Title: Blame
Rating- T to be safe
Summary: While tending to Joshua, Max gets called on a few things and Alec digs into his past. MA, but not really in a romantic way.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Wish I did.
Timeline: After Dawg Day Afternoon, with mentions of Hello, Goodbye.
Author's note: This is my first DA fic, so be kind! But don't hesitate to offer any advice you may have. Also, I know that Max and Alex had a bonding moment the night she broke him out of jail, but I still thought this was due. So, here it is.

Blame

Alec stood on the dirty, aged porch that connected Joshua's house to the sidewalk, leaning against the decaying railing and staring out into the darkness before him. His eyes revealed nothing, dilated black due to recent setting of the sun, and his face was set squarely, his emotions tucked deep behind a stiff-jawed mask.

"Hey."

He barely acknowledged the voice, having sensed her presence long before she'd stepped out the door and into the dark place Alec found himself lingering. Without turning his head, he asked, "How's he doing?"

Max heaved a sigh and slumped against the rail just to the right of him, her eyes sad. "He's…. gone," At Alec's alarmed glance, she quickly amended, "No, he's still in there. Or at least, the physical part of him. It's funny; I haven't stopped looking at him since we learned about Annie. I've trying to reassure myself that he's ok, and from what I can see, he is. But I look into his eyes and…. there isn't anything there. It's like a part of him just left." Her eyes turned troubled as she settled her deep brown eyes on him, and her voice shook dangerously. "I'm afraid he won't ever come back."

Alec was moved by the rare and unexpected show of emotion from her, but he couldn't bring himself to offer any words of comfort. He couldn't bring himself to do much of anything for her, really, after the treatment she'd imparted on him recently. Her actions proved that she thought little more of him than she did White and the other agents. Besides, she wasn't looking for comfort from him. Surely she knew better.

Still, the description she'd painted so vividly brought back another, deeply buried emotion from within him.

"He won't." He spoke quietly, but clearly enough for her to hear. She jerked her head in his direction, her eyebrows drawn up in a clear sign of disbelief. Maybe she expected some sort of consolation, after all. "He won't come back; at least not fully." His voice was sharper as he nodded his head in the general direction of the house. "These days will be the worst. He'll wallow in the guilt, drown hopelessly in it, but he won't want to offer himself any form of escape. He won't believe he deserves it. He'll deem everything his fault and remind himself constantly that if he had just pushed a little harder, just stayed a little longer, everything would be different."

He heard movement from her, but was no longer focused on the world around him. His already shaded eyes turned haunted as he described each feeling, and it was clear he was locked in his own devastating memory.

"Alec—,"

"Eventually he'll decide that he can't continue like this. Although it probably won't be for himself, but rather you and everyone else around him. He's more thoughtful than I ever was, or maybe just has more people that care about him; he'd want to save himself solely for the people he knows he's hurting. So he'll bury it, deep and out of sight." He turned to her then, and for a fraction of a second his mask fell, revealing the tortured emotions within. "But the scar will always be there. He'll be different now, Max." Then, more to himself than to her, he added, "Though perhaps you'll give him slightly more credit for what he's been through. Maybe you'll ignore the flaws you find in him from here on out, knowing what he's lost."

"Alec…." Max began again, and he noticed that tears lingered in her eyes.

"Don't." He spat harshly, turning back to the railing and pressing his lids tightly closed. "Don't pretend you give a damn, Max." He hadn't meant to turn this into a discussion about his tormented past, but it was rapidly becoming just that. The thought frightened him.

He heard a small sound from her, though he couldn't tell if it was hurt or simple indignation. "How could you say I don't care? After all that we've been—"

He turned back to her, his hands abruptly seizing her shoulders forcefully as the pain shifted to anger, a more simple release. "All we've been through? Do you meant when I was jumping through hoops for you, doing absolutely everything you asked when I could have been blowing off steam somewhere else, instead? Or when you were accusing me of murder? When you believed, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that I was so hard and cold that I could kill a person simply for the sake of it?"

