Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel or the characters
Setting: After Love Among the Runes; Freak Nation occurred, too... but Logan stayed away during the flag raising ceremony
Genre: Humor, Romance
Pairings: see intro, please!
Rating: T (as always!)


intro: Max is still in love with Logan. At least, that's what she thinks. Logan's over Max. At least, that's what he thinks. Alec's just there for the ride, no strings attached. At least, that's what he thinks. Asha's loving that Logan is finally hers. At least, that's what she thinks. Everything is right in everyone's little world. But someone's faking. At least, that's what they think. And then there's that question that complicates things even further: Is there ever any truth in pretend?


Chapter 1: Meet the Parents

Max tapped her smooth, acrylic nails against the counter nervously. Nervous? Me? Shit, it was true. She couldn't shake the scary thought of what was to come. Leave it to Logan to insist on a double date.

Double date? Yeah, this night is going to be a complete joke! The fact was Max couldn't help being slightly offended that the man had moved on. It wasn't so much that he could go on without her, it was that he'd done it so quickly!

As much as she pretended that she was completely over the guy, and had fallen steadfast in love with Alec, it was all just a big, orchestrated lie.

Well… at least, that was what the plan was. But for the first couple of weeks, it wasn't very hard. In fact, Max almost forgot telling the little white lie.

Almost. That is, until Logan reminded her when he invited the pair to go on a double date with him and Asha. It wasn't that hard pretending to be with Alec when Logan wasn't there to watch.

And it wasn't like the transgenics were suspicious of the two really being together or not. The whole place had been just a bit preoccupied with setting up their city to really focus on some minor detail like that.

Plus, she and Alec had been working together for a while now, and closely. No one in Terminal City could tell that it wasn't the truth. But now it seemed that Max's lie was going to catch up with her.

Alec was the only one that knew it wasn't true, other than Max, of course. At least for the time being. She just hoped that it wouldn't all be ruined with this stupid 'date'.

It was completely annoying, the whole situation. Max knew Logan. He wasn't exactly the 'dating' type. Well, if you didn't count his home-cooked meals. For all the money he had, hitting up the town wasn't really his style. It was like he'd set up the whole evening as some sort of test. For both of them. He probably wasn't entirely sure of Max being with Alec or himself being with Asha.

Damnit, Max! she thought to herself as she traced the outline of her full lips with a thin shade of a light scarlet. I should have told him I couldn't make it! Excuses were getting to be natural for her. Why couldn't she think of a good one when Logan had put her on the spot with the invitation a few days ago?

The truth was, when she'd first told Logan that she and Alec were together, Max hadn't really been looking that far into the future. It was a temporary fix that she'd filed under 'deal with later'.

Apparently, 'later' had come far sooner than she'd first anticipated.

Max applied the bronze color to her cheeks, not that they needed it. She was flushed enough as it was just thinking about all of the ways this whole thing could go wrong.

Alec was dependable, sure, as hard as that realization had been for her to make. But he was still Alec. He still liked to push her buttons, get her worked up to no end. There was no telling what he would do, given all the opportunities.

Tonight, he could technically do whatever he wanted. The plan was to survive the evening with their 'togetherness' still intact and unquestioned.

Even though Logan had moved on, Max wasn't so sure she trusted him to stay away if suddenly his old flame became available. Especially not if he knew that there was never anything there with Alec to begin with and that the whole thing had been a charade.

The thin bottle of mascara flew out of Max's hands as a light rapping on the door startled her out of her thoughts.

She thrust it open, sending a wave of surprise to Alec in the haste action- right before another wave of surprise hit him as he took in the strange situation he'd unwillingly stumbled upon- staring at a Max wearing make-up, a complimenting red dress, and… well… being girly!

"…Max?" he addressed her as though he wasn't entirely certain that it was her. As he stared at her, his lips twitched upward in a light grin. He couldn't help finding amusement, and maybe a hint of pleasure, in the sight.

Max glared back at him. She couldn't believe that of all people, Alec was making her feel self-conscious. Of course, it wasn't really him at all, just the anticipation of the evening getting to her. But that didn't stop her from pushing some of the blame onto him. "What?" she spat at him and the dazed look he was giving her, wanting to rip the cocky grin right off his face.

