existence—the cause of so many of her problems. But, just for tonight, after seeing him with Rachel, she could forgive him everything.
She leaned over him and took in his scent—uniquely Alec. "I'll never say this to you when you're awake, but I care about you. You're one of the good guys, Alec. Remember that." she whispered.
She leaned her head back against his headboard and sighed. She let her eyes close. Normally, Max didn't need much sleep. Manticore had designed her for night fighting with shark DNA spliced into hers. But for now, she was enjoying the comforting warmth of his body pressed against her leg, the steady sound of his breathing, and the scent of his skin.
It wasn't just Alec who needed to be reminded that comfort could be found in the most unlikely of places.
Alec woke up to the heat of the sun beating relentlessly against his face. He almost couldn't believe he had actually slept through the night, but the lethargic feel of his muscles attested to the fact. He shifted slightly to stretch those muscles when he realized his left arm was pinned effectively under someone else. His eyes flew to the small dark head that lay on the pillow next to him.
He smiled warmly at her sleeping form. Who would have thought that it would be Max who would hold his demons at bay? She had comforted him with nothing more than her presence—that in itself was amazing. But what really amused him this morning was the fact that she had almost choked on her own tongue trying to be sweet to him.
He tried to pull his arm away slowly, but she woke up, her transgenic senses forcing her to immediate alertness.
"Hey," he said, all his amusement fleeing, suddenly leaving him feeling awkward. In all honesty, he'd never really woken up with a woman before, so he didn't really know what the etiquette was. Besides, Max was the last woman he'd ever thought he'd wake up next to.
Max looked around her quickly, assessing the unfamiliar room. Her eyes slid almost apprehensively to the person next to her. Her stomach did little flip-flops as she saw Alec leaning over her with sleepy green eyes and tousled blond hair.
She sat up quickly and ran her fingers self-consciously through the tangled mass of her dark hair. For some reason, she felt acutely embarrassed waking up next to him. It was like they'd gone from enemies, to acquaintances, to friends, and then to waking up next to each other in one night. Oh wait, we actually did, she thought sarcastically.
Without another look at Alec, Max turned her back to him and stood up, straightening her clothes along the way.
Alec scrambled out of bed as well. There was a moment of awkwardness as they stared at each other across the bed, trying to read each other's thoughts on the situation. But then, Alec smirked. "So, that's why you're always late for work." he mused out loud, his green eyes dancing.
She leveled her frowning brown ones at him, hands on her hips. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He gestured randomly at her hair. "You've got all…that…to deal with," he quipped.
She rolled her eyes at him glad for the familiarity of his quips. "You say that like you look any better right now."
He quirked a brow at her. "Are you always this sunshine-y in the mornings?" he thought out loud. Then he shrugged almost nonchalantly. "Besides, I've got a good excuse." No sooner had those words left his lips when he clamped his jaw tightly. His face was immediately wiped clean of emotion at the reminder of exactly what his good excuse really was.
Max felt the sudden rise in tension in the small room. She smiled tightly, apologetically, at him. He shrugged and avoided her eyes. Max glanced out the window and groaned when she noticed how high up the sun already was. "Normal's seriously gonna can my ass today. I'm so late."
"You're late everyday, Max," he pointed out flatly, not rising to the bait of her small joke.
She shrugged. "It's a morning ritual. I always think the next time I stroll in late would be the last straw for Normal."
"Right. Okay then, don't let me keep ya." he shrugged.
She turned to him and eyed him assessingly. "Coming in to work today?"
He shook his head, his face taut. "I just wanna be…"
"Alone. I understand," she finished. "I'll tell Normal that you're out sick with malaria or something," she said wryly. "I won't spare him the details, either. I'll make sure he understands how you need the time to recuperate so you can stay his Golden Boy."
He smiled slightly. "How about you skip the Golden Boy stuff, huh?" he said in a weak attempt at his old humor. He really appreciated what Max was doing for him—avoiding the issue. They were both really good at it, in fact.
She got ready to leave and was about to pick up her jacket from the foot of his bed. He beat her to it, and held on to it for a second. He smiled tentatively at her. It was a genuine smile, soft and grateful. "So, look, I really…y'know…"he stammered, unused to expressing sincere gratitude. "I slept." He finally said, abruptly. Those two words really explained it all, anyway.
"I noticed," grinned Max. "Anyway, if you want, I can swing by after work…bring over some pizza or something. Y'know, be around."
"You'd do that?" he asked in slight disbelief. He could understand a one-night glitch on Max's bitch mode, but two nights in a row? That was just plain unexpected.
"Yeah," she shrugged. "That's what friends do."
His lips twisted into a small grin. "So, we're friends now?"
She returned his smile with one of her own. "I'm not promising anything, but maybe for the next couple of days."
"I can deal with that. No physical violence for a couple of days sounds good to me."
And she smacked him upside the head. I could live with that, too, he thought, as he tossed her the jacket as she left his room, both of them smiling.
Max strolled into Logan's penthouse. She hadn't seen him since the night she rushed into the Berrisford Mansion to get Alec, two nights ago. As usual, she found him amongst his Eyes Only equipment, tinkering with his work.
