DISCLAIMER: Dark Angel and all its characters belong to Cameron/Eglee and Fox. This piece is written for purely entertainment purposes and no money is being made off of this.
A/N: This was written for a challenge from Jam Pony Fic LJ Community. The only rule: At some point within the fic... Sketchy has to beat Alec in a pool game.
Alec eyed Max warily. She was getting that look on her face. The one that hovered between a frown and a smile. It meant that she was focusing—and whatever the hell it was that she was thinking of was amusing to her.
No doubt she was thinking about beating his ass tonight.
A quick glance at the table and the balls told him that it was a distinct possibility. A very immediate one, too. His Maticore-given, perfectly-wired-for-Physics-and-Geometry brain was telling him that he'd have his ass handed to him in only two shots.
If he was seeing the patterns, then so could she. Those shots were gonna be made. After all, Max was many things, but he'd never accuse her of being unintelligent.
She smiled cattily at the pool table, then leaned over to position her cue over the white ball, aiming at the exact same spot he would have chosen had this been his shot. Alec released a resigned sigh. He couldn't believe he had let her break. He still hadn't had a turn, and she was about to win. But, lately, he had come to realize that when it came to Max, he was pretty much game for letting her do anything she wanted.
He knew he was whipped. Just like he'd once teased Logan. It wasn't quite as funny now.
He watched with hooded eyes as she stretched her back almost languorously and pulled back the cue stick. With one swift, expert, and perfectly controlled movement, four of the solid-colored balls dropped into four different pockets.
There were hoots and cheers, and Max grinned saucily at the crowd in Crash. That grin immediately twisted into a smirk when she glanced over at Alec. "You know what's comin' next, Pretty Boy," she drawled.
"It ain't over til it's over, Maxie," he countered with a smirk of his own.
She walked around the table, a little sway in her hips. Alec wondered briefly what the hell it was that had put Max in such a good mood today. He couldn't figure it out, but then again, he wasn't exactly complaining either.
Before Max could position herself for the next shot, Original Cindy came up behind her.
"Well, well, look who's here, Boo," drawled Original Cindy. She was tapping Max on the shoulder and nodding her head to a guy who had just entered Crash and was snaking his way towards the bar.
Max looked up from aligning her shot and anchored her pool stick onto the ground instead, a small smile of amusement on her face. "Eric," she said.
Alec's brow shot up at the way she said his name. It wasn't with the usual rancor and disdain with which Max used on most guys. He'd always figured it was O.C.'s fault that Max was so scornful of the male species. No, this time, Max had said his name practically dripping with honey.
His head snapped back to look at the guy who was now paying for his beer, and he frowned. Eric was scrawny and goofy-looking. Not much of a credit to the males of the human population for sure. Eric looked around Crash and they watched as he tried to talk to several women.
Most of them did the only thing they could, as far as Alec was concerned, and turned around and ignored him. He almost felt sorry for the guy. But really, he needed better pick up lines than "Your daddy must have been a terrorist 'cuz you da bomb!"
It was inappropriate given the times and condition the country was in.
Then he almost cringed when he heard something about being an angel. Damn his finely tuned hearing.
O.C. nodded to Max encouragingly. "You should," she said.
Alec's eyes glanced over Max, who pursed her lip in contemplation before shrugging. "I ought to," she agreed. Then she handed her stick over to Sketchy. "Play for me."
Alec saw the look of near-heartbreak on Sketchy's face as he accepted the pool stick from Max. He looked like she'd condemned him to hell. But hell would freeze over before Sketchy even had a chance at winning against him.
Alec grinned mischievously at Sketchy. Max was fun game. But Sketchy…was a sure thing. He nodded his head kindly at his friend, "Your shot, Sketch," he said.
Alec watched in mock concentration as Sketchy lined his shot. Alec mentally shook his head as Sketchy picked the entirely wrong ball to start off with. The angle was all wrong. It looked deceptively easy, just resting to the right of the pocket, but it required an even more subtle nudge to make it roll just right into the pocket.
As predicted, Sketchy put too much force into the shot, and the ball just knocked the side of the pocket and didn't go in. He groaned. Alec nodded benevolently and patted his friend on the shoulder. "Next time, Sketch, next time." Knowing full well there wouldn't be a 'next time'.
