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!)

a series of 'dates' to keep up the trangenic showmance...

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 2: Past Curfew

As they walked over to the table, Alec slid his arm comfortably around Max's hips, careful to stroke her waistline gently with his thumb in a caressing and affectionate way.

The rush of pleasure that chased through Max's body at his touch gave her cheeks a scarlet tint- just in time to stare face to face with Logan.

Both stared awkwardly for a moment, speechless, until a clearing of Alec's throat prodded Logan to greet the pair. Well, Max.

"Hey," the older man greeted her as a smile twitched across his face.

Alec noted that the man was completely captivated by the sight of Max. A huge grin rested right above the scruffy stubbles of his 5 o'clock shadow. Alec felt a possessive feeling creep up his spine as he watched the man's blue eyes twinkle at Max from beneath the spectacles.

Max swallowed before grinning herself, although Alec could sense underneath his touch that her smile was more out of nerves and politeness than being captured by a breathtaking sight. "Hey, yourself!" she greeted him warmly. Then she turned to the blonde whose hand was affectionately latched into Logan's. "Good to see you, Asha," she told the woman before flashing her a tight smile.

Asha immediately released her grip from Logan's, turning her attention to the transgenic pair. "You too, Max," she replied.

Alec noted the way the blonde beamed, drifting in apparent bliss while sitting there beside Logan. Alec had to keep his groan inward. This dinner is going to bore me into a coma.

The transgenic pair stood still for a minute until Asha suddenly found her manners and stood up to move next to Logan, leaving two seats open for them to sit down.

Alec made the polite gesture of holding out the chair for Max. "My lady," he whispered, mocking the expected behavior of the establishment.

Max felt his breath tickle the back of her neck as the words came to her senses. She knew that she was in for a rough night. Alec undoubtedly would try to unhinge her. He found the utmost pleasure in the twisted thrill of sending Max into a fury, and he knew just the right buttons to press. Max hated his ability to get underneath her skin. And the arrogant smirk that always followed one of his rude comments only made it that much worse.

But tonight, she was going to have to feign nothing but pleasure at his rude gestures. She would have to convince them all that beneath the cocky grins and immeasurable ego lay a person that she could call 'boyfriend'.

Max's thoughts only increased the tension taking over her. I really should have practiced this, she thought with an inward groan, before she questioned herself more. Practice? How was she expected to practice? Compliment Alec in advance so it wouldn't feel so unnatural as it rolled off her tongue?

"Max?" Logan repeated.

Her attention was immediately sent back to the group. "I'm sorry," she said with a grin to excuse her wandering mind. "I didn't hear what you said."

"Asha just asked you something-"

"It's not important," Asha immediately excused. She gently placed a hand on Logan's shoulder, her request for him to let it go.

"Well it's important to me," Logan continued. "So tell us, Max. How are the rations?"

Max blinked once as she tried to collect herself. Her mind was preoccupied with holding herself together so that she would make it through the evening without strangling Alec. His question brought her mind out of the fog and back to reality. Finally, the delayed meaning of his question hit her, bringing her lips into a thin line.

He wants to discuss business? Now?

As she was gathering her thoughts, Alec's voice broke the silence. "The rations are holding out just fine," he tried to end the line of questioning before it had started.

"We're always here for you, Max," Asha told her.

Max couldn't believe what she was hearing. It was growing more and more difficult to keep a straight face. "We?" She couldn't stop the word from escaping her lips.

"Logan and I," Asha clarified calmly, studying Max to see where the confusion could have come from.

Max looked back up and flashed a huge grin at the pair. "Will you excuse me for just a moment? I'm so sorry, I have to use the lady's."

With that, she stood up and departed from the table.

"Wait," Alec called after her. "I'll go with you."

Max gave him a death-glare above her devilish grin. "But I'm going to the ladies, silly. No boys allowed." Her voice was deceptively sweet as it poured out of her.

"I'll escort you," Alec said with a warm grin, following her despite the unspoken threat.

Once they were out of Ordinary earshot, Alec leaned his face toward hers and spoke quietly so that no one else would hear. "You wanna tell me what that was all about?"

Max gave him a dejected look before rolling her eyes. "What? Like I said, I can't hold it forever."