"Oh," he held up his hands as though brushing aside his initial uncertainty. "Sorry, I just wasn't sure I had the right room. Who are you, and what have you done with my girlfriend?"

Max slapped him upside the head.

"Ah… there she is," he commented, rubbing the sore spot dramatically.

"I'm not your girlfriend!" she snapped defensively.

He rolled his eyes. "Riiiight. Max, wasn't it you that demanded I be here to pick you up for a date?"

She shrugged. "So what if I did? You know it's not a real date. We just have to make an appearance."

Alec nodded with an amused grin. "Oh, an appearance. Keep the Logan radar at yellow alert instead of red."

Max frowned at him. "This isn't funny, Alec!" she scolded him. She stared at the ceiling before shaking her head at him. "I knew you wouldn't take this seriously. You think this is all just one big joke!"

Alec tossed her a doubtful stare. She couldn't be serious. …Then again, that was the problem. "Come on, Max. You expect me to take this whole thing as seriously as you do? You're the one who came up with this whole ridiculous idea in the first place! Me, I'm not gonna get so worked up over this."

Max gave him a somewhat desperate stare. It seemed this was one of those rare, golden moments when she had to admit that she needed him. She grabbed onto his arm, forcing his attention toward her, as if it was anywhere else to begin with. "Alec, just don't screw this up. Please."

Agh! God, there, she's said it! In one little word (or was it that pleading stare?) Max had rendered him unable to say no. She hadn't even asked nicely! She just expected it of him. And even though part of him wanted absolutely nothing to do with her mind games with Logan, he couldn't help agreeing as though he'd been in on the plan from the start.

"Well, I'm here, aren't I?" he pointed out, to emphasize where his loyalties lay.

Max didn't bother verbally accepting (or thanking for that matter!) his unwilling dedication to the plan. But it was clear that the comment had helped to ease some of her tension, as she was back to her usual self with her next comment. "You're early," she complained lightly as she turned her attention back toward the mirror to finish applying the mascara.

Alec nodded. "Man… this already feels like a date," he mumbled in annoyance.

"It is a date," she argued, directly contradicting what she'd said from earlier. "At least, that's what Logan thinks. And I'd like to keep it that way."

For a moment, Alec considered pointing out the confusing way she kept changing how she referred to the pair, but he let go of the idea quickly, not wanting to fuel the fire of Max any more. (At least, not until they were in public and there was nothing she could do about it!)

"Well did I ever tell you I'm not the 'dating' type?" he commented instead. He said it simply to complain, something he found himself doing quite often around Max, thanks to several of her ridiculous schemes. At least in other plans of hers, he could kick some ass. Well, except for that time he found himself in the sewers…and trapped in a closet for over an hour… and…

Max stared at him, briefly shocked that his words directly paralleled her earlier thoughts of Logan. For some reason, she didn't want there to be any similarities between the men.

"Yeah, right!" she dismissed his comment. "You're probably the guy that throws rocks at her window until she humors you by listening to some sad rendition of a cheesy love ballad."

Alec couldn't help laughing, despite the insult. Her determination to insult him brought him amusement in a twisted way. "Yeah, and you're probably the girl that runs as soon as he mentions 'meeting the parents'."

Max frowned at his portrayal of her would-be typical romance. Even though a 'normal' relationship was completely beyond Max, thanks in no small part to that tiny detail that she was a genetically engineered killing machine escaped from a government lab, it offended her to be judged like a complete commitment-phobe.

"Excuse me," she argued his opinion of her. "Have a little faith in me, will ya? If I really cared about a guy, I'd stomach meeting his parents."

Alec nodded in mock acceptance of her comment. Right! he thought sarcastically to himself. He'd sooner see Max wearing an apron and cooking in the kitchen than see her at an awkward dinner with 'the parents'.

Coincidentally, it just occurred to Alec how similar their coming evening was to just that- meeting the 'rents. Heck, Log' was old enough to be her father. Ha… okay, maybe that was a bit exaggerated. But certainly, the evening had the feel of a test to see if mommy and daddy approved of his relationship with Max.