He leaned over the table and lined his shot, using his Manticore-enhanced vision to accurately pinpoint exactly the spot he needed to hit his target for maximum effectiveness. If he did this one right—and of course, he would—three balls would fall into three separate pockets.
But just as he pulled his arm back to shoot, his keen ears picked up Max's voice.
"Hey, Eric," he heard Max say in a tone that could only be described as sultry. Alec froze. He could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand at her tone.
"Max!" cried Eric, obviously surprised, somewhat breathless. "H-how are you?"
Alec's eyes shifted away from the ball and onto Max who was only a few feet away from the pool table. She was leaning seductively on the railing, displaying her assets to maximum droolability. And drool Eric did. "I've missed you," she purred.
Alec almost dropped his pool stick. He'd have to kill Eric. If only to make the world a better place. No guy should be alive that made Max act like she was in heat when she was so obviously not.
It wasn't healthy for the rest of the male population.
"Dude? Are you gonna take the shot?" prodded Sketchy.
Shot? Oh, his shot. "Just a sec, lining up." He fibbed quickly.
He pulled his cue stick back and took the shot, unfortunately, that was when Max chose to speak up, "I've never forgotten what you did for me…no guy's ever done so much for a girl," she said in a throaty, seductive whisper.
His shot went wide. All three balls missed their marks.
"Whoa, dude!" exclaimed Sketchy, still looking at the rolling balls in shock. "You missed!"
"No, really?" drawled Alec sarcastically, eyeing his own shot with an expression of utter contempt. Sketchy was looking at him with wide eyes. Alec shrugged, "I felt a muscle twitch on my shoulder," from holding myself back from strangling Eric.
Sketchy just shrugged. "Whatever, dude. This is my chance to totally rule!"
Alec watched patiently as Sketchy got a lucky shot in. But his ears were attuned to Max.
"So, Eric…whaddya say? You and me taking a ride on my motorcycle to somewhere more…relaxing?" she whispered invitingly.
Alec gritted his teeth. He wanted to howl in frustration and ask who the hell Eric was! Forcing himself to relax and get his mind back on the game, Alec watched as Sketchy made almost the exact same mistake on his next shot.
Sketchy's face fell into an almost comical look of horror as the ball rolled away and knocked one of Alec's striped ones into a corner pocket. Alec grinned widely. "Aww, Sketch, you are a true friend, buddy!" he said, rubbing it in.
"Dude, that so sucks!" cried Sketchy. "I feel like there's a universal plot to foil my chances at winning."
Alec nodded his head at his friend with mock understanding. "I understand. Sometimes, the fates just conspire against you," he agreed. Like when Max was hitting on some Gilligan and completely ignoring him.
He heard Eric's stammered reply and for a second, he really did believe there was a God. And devoutly thanked the Divine Being. "Um…M-M-Max, you know…we've…been through th-th-this before. We are two d-d-different people. It's j-ju-just not gonna work out. I'm sorry."
"Aww, Eric, I just wish things were a little different," Max pouted prettily, and Alec frowned.
A hand clapped him heavily on the shoulder. "Hey, man! It's your turn!" said Sketchy.
Alec tapped his temple with a finger. "I'm strategizing, Sketch," he lied, all the while keeping his attention surreptitiously on Max and Eric.
"Me, too, Max…b-b-but this is…how th-thi-things are. Good-bye." He said before beating a hasty escape towards the other end of Crash.
Finally, he could concentrate on his game. He leaned over and took a shot. Two balls dropped into their designated pockets.
Sketchy leaned over him as he lined his next one. "I should really try that strategizing thing," he commented.
"Watch and learn, my friend," he drawled.
"Aww, good work, Boo!" called O.C., bumping fists with Max. "Look at him, all surrounded by women like he was honey and they was flies. You got them all wonderin' what's so interestin' 'bout 'im now."
Alec smiled inwardly. So that was what that was. Max just helpin' out a poor guy get a girl. She was a saint, really. He had to admire a girl who would help out an old boyfriend.
"Well, he was a good ex-boyfriend. What he did for me, no guy's ever come close," she said mysteriously.
Alec couldn't believe it. He missed again! Not only that, but he scratched! The white ball fell into the left corner pocket, to the amusement of several and the astonishment of Sketchy.