He released her and stepped away, trying to get control of his emotions. When he spoke, his voice was steadier, though undoubtedly still packed with feeling. "You mapped out who and what I was from the day you met me, Max. Egotistical, selfish, conceited, supercilious, smart-Alec. You just never ventured any further."

"Alec, please just—"

"I don't blame you labeling me any of those things, because for the most part, they're all true. It just gets me thinking. What exactly am I being blamed for, here? What condemns me?" He shot her a cold glance, his façade rapidly becoming stronger. He had been reaching for his usual smug tone, and was relieved that he'd succeeded.

Her eyes narrowed as she perceived the change in him. "There was the time you tried to kill me to save your own skin. You know, when you got involved in things way to big for you and then forced me to bail you out, at great cost to me?"

He shot her an appraising look. Apparently she only liked him hurt and vulnerable. Otherwise, all her compassion toward him dissipated. And the dismissive look that laced itself through her deep brown eyes only added to fuel his anger. "I was trying to make some cash, for God's sake. Maybe you've been out here a bit too long to notice, but they didn't exactly teach Getting a Steady Job 101 in Mantigore. I used the skills I have to make a quick buck. I quit the night I was caught. Besides, are you dead?"

Confusion and then comprehension flashed through her eyes. "No…."

"And do you really think I believed you'd help me after I'd tried to kill you and Joshua?" He spat the question vehemently, his eyes turning into emerald pools of anger.

She paused for a moment, not ready to admit defeat. "I guess—"

"Right, which means the little bomb planted against a major part of my nervous system would have exploded. In essence, I was going to die for you." He interrupted, his eyes flashing. "So answer my question; stop trying to stray away from it. What makes me not worth saving?"

She opened her mouth and closed it several times, reminding him somewhat amusingly of a fish. He let his question really sink into her head before providing his own answer.

"I'm not your 'brother,' Max. I'm not here to have you use me as a punching bag for all the extra guilt. I get that it's probably hard. If I saw a girl walking around with Rachel's"—he nearly choked on the name—"face, I wouldn't react kindly. But what do you expect me to do? Leave?"

She stared at him, a hundred different emotions flittering over her finely carved features. For a full minute she said nothing, leaving him to wonder if he really should just pick up and walk away. Permanently. He turned his back on her after the elongated silence stretched on, prepared to do just that.

"From the day I met you, you exemplified Manticore in every possible way." He twisted back around, surprised at her sudden, whispered speech. "You stepped into my cell, fully intending to…to breed with me. You listened and followed orders without complaint. They made you into exactly what they've always been striding to create. And to top it off, you had this cocky, arrogant, unreliable manner, as if no one and nothing could touch you. You became them. Especially when you followed orders and nearly had Logan killed. There was my side, and there was Manticore's. And you were just another brainwashed soldier."

A heavy silence descended after her dialogue, the tension as thick as the fog now settling over the city. With difficulty, Alec brought himself to ask, "And now?"

She shook her head. "And now…. I don't know." Her voice took on a softer tone as she added, "But I am sorry. I shouldn't have doubted you. When Logan was dying and you didn't show up…. I just felt like I'd been disappointed by you. When I heard you were in jail, I didn't really even stop to consider…." Her voice drifted off and she shook her head slightly. "I didn't consider anything but the fact that Logan was dying and you were of no help."

The mention of the Ordinary man's name caused Alec's face to twist slightly. He understood the connection she felt with Logan, but didn't she realize the danger in it? "Max, why--?"

"Please don't," She interrupted, as if knowing instinctively what his next argument would be. "It's complicated enough, and I've had to make a lot of difficult decisions regarding Logan lately. So please, just…. don't."

Alec was still for a long moment, and then simply nodded and resumed his former position, leaning on the banister, his face masked. "You should go back inside and make sure Joshua is alright."

"Alec?"

He turned to her once more, slightly wary.

"Don't…. disappear. Joshua would be really upset; you know how he adores you. Couldn't get anything done without you being here, always willing to help." She smiled somewhat tremulously, her voice heavily weighted with emotion and a deeper meaning.

He nodded casually and eased his lips back into his customary smirk. "Don't worry, Max. I'm not going anywhere."

End