Chapter 6: Change of Plans
Bad move, soldier, Alec told himself as he rode to Logan's.
He didn't know what had come over him.
Scratch that, he was a guy, of course he knew. Max was extremely desirable, one of the most desirable women he'd ever come across.
He was soon discovering that her 'Queen Bitch' attitude wasn't all there was to the woman. That wasn't the problem, though. The problem was the curiosity burning within him that was building with each new 'day' of his trapped universe. She was like an itch he couldn't seem to scratch the right way. No matter how many times he'd tried to rid himself of the growing attachment to her, it just kept coming back, stronger than the last time.
This is all her fault, Alec concluded with a growl of protest.
Before Max, he'd been a happy-go-lucky genetically engineered killing machine: carefree, great with the ladies, and most importantly, he never wasted his time worrying about others.
It was a good life.
Until that day when Max had come crashing into his life, quite literally, as he recalled her foot knocking into his stomach the first day they'd met.
Now he wasn't quite sure of anything other than the fact that she drove him crazy- and not in a good way. Nothing 'good' would leave him where he was right now, reduced to playing her boy-toy and having to relive that dragged out conversation with her 'not-like-that' ex-boyfriend for the fourth time.
"Logan," Alec greeted with a nod and a bored sigh.
Logan gave Alec a quick glance before returning to his fireplace. "What are you doing here, Alec?" he asked without facing him.
Alec looked to the ceiling in distress before answering. What am I doing here? Following the day's procedure didn't seem to be getting him anywhere. "…Supplies," Alec mumbled.
"On the table," Logan barely replied.
Alec's eyes rolled over the large box. He walked over to the table before suddenly turning back to Logan. "What's her favorite flower, Logan?"
Max was driving Alec crazy after only a few days of being around her with no escape. Surely Logan, who had chosen to be with her, at least knew the little things that Max freely shared with Alec to keep her in his thoughts.
"Max. I just wondered what her favorite flower was," Alec repeated.
Logan's eyes narrowed at Alec. "I can't help you there, Alec. If you want to get her something nice, you're gonna have to figure that out for yourself."
"I know you're upset about Max and I-"
"Listen," Logan cut Alec off, "I'm not gonna stand here in my own house and let you tell me how I feel. You got your supplies, you got your girl. Just, please, take the box and leave."
Alec almost laughed at the statement. He had nothing. He didn't even have tomorrow. "I'm sorry," he said to the older man. "It's not like that-"
"Leave me out of whatever you're planning with Max," Logan interrupted. "I only care about one thing."
"Treat her right."
Alec nodded. "So… roses?"
"I must be one big joke to you!"
Actually, today, I'm the joke, Alec thought to himself. "I don't know what you're talkin' about, Logan. I was just wondering-"
"It doesn't matter, Alec- what her favorite flower is, what's her 'sign'. Max isn't some girl whose life you can just charm your way into."
"No," Alec agreed, surprised with the answer. Logan didn't know. He'd been in love with the woman for nearly two years now, and he didn't seem to know the first thing about her.
"Thanks, Logan," Alec offered, "…for the supplies." He turned around to leave; he'd fulfilled his reason in coming.
But he stopped when he realized he hadn't heard it- the assumed reason why Max had chosen Alec over Logan, the phrase he'd worked to avoid the last time he'd come. Someone who understands her better. Only this time, when he was prepared to suffer through it, it was absent from the conversation. That offered him a comforting feeling. Maybe it was clear enough in his own actions that it didn't need to be said aloud today.
"It's sunflowers," Alec told the man quietly. He had first intended to use it as a test to see how well Logan knew Max. Then, during their conversation he'd planned on using it against him. But as he left Logan standing alone in his flat, Alec said the words to show their unmistakable differences. Maybe those little details of Max didn't matter to Logan, just as her past was another aspect to her that the man casually overlooked. But Alec was finding more and more that he would never be satisfied with only the knowledge of Max that was skin deep.
She'd unknowingly touched his desires and curiosity, leaving a quiet fire burning idly within him that Alec knew would ignite at her taste. He hoped silently that he could hold himself together throughout the day to keep his attraction carefully masked so that he could find out more about this woman.