"This cosmic force must be working on the both of us, man!" he declared. "That's rad!"
Cosmic force? Hardly. More like him imagining what Eric could have done for Max that no other guy had ever even come close to again. He glanced irritatedly at the pool table. "Yeah, cosmic forces. Evil." he declared monotonously.
Alec was just about to turn around and ask Max, casually, who the hell that other guy was. But O.C. elbowed Max first, along with an, "Uh-oh, look who's here."
Max's gaze locked with a handsome dark-haired man across the dance floor. Alec frowned at how she seemed to stiffen and tense-up. Alec turned his back to the pool game, certain that Sketchy wasn't about to win any time soon. The guy still had three balls left, plus the eight-ball.
He eyed the man who was now making his way up towards Max. Alec felt his hackles rising, recognizing competition when he saw one. This guy was in a whole different league from Eric. This guy looked good, seemed confident, and appeared to be more on the aggressive side.
"Darren," she said, her tone dripping with displeasure.
"It's good to see you again," he said, with just a little bit of a leer as he let his eyes wander up and down Max's body.
Alec clenched his fists subconsciously at Darren's rude perusal. His eyes drifted back to Max to see how she was going to handle him. "Right. And by good you mean you'd as soon stick your head under someone else's skirt."
Alec's brows flew up. He wasn't even pretending not to listen anymore. This was good. Soap Opera good. Putting two and two together like the smart Transgenic he as, he deduced that Darren had his head up someone's skirt while dating Max.
That bastard. Maybe he should kill this one instead. He was sure Max wouldn't mind. She looked just about ready to scratch his eyes out anyway. They could tag team.
"Max, we could have been good together," Darren stated boldly. "But you ruined it."
Max's eyes flared, and Alec mentally cheered her one. "I ruined it?" she scoffed. "I wasn't the one tomcattin' all over Seattle!"
Alec turned around uncomfortably to look back into the pool game he was supposedly playing. He was guilty of tomcattin' around Seattle. Maybe that was why Max never gave him the time of day. He hoped that she didn't see this sleazeball in him.
He noticed that all the balls remained untouched. Sketchy still hadn't taken a shot. "Sketch, it's your shot," he reminded his friend.
Sketchy narrowed his eyes at the table and tapped his forehead with his finger. "I'm strategizing."
Well, then, he could eavesdrop some more.
"Well, I can see you're as prickly of a bitch as ever. Perimeter defenses are still up." Said Darren, his voice dripping with disdain. "Have a good life, Max." he said, before spinning on his heel and walking away.
He bumped into Alec on his way, who didn't budge an inch. Darren stumbled back a couple of steps and Alec focused him with an icy stare. It was a look he only wore during his missions. It was a dark and dangerous look. Darren looked up at him angrily, but backed away after a moment of trying to stare Alec down. He looked away uneasily, before mumbling a quick, "Sorry," then scampering away. That's right. In this competition, he was Alpha.
Suddenly, he heard Sketchy whoop into the air. "Whoo-hoo!" Alec turned around and noticed that Sketchy was missing two balls from the table. He'd taken the shot Alec would have made had he been in Sketchy's shoes.
"Damn." He muttered. He still had one ball more than his friend.
Unfortunately for Sketchy, it was more along the lines of 'strategizing luck'. His next shot was completely off target. Sketchy scratched his head. "Hmm…maybe I didn't tap my head right," he mumbled.
Alec resisted the urge to guffaw. Instead he schooled his features into something like agreement. "Mmm…maybe," he said with a small nod, looking very sympathetic with Sketchy.
Then in a quicksilver mood switch, he grinned widely. "And now, if you don't mind, I've got a game to win." He clapped Sketchy on the back hard, so that the other man almost spilled forward.
Alec looked at the way the balls were lined on the table. He was sure he could drop his last two balls into pockets in one shot. By using Sketchy's last one. Alec smiled bemusedly. What a way to rub it in.
He bent low to prepare his shot when he overheard Original Cindy again. "Sugah, you might wanna duck for cover," she whispered to Max with a nudge.
Who just came now? growled Alec, mentally kicking himself for being distracted. Maybe Sketchy was right, and there was some misguided fool in the Cosmics trying to ruin his night by parading all of Max's ex-boyfriends in front of him. He gritted his teeth and rallied himself. He was not going to listen to any more of O.C. and Max's chatter. He was going to concentrate on his game.