He glanced over his shoulder at her. "Hey, Max," he greeted, openly happy to see her.
She stood a casual five feet away from him and rested her hands on her hips. "You paged?" she asked.
He glanced questioningly at her tone. It was brisker than she normally used with him. "Yeah, you haven't been by in a couple of days." He pointed out, almost accusingly. She hadn't even followed up with him about how things went with Alec. He wanted to ask, but found that he couldn't voice out his thoughts.
Max looked away briefly, there was a flash of guilt which she quickly suppressed. "I've been busy at work, covering for Alec. He's called in sick." she explained hastily. In all honesty, she had been so busy thinking and worrying about Alec, she hadn't spared a thought for Logan.
She briefly noticed the physical distance that she had become accustomed to between her and Logan. Five feet was the usual "close" for her and Logan. Close enough, at least. Close enough to talk shop. Close enough to exchange little meaningful glances. Close enough to smile at each other. Close enough to do everything else but touch.
She'd never realized it before, but "close enough" was a stark contrast to "close." Close meant being able to touch someone's hand and express comfort without words. Close meant being able to smack someone in the head when they needed some sense knocked into them. And close was being able to whisper words of comfort into that person's ear without fearing her lips might touch his skin.
She had known that Alec had needed a friend. She had not known that she had needed the comfort just as much.
Logan searched her face for a second, and Max forced herself to relax. It wasn't like she had done anything with Alec. There was nothing to feel guilty about. Then why did she? Not having any answers, Max schooled her features into a relaxed smile for Logan. She studied the minute changes of his expression, knowing that he was curious, but not suspicious.
Logan turned back towards his computers. "Anyway, I thought you might want to see this." He pulled up a file on the screen, and Max's heart froze at the words.
RACHEL BERRISFORD DIES AFTER LONG ILLNESS.
Alec. she thought, concern sweeping through her.
Logan glanced over at Max's frozen expression. "Funeral's today." he said softly.
Max noticed Logan's probing look and again forced herself to shrug off her worry about Alec. "So it's over." she whispered. She felt a strange sense of relief rush through her after saying those words. Rachel was gone. "At least he got to say goodbye." she said, more to herself than to him.
Logan cocked his head at her soft tone. "You think he really cared about her?"
"He loved her," she said simply, knowing the absolute truth behind those words.
Logan sighed. "Well, now he's gonna be going through a rough time. Might want to look out for him in the next few days."
Max almost ducked her head away guiltily at his words. She was already looking out for him. But Logan didn't have to know that. Somehow, she wanted to keep her newfound friendship with Alec a secret. Especially from Logan. He wouldn't understand.
So she just shrugged. "He doesn't want me looking out for him. He wants to be left alone...pretend like it never happened. He's so cut off."
It was true that even with the two nights she had spent trying to be his friend, he had still adamantly refused to talk about Rachel or the Berrisford Agenda. He still didn't acknowledge much about his relationship with her, except for having used to care about her and having nightmares about her.
"Sounds like this girl I used to know. She was just looking out for herself. No responsibilities, no entanglements..."
Max realized that he was talking about her; about what she was like when they first met. She recalled how she had put up a front of being carefree to hide away from her own fears.
She smiled sadly at Logan, remembering how, in some ways, her life had been so much easier back then. "Yeah. 'Cause she kept thinking if she ran far enough and fast enough, she could forget all the things they made her do. But sooner or later, it always catches up to you. Learned that the hard way."
"Now, it's Alec's turn."
Max looked out his window at the spectacular view and nodded. Alec's turn.
Except that Alec had stayed in Manticore much longer. Alec had actually pulled his triggers. And Alec was much better at hiding away than she ever had been. He was much better at putting up a front and pretending than she ever had been. In some ways, that was so much worse.
Alec wasn't home later that night. She had knocked politely at first, and then, impolitely picked the lock and strolled in. The place was empty, although his warmth and scent still hung in the air. He had just left a few moments ago. She saw a discarded pile of clothes on the bed and cocked her head curiously. Was that a…tie? She realized that it must have been what he had worn to see Rachel's grave.
The thought tugged at her heart achingly. What would it be like to visit the grave of someone she loved? It was one thing that she probably wouldn't understand, because she didn't know what it was like to look at a headstone and know for certain that someone she loved was lying under there, gone forever.
With one last futile look around for a clue of his whereabouts, Max left. She wanted to drive around and search every nook and cranny of Seattle for Alec, and make sure he was all right. But obviously, he wanted to be alone. For once in her life, Max let the issue drop. She hopped onto her bike and sped away, knowing that his moment of weakness was about to be over. He was out there in the city, alone, rebuilding his emotional shields.
She understood far too well the need to recapture the sense of freedom that not caring allowed. She knew that if you pretended hard enough, you could really almost not care. And you were almost free. At least until the shields went down again. But at least, they were really good at putting them back up.