It was like a lightbulb flashed on in his mind. That's it! I have to understand her. It didn't have much logic behind it, but Alec couldn't shake it from his head. He finally felt like he'd found a solution to escaping his never-ending day.
As he considered again how long Logan had been with her, a light smirk came across his face. I better not be stuck in this day for two years!
Alec walked through the gates of Terminal City and headed straight for the center, where he knew everyone was gathered.
The place was crowded, as expected, everyone beaming out of happiness, their faces glowing in hope and a sense of true pride.
Max's brown orbs twinkled into his eyes as she spotted him from across the room. A tint of pink brushed onto her cheeks as she met his stare.
Alec was worried for a moment that she was pissed or uncomfortable thanks to his abrupt kiss earlier. It seemed she was worried, too, that maybe he still wouldn't be feeling himself. But as their stares interlocked, both realized that everything was fine with the other, and a relief came over the pair. Max's lips finally curved upward in a light grin at the sight of him and the knowledge that nothing was wrong.
"And here he is!" Max told the crowd, clearly referring to Alec.
The room erupted with clapping and expectant faces all looking at him.
Alec walked to the center of the room and clapping died down to give way for a speech. Alec nodded to them all before beginning. "This is the moment we've all been waiting for!" he started off.
"Freedom!" he shouted dramatically before his voice became quieter and he began speaking impromptu. "But what does it mean? We've always managed, haven't we? Even when they were against us."
Alec noted the concerned look in Max's challenging eyes.
Alec almost laughed out of amusement. "It's okay, Max," he said aloud, into the mic for everyone to hear. "I'm not gonna screw this up."
Max opened her mouth in shock and slight embarrassment, about to protest, when the rest of the room laughed lightly at the comment.
"Someone told me something today that I just can't get out of my head," he went on. "They said that we were beautiful. Beautiful mistakes."
Max's face went white as she recalled the words she'd confided to Alec earlier. She could only wait for him to continue.
"I don't think we're mistakes. Maybe we didn't come out the way they planned, our 'Manticore wit'."
The room laughed at this statement.
"We're not always emotionless, dutiful soldiers, are we?
"No, guys. We're more than just soldiers that took on other human traits by some mistake or flaw in our genetics.
"You see, we're not just celebrating the ability to live here. We've been doing that for awhile now. What we're celebrating is freedom to be ourselves, to go beyond that label of 'soldier'.
"I don't know about you, but I'm not just a number. I'm not '494'. My name is Alec. And you all know Max. And this kid is Deeter." Alec pointed at the X6 in the crowd as he said his name.
"Who named you, Deeter? Was that in your genetic encoding?"
"No…," Deeter trailed, somewhat nervously.
Alec found the reaction amusing, maybe even cute. The kid had no qualms about being a little punk when it was just Alec. Apparently, he wasn't as self-assured with a bunch of eyes on him.
"Was it your CO?" Alec continued.
"…It was me. I picked it out," Deeter answered, finishing more strongly than he'd started.
"You picked it out. You see, that's freedom," Alec finished. He faced Deeter and spoke more quietly, but still into the mic. "I like it, by the way," Alec said to the kid, who beamed at the compliment.
"So let's celebrate already!"
Clapping erupted throughout the room again, as well as a few cheers.
Alec stepped down from the podium and found Max again in the crowd. She had it carefully masked, but Alec could still tell that he'd given her a good bit of confusion in his speech. She couldn't tell if he was sincere or not in words.
"Hey, Max. Did ya miss me while I was gone?" he couldn't help asking with a smirk.
"Hard to miss a constant pain in your ass," Max answered, arms folded. But the thin smile on her face showed Alec that despite her front, she did enjoy seeing him.
"That hurts, Max," Alec told her, feigning concern as he held a hand over his heart.
"Good speech," Max offered a small compliment.
Alec grinned in appreciation. "Thanks. But you know, that's not all I'm good at." He couldn't resist wiggling his brow at the suggestive comment.
Alec's grin was answered with a slap across the face.
Alec was only more amused at the action. A slap from Max was becoming more playful instead of annoying every day.
But that didn't stop him from dramatically expressing his front of pain at the gesture. "Ow! What was that for? I thought you said 'good job'?"
Max shrugged innocently. "That's for making fun of me in front of everyone. You're lucky I don't kick your ass."
Alec laughed at her anger. "You're lucky I didn't say more."