"You know, Max," Alec told her, "I don't have any parents to meet." He finished with his trademark smirk and a suggestive wiggling of his brow.

She rolled her eyes at the gesture. "Save it, Pretty Boy. My stomach's in a knot as it is, and I have to eat something later tonight."

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Alec couldn't help being a bit distracted from his driving as Max checked herself out in the side mirror for the umpteenth time.

"Max, will you cut it out already!" he snapped, though not aggressively, at her. "You look fine!" he reassured her.

Or at least, it should have reassured her. Instead, however, she turned toward him, her face not at all showing appreciation or reassurance. In fact, Alec was fairly certain that if looks could kill, well… let's just say the car would have crashed for lack of a driver. "Fine?!" she repeated. "I didn't spend an hour in the bathroom for 'fine', Alec!"

In between focusing on the road, Alec noted that she definitely looked well beyond 'fine'. If he'd known she was going to pick apart his every word, he would have chosen them more carefully. Although she was normally critical of his every action, she didn't tend to get this extreme.

"Okay, you look… stunning," he told her honestly, giving her an encouraging, albeit somewhat taken aback, stare.

Max gave him a warm smile. She didn't know why she was being so self-conscious. Scratch that, she knew why. It wasn't every night that a pretend relationship was under scrutiny. She was an excellent liar; she'd been undercover in far worse situations and fared just fine. But the nature of this cover was completely unsettling for her. She had no problem just being Alec's friend. But pretending to be more than that right in front of the guy she was still attached to in her heart had a way of unraveling her normally confident façade.

Alec felt a warm rush of relief travel through him as he noted the grin she was giving him. It had bothered him, for a good minute there, realizing she wasn't aware of her effect on him. Or any guy, for that matter. He hadn't been kidding with the compliment. In fact, as self-conscious as her words indicated that she currently was, she looked completely confident. She was actually glowing.

Wait, that's more than glowing…As Alec looked at her, a ray of light reflected in the right spot, causing him to squint at a light coming from her face, shining into his eyes. "Are you wearing glitter?" he asked in complete shock.

Max's gratitude quickly faded into irritation. His reaction was just like earlier, when he'd acted like he didn't even recognize her. Am I not allowed to dress up once in a while? she thought angrily.

"Okay, what?" she demanded.

Alec quickly turned his sights back to the road to avoid her angry stare.

"What?" she repeated, more forcefully.

"Sorry, driving here," he reminded her, as if she'd forgotten or had somehow gone blind and deaf within the past thirty seconds.

"Alec!" Max demanded his attention and response.

Wha… I don't know. What are you asking me?" he replied without looking at her.

"What is so strange about seeing me dressed up! I am a girl, you know!" she complained.

Alec couldn't help laughing lightly. Did she really think he hadn't noticed? Was she completely oblivious to the way his temperature increased whenever she entered the room? Or that initial moment when he was lost in the gorgeous sight of her before his senses pulled that cocky smirk onto his face in quick recovery? Only a blind person would be able to ignore how attractive she was.

"I've noticed, Max," he told her. "There's no question. You're definitely a woman."

Max was unnerved slightly in the way he answered. But she quickly brushed it off with a change of subject. "So are we there yet? I don't want to be late."

Alec rolled his eyes. "Oh, heaven forbid we make Logan wait. Listen, Max. I'm pretty sure that Asha can keep him occupied."

For an instant immediately following the remark, her eyes shone with hurt, before she recovered with a determined stare set on the road. Oops, Alec noted to himself. Damn. She still isn't over the guy.

Another thought brought the smirk back to his face. I guess I have a challenge after all…

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Alec eyed the place apprehensively as a bored feeling overtook any excitement he might have had in the evening. Agh, are you kidding me? Leave it to Logan to pick the fanciest, stuffiest place in town. Thank goodness I wore a suit, he thought to himself.

He pulled the suit jacket quickly out of the trunk and whipped it on. He felt a feeling creep up his spine, telling him Max was staring at him. And not in one of those usual 'you're an idiot' sort of ways.

In fact, as his hazel eyes rose to meet hers, he recognized the look of amusement that normally came from him, only this time, it was resting in Max's eyes as she gazed upon him.