Alec stood at the edge of the rooftop of his apartment building. He watched Max leave with a small smile on his face. She was so predictable in her…doing-the-right-thing kind of way. He realized that it must have been so easy for Brain to predict Max's behavior: just figure out which one the "right" thing to do was, and it was almost guaranteed that Max would be diving headlong into that disaster.
Like trying to fix him.
What a disaster he'd turned out to be. He knew that Berrisford's words would haunt him forever.
I don't want to be like you.
Alec would have laughed at the man's face if it hadn't hurt so much. Be like him? He didn't even know who or what the hell he was supposed to be. For most of his life, he had been a soldier. That was who and what he was. It had not been his place to think abou what was right or wrong. He followed orders. He did his job. In fact, he had always done his job well. He should have known just how wrong he had been so many times.
But the sad truth was, he just didn't know.
But was that really any excuse?
Because in the end, all that was left was a trail of blood that all pointed to him. All he was left with was the knowledge beyond all doubt that he had killed the girl that he had loved. All he was left with was pain. His own pain, and the one that he inflicted on others.
Looking at Rachel's grave, hearing the venom in Berrisford's voice had almost crippled him. It almost made him want to dig his own grave and just crawl into it, hoping for oblivion. It almost made him want to do something crazy just to numb it.
But he had just turned around a walked away. Pretending that each step away hadn't hurt. Pretending that Berrisford's words could just be shrugged off. Pretending that he could still somehow be forgiven. Always pretending.
Alec stared out into the horizon, watching the lights twinkling all over the city. He had never felt more alone. He clenched his jaw and pressed his lips together, but wasn't able to hold back the sob that broke through. His face crumpled as he let the pain take hold of him for a moment.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered brokenly into the air. He wasn't sure if he was asking for Rachel's forgiveness, or if he was just pouring out all his regrets into the night air. Or if he was asking himself for that forgiveness.
He hastily wiped his tears away with his sleeve. He snorted his nose once and took a deep breath, calming himself. He could literally feel himself pull the pieces of his heart together, pulling in all the pain that was throbbing through him inside, to be tucked away where no one would ever find it.
Sometimes, it was so much easier to pretend that nothing mattered. Because when nothing mattered, it was easier not to care. When he didn't care, he didn't hurt. He would always be all right. All he had to do was not care.
He smirked into the night. Not like I ever really did, he thought a little cruelly. He shrugged and stepped away from the edge of the building. He had indulged himself for the moment, but he was safely back in character. He was all right now.
Max hadn't slept a wink all night. She'd been too worried about Alec. She'd tried reading a book, but had ended up throwing it across the room in frustration. O.C. had given her strange looks all night, but Max just assured her it was only her shark DNA kicking in.
But as soon as dawn streaked the sky, she was ready to go to work.
To say that she was relieved when she caught sight of him by his lockers was an understatement. "Hey," she greeted tentatively, standing five feet away from him. Close enough, but not close.
His hazel eyes slid briefly over to her, but he didn't turn to face her. "Hey, Max," he said, continuing to put things from his backpack into his locker.
"Listen…if you ever want to talk…"
Alec finally turned to face her. His face was carefully devoid of any deep emotions. His eyes were strangely opaque, deflecting away emotions instead of reflecting them. "About what?" he asked.
About Rachel, and love and hurt. "About anything."
There was a brief pause and Max could swear that Alec was going through his catalog of emotions to find the appropriate response. He finally resorted to his usual smart-aleck grin. "Now why would I want to do that?" he asked dismissively.
It was then that Max knew that they were somehow going back through time, hurtling past the last couple of days. He didn't want to acknowledge anything that had past in the last week. She nodded, understanding the defense mechanism. Sometimes, it was just easier to pretend. "Just consider the offer open."
"All right." Alec nodded, and was about to walk past her. But he paused and looked down at her. "Listen…" he stalled, thinking of the tentative friendship that had formed between them. "…thanks for saving my ass," he finally said with a small smile. She had saved him in more ways than one, and that was perhaps the one thing he didn't want to pretend had never happened. That was at least one thing he still cared about.
He was handing her a peace offering, thanking her sincerely for the first time since they'd met. "You're all right?" She was smiling up at him, but he could still see the concern that clouded her eyes.
He wanted to hug her and be hugged back. He wanted to assure her and be assured right back that things were going to be just fine. He wanted anything from her that would stave off the pain that was still lurking inside. But he knew that it wasn't right, not at the moment. He had to work harder not to depend on those deep brown eyes.
So, he smirked at her, his face falling almost automatically into the expression. "I'm always alright."
With that, he walked away from her, clapping his hands in anticipation of the distractions the day would bring him.
Max didn't turn to watch him go. Instead, she smiled sadly to herself. It was better this way. It was safe and familiar territory between them. Banter, playfulness, occasional smacks upside the head—never going beneath what was on the surface. Yeah, that was what it had to be. They both had too many secret hurts that they could both drown in them if they weren't careful.
It was better this way. She was all right with it. He was all right with it. Always all right.
A/N2: I hope you've enjoyed this LONG Missing Scene story. And I hope I clarified the seeming disparity in the dynamic between TBA-Alec and Max, and Fuhgeddaboudit-Alec and Max. Thanks!