"I wouldn't have let you," Max insisted.
Before Alec could make a rebuttal, Max ended their banter with a change of the subject. "So, how's Logan?"
The question didn't shake the grin from Alec's face. "Logan…," he trailed. "He doesn't know much about you, does he?"
Max frowned at the comment. "What did you do?" she asked accusingly.
Alec held up his hands in an attempt to express that there was nothing wrong. "Hey, calm down. I didn't tell him anything."
Max only narrowed her glare, clearly unconvinced.
"I just told him your favorite flower. That's all."
Max's eyes softened, again surprise filling them, before she quickly recovered, eyes shuttering once to reveal a blank stare. "He still thinks-"
"He still thinks we're together," Alec told her. "Just like everyone else here. Which reminds me, I think I should be with you tonight at Josh's, don't you? Wouldn't want people to think we're having a lover's quarrel so early into our relationship." After a pause, he reconsidered. "But then we'd have to make up. That's the best part of fighting."
Max shoved him lightly. "You're such an ass, you know that?"
"'S what you keep tellin' me," Alec replied innocently, a smirk still adorning his face.
"And you're such a liar."
"You talk like you've actually had a relationship before. You know, as opposed to one-night stands."
Alec shrugged. "Okay, so you got me there. You're my first."
Max felt a warmth creep over her cheeks. "We're not really-"
But Alec silenced her by holding a finger up to her lips. He felt her gasp before he removed his touch. "Shhh. You didn't think this one through, did ya, Max? Better not let a slip like that out tonight at Josh's. Wouldn't want to blow your cover, would ya?"
Max found herself unable to argue with him. "I didn't think…," she admitted. "I'm sorry."
Alec looked completely confused. "For what?"
"Your first relationship shouldn't be… you know, completely fake."
"Wasn't yours?" Alec asked just to be a jerk.
Max shoved him, as expected. "Ass," she insulted him, but it came out sounding more playful than serious.
"Get it out while you can, Max. You can't treat me this way at Josh's tonight."
"Hey," Max said suddenly. "How do you know about Joshua, anyway? Did I tell you that earlier?"
"I told you, Max," Alec said simply. "I'm having déjà vu."
"Oh…," Max trailed. Her face looked concerned, her brow furrowed in worried thought. Alec only hoped he'd have the answer to whatever her next question was.
"Please tell me Josh isn't cooking macaroni again," Max said finally.
Alec couldn't stop the laughter from escaping him.
"Hey!" Max protested his amusement with a punch to his shoulder. "What are you laughing at?"
"Max, I'm stuck in the same day and all you're worried about it is eating macaroni."
"Well you don't seem too concerned," Max pointed out.
Alec hadn't really noticed, but she was right. "I don't know. This is the first time I've been… okay with this whole thing…"
Alec was thankfully cut short of his open comment by an X6. "Max! Alec! It's snowing! Come and sled with us!"
Max tried to decline. "Hey, you know I would love to, but Alec and I have something really important to sort out right now."
Alec was surprised to find that his problem took priority with Max. Her concerns were pointless, though. He had no idea how to escape from his endless day.
"Nonsense," Alec brushed off her concerns with a light wave of his hand. "I'm fine, Max," he insisted. "And besides, I can't have my reputation being questioned here. You know I'm gonna kick your ass at this, don't you?"
Max cocked her head at the challenge. "Oh, really? I don't care what reality you're stuck in, Pretty Boy- you still could never beat me. Besides, right now we have stuff to deal with."
"We can do it later," Alec offered.
"When?" Max asked impatiently, one hand on her hip.
"Tomorrow," Alec answered with an arrogant smirk.
Max opened her mouth to protest the smart remark, being that if Alec was right, there was no tomorrow, when her face was struck with a snowball, ending all thought abruptly.
She turned to see the culprit, a cute X6 waiting expectantly and holding out a sled. "Come on!"
"Nice one!" Alec told the kid impressively before offering a high-five that was quickly returned.
"Oh, that's it!" Max said with a grin. "You boys are all goin' down!" With that, she ripped the sled right out of the kid's hand and made her way confidently toward the hill.
Alec was enjoying Max's carefree attitude. If he'd known a little sledding would loosen her up, he would have shoved her down a hill sooner.