Sketchy cannot be allowed to win against him. It was unthinkable. Unforgivable.
But before Alec could take his shot, he heard a warm, male voice address Max. "Hey, Max."
"Hi, Rafer," she said.
Alec closed his eyes briefly in annoyance. He straightened up without taking his shot, and instead picked up the blue cue chalk and started rubbing it against the tip of his cue stick.
"Something wrong, man?" asked Sketchy, leaning over Alec's shoulder as if he could visualize his attempted shot.
Alec shrugged. "Wrong angle," he muttered.
Sketchy scratched his head. "Looks like it, man. You were aiming for my ball."
"Was I?" asked Alec innocently. "Oh, you're right. See? Wrong angle."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Max flip her hair over her shoulder and giggle at Rafer. Was this guy another Gilligan? What kinds of men were Max into? Casually, he turned around and leaned on the table with his hip, still busy chalking his stick.
Rafer wasn't another Gilligan. Not a Darren, either. He was handsome, but he also seemed to have an air of sensitivity and kindness in him. A real Mr. Nice Guy.
"Yo! Rafer! Man!" cried Sketchy, finally realizing that Rafer was there. He went over and they high-fived each other. "How's it crunching, dude?"
"Hey, Sketch-Sketchy!" greeted Rafer. He grinned at his buddy. "Things are goin' well," he replied. But Alec didn't miss the quick glance he threw Max. Who was looking at Rafer with a soft smile on her face.
Alec frowned darkly. Maybe this was the guy to beat. It wasn't everyday that Max had that goofy grin on her face. It actually looked as if she liked the guy! Genuinely, honest-to-goodness liked him.
He turned around and decided that getting Max to notice him might take something close to a miracle. She had no specific taste in men. How was he gonna figure out how to make her want him?
"So, Max, now that you're not with that Logan-guy anymore, thought I'd extend the offer I made you last Halloween," said Rafer.
Alec wished he could shut his ears as he aimed his shot. Without taking any more time, he took it. One ball missed, but the other one landed smoothly into a side pocket. He could take this game one ball at a time, too, if he had to.
"Well," she said, hesitating.
Just say no, Maxie, he mentally urged her. Then he forced himself back into the game. He aimed, and shot.
Except that it was just in time to hear Max say, "I'm already seeing someone else,"
Alec scratched the pool table. It was embarrassing! But moreover, Max was with someone else? It was unacceptable!
"Who?" asked Rafer, curiously.
Yeah, who? Alec demanded mentally. That was the guy to beat to a pulp.
He was vaguely aware of Sketchy patting him on the back, saying "Dude, that sucks," and his mumbled reply of, "I slipped on some beer on the floor." But really, all his attention was on Max.
She was smiling. "I don't know if he knows if I'm seeing him yet," she said softly, her eyes never leaving his.
He felt Sketchy skirting around the table. Heard the small click of balls making contact with each other. Heard the unmistakable sound of one ball rolling and popping into a pocket.
But Alec couldn't be bothered.
Max was smiling at him. Looking at him. And she was walking slowly over to him. Or maybe it was his mind that was processing things a little slowly. He heard another loud clunk and an even louder cheer somewhere behind him.
"Thank you, cosmic gods!" cried Sketchy. "A round of beer for all my friends, on the Sketch-meister!" he announced.
Sketchy won. You lost. He pointed out to himself. But his eyes were still locked with Max's who was now standing right before him.
"You lost," she whispered.
"I might need some comforting," he replied easily. "From this girl that I'm seeing."
"Is she around?" she whispered.
He smiled. "Right in front of me."
She smiled at him, "Good." Then she stood on tiptoe and kissed him.
Alec dropped his pool stick and wrapped his arms around Max in an almost crushing embrace, returning the kiss with fervor. He pulled her up against him. Maybe he should lose more often. It was even better than winning.
"That's not fair. How come he still gets the girl?" mumbled Sketchy, scratching his dyed hair with his pool stick.
Well, at least Alec owed him a grand. He and Max usually gambled with high stakes, and tonight was no exception. Looking at the kissing couple, he figured that maybe two guys could win in one round of pool; it wasn't a zero-sum game after all.
Hope y'all enjoyed this!