"What?" he asked her innocently as he looked to the left and right, like her stare must be directed at someone else.

Max shook her head just as innocently. "Oh, nothing," she said, though still grinning. "Just… never seen you in a suit before, that's all."

"Do I look 'fine'?" he asked her with a smirk, mocking her own concerns from earlier.

He could have sworn that a scarlet tint burned onto her cheeks at the question. But then again, she was wearing makeup, so maybe that was all it was.

"You could say that," Max answered simply.

Alec nodded, eager to change the subject, if only to avoid letting Max know the way in which he obtained the suit, which wasn't exactly legal.

"Shall we?" he told her with a cheesy smile, his eyes shining into hers. He held out his arm dramatically for her to take.

Max rolled her eyes before intertwining her arm in his. "I can't believe we're doing this," she confessed to him as they walked toward the door.

"I'm just here for the free food," Alec insisted, although both knew there was no way that was true. For one, Alec didn't exactly prefer this type of dining. Not to mention, he was 'talented' enough to never have to pay for a meal in his life, if he chose to do so.

But that had been his only way of accepting her pleading for him to come and make a complete mockery out of himself. I've been reduced to a boy-toy, Alec thought to himself, keeping the groan inward.

Not that he would mind traveling all over town with a lady like Max on his arm, especially when she was faking, and therefore, polite and seemingly interested in him. It was just that it kinda hurt. Even though he'd told Max before that he didn't appreciate her using him, he also had tried hard to keep his own feelings bottled up. For good reason. If Max knew how he really felt about her, it would only complicate things further. Besides, it wasn't like he could hide the truth entirely. She had to know somewhere deep down. But it was like an unspoken agreement existed between the two of them- that if they never discussed it, it didn't exist.

And he was just as willing to sign on to that agreement.

I'm over it, Alec thought in his mind.

But something in the rush traveling through him and his increased heart rate as soon as her arm latched onto his told him that he could never just 'get over' being only a boy-toy to Max.

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The pair had quite an effect as they entered the place. It wasn't that the entrance was loud or obnoxious; the two just had quite a presence. Separate, both called all the attention in the room. But together, there was really no denying their appeal. It was like a Hollywood couple had just waltzed in.

"Welcome!" a hostess greeted them warmly. "Do you have a reservation?"

Alec looked beyond the woman to see Logan and Asha sitting together, enjoying each other's company over some wine.

He couldn't help smirking at how dull they looked together. They looked so cozy in their comfortable silence. Neither looked bored (in fact, they looked quite enthralled with each other! – gag!) despite the fact that they weren't speaking. They were just staring at each other in between sips of what had to be pre-Pulse wine.

Guess the excitement stays in the bedroom! he thought to himself amusingly before Max's finger latching onto his ear to pull his attention toward her brought a pained (but somehow, welcome, if only to stop the sight from attacking his senses any further) and abrupt ending to his judgmental stare and thoughts.

"Alec!" she hissed at him before turning again to the woman and flashing a huge, apologetic grin. "We're meeting a friend here. The last name is Cale."

While the woman checked her list, Alec shot Max a desperate stare. "Ow!" he complained in a low voice, ripping his ear away from her before stroking it dramatically.

"It's not my fault that society still likes to let the men do the talking," she returned his irritation with what had just happened. "You are the guy, Alec!" she continued. "Where are your manners?"

Alec didn't get the chance to defend himself, though. As soon as the comment escaped her lips, the hostess told them their table was ready.

"Great!" Alec replied cheerily (though it was all in jest, which Max noted, and responded to with a quick jab to his ribs while they were still out of eyesight of the ordinary pair).

"Time to meet the parents," Alec whispered in her ear.

Max laughed in response, only out of show. Because she certainly found nothing remotely amusing in the way he referred to her ex-boyfriend as her father.

From across the room, Logan's piercing blue eyes rose, noticing the couple finally as they approached the table.

Max felt her breath become trapped in her throat as her eyes locked with his.


a/n: So what do you all think? I know, the concept has been done before. But I haven't seen it in a while, and hey, I've never done it, so here ya go!

ps. This is what I was planning on being my response to 'the game', although clearly it's not a sequel