Right as Alec was about to slide down the hill for the fourth time, Max jumped onto the sled and shoved him forward. "Move it. I'm going down this time."
"You've gone twice as many times as me!" Alec complained. "What ever happened to sharing with your fellow man?"
"First of all," Max argued, "I was talking about sharing our scarce belongings when I said that, and not taking turns sledding. And secondly, you're forgetting the rule that's above all others."
"Which one is that?" Alec asked, holding his grip on the sled in a determined effort to stay on.
"I'm right and you're wrong," Max said in an innocent voice.
Alec was about to point out how wrong that statement was, when one of the X6's complained, interrupting their bickering. "Hey, are you going down or what? I want to go again!"
Max rubbed his head playfully. "Keep your shirt on! Alec was just about to get off! Right, Alec?"
"I don't think so," Alec disagreed. "I'm not going anywhere. My turn. I'll be back before you know it."
"Alec!" Max complained. "Get off!"
Carefree? Alec suddenly was reconsidering his thoughts on Max. Apparently, she couldn't even have fun without arguing with him. Not that it mattered. Her protests only brought him amusement. Because he definitely wasn't budging.
"Forget it, Max. You're just gonna have to practice on your patience."
Before Max could make another reply, she felt the sled move suddenly, and she had to wrap her arms around Alec so not to fall off as they took off at a high speed down the hill.
The laughing of the X6 became quieter and quieter as they flew further down the steep hill.
Having Max cling onto him gave Alec an idea. He had to take advantage of the situation! He purposely leaned to the side to maneuver the sled so that the ride was bumpier.
"Alec!" Max complained in his ear, but he could hear the lightness in her voice. The fact was flying down a hill at top speed was too much fun to really complain.
Once they'd made their way to the bottom, Max shoved Alec into the snow. "Jerk!" she barely replied before turning around to blur back up the steep hill.
But before she could move an inch, Alec's hand gripped onto her ankle, causing her to lose her balance and fall on top of him.
Max didn't move, but took advantage of her position to shove him further into the snow. She frowned at him as she stared down at his smirking face. "Thanks a lot, Alec! Now I'm all wet."
"Hey!" Alec said with a light laugh, "That's what you get for knocking me into the snow."
Max made a move to get up, but Alec held onto her. Having her so close to him reminded him of his new plan to make it to tomorrow. He had to ask her something.
"Alec," Max protested with a glare. "I'm not doing this again."
"What would you do if you weren't a transgenic?" Alec asked her suddenly.
"I mean, what if you weren't designed at Manticore, and there was no Terminal City. If you were really free. What would you do with your life?"
Max frowned, but it was softer than hers usually were. "I don't know," she answered honestly. "You'd think after the screwed up life I've had, I could answer you with a million things.
"I mean, some days, I really wish I could just disappear, fly under the radar, …be normal. But then I remember all of us, every transgenic, and I know that I wouldn't have it any other way."
After a pause to think about it more, Max smiled at him. "A bike messenger," she finished with a joke. "What about you?"
"An underground cyber journalist."
Max shoved him again, and this time withdrew from his arms to stand on her own two feet. "Come on, why can't you tell me? It doesn't matter, right? I'm just gonna forget tomorrow. Isn't that how this thing works?"
Alec opened his mouth, about to protest, when he realized that she had a good point. "I can't answer. 'Cuz you're right. I wouldn't have it any other way."
He was surprised at how true the statement was, but there was no denying it. Try as he might to imagine himself anywhere else, he couldn't. "A bike messenger," he said finally with a smirk.
"Copycat," Max teased.
Alec shrugged. "I do have some cat in my cocktail."
"Joshua!" Max blurted, as the phrase reminded her of their friend.
"Relax," Alec said. "We're not gonna be late."
"Well, thanks to you and your stunt, I gotta change out of these wet clothes, which by the way, are starting to get a little chilly."
Alec nodded. "Okay, fine. You go on ahead, and I'll show-off for the kids a little longer in the meantime."
Max rolled her eyes. "Fine. You're not gonna back out on me, are you?"
"I'll be there!" Alec assured her. "You're my girl, right?"
"Just… don't be late," Max told him before heading off in the direction of her apartment.
a/n: thanks to everyone that reviewed from the last chap, and thanks for reading!