Alec frowned, seeing right through the lie. "Max, why are you here if you don't want to be?"

Max glared at him for his nerve. "I don't have a choice," she said flatly.

Alec nodded, pretending to accept her words for a moment, until he spoke again. "Right… that's not the Max I know. What was all that, 'Will you excuse me?' 'I'm so sorry'?"

His words did nothing to ease her tension. "Just because you are a blunt asshole doesn't mean all of us are." She glared vehemently at him as she finished.

Alec's hazel eyes flashed for an instant, shining with an open light that Max almost recognized as hurt; until they shuttered immediately, and the emotion vanished just as quickly as it had appeared.

"Fine," he said flatly. "You want to do this, go ahead. But do it. I'm not gonna sit here and watch some half-assed show to appease Logan. You're either in this, or you're not."

"You act like we aren't already here!" Max spat at him.

"Well then, treat this like a mission," Alec continued.

"I'm not a soldier," Max dismissed flatly.

Alec rolled his eyes. "You've done cover work before. I didn't think pretending to care about someone would be so difficult for you."

Max searched his eyes for the meaning of his comment, but the hazel set was carefully masked, empty of emotion.

Apparently, he was taking his own advice.

"Fine!" Max snapped at him. "But I'm not gonna do this the Manticore way. I'll do it my way."

"Meaning?" Alec pressed.

Max answered him by sliding his arm around her waist, careful to ignore the tingling sensation that raced up her spine at the contact. The truth was, his touch had a way of pushing all her worries to a far corner of her mind.

"I've got my game face on," she told him, her full lips pulling into a smile.

His lips also curved into a grin as he followed suit in her actions and pulled her closer to him. "That makes two of us," he said simply before the pair confidently made their way back to the table.

They returned to find the Ordinary pair laughing and enjoying some appetizers. "Oh, hope you don't mind, the waitress came by after you left," Asha told them.

"I got you adry martiniMax," Logan told her, an openness shining in his blue eyes. "I know it's your favorite."

"Thanks," Max said with a thin smile. The comment had managed to unhinge her slightly. Her heart was still connected to him, as much as she tried to push the feelings away.

"Oh, how sweet," Alec mumbled, but couldn't say more as his leg was struck with a hard kick coming from Max underneath the table.

Logan's stare rose to meet the transgenic eye to eye. It was clear he hadn't heard the comment but had an idea that Alec had said something. "I missed that. What'd you say?" he asked, looking curious.

Alec flashed a charming smile and tried not to overdo it. Max might like to think that Alec was the rude one tonight, but Logan always seemed to speak and walk with an air of arrogance surrounding him as though he were better than them. Max had never given Alec the opportunity of drinking around him other than a few beers at Crash. But she didn't strike him as a 'dry martini' kind of girl. As Alec continued to try and bottle his growing irritation, he realized that he couldn't put off answering much longer. Just as Max was about to answer for him, he cleared his throat to respond. "I'm sorry, I was just thinking how I've never seen Max with a dry martini. At least, not since you two broke up."

The tension the comment caused was clear in Logan's facial expression. He'd never been very good at hiding his opinions. Something about proclaiming them to the world through streaming video may have had a way of hurting his tact.

After a pause, Logan regained his composure. "Well, it's good to see that Max has… moved on to new things." The smile following the remark was smug, but at least he was trying.

Alec never did know when to quit, so he spoke further and this time without much thought beforehand. "Oh yeah, we're trying lots of … new things," he trailed vaguely, flashing his signature smirk combined with a suggestive wiggling of his brow. "Right, Maxie?" he finished.

Max smiled awkwardly before saying, "A dry martini will be fine."

Another tense silence fell over the table before someone finally broke it. "Oh, Logan," Asha said suddenly, "Tell them about the meeting you had earlier! With that guy who worked with your father."

Logan immediately led into a story that must have been one of those 'you-had-to-be-there's.

Alec's enthusiasm and hopes for the possibilities of the evening were fast fading with the intense boredom that had successfully taken over most of his senses. As he scanned the menu a 5th time in yet another failed attempt to block out the boring 'conversation' that was going on around him, Alec found himself having a difficult time sitting still in his boredom.

"And so I said to the man," Logan went on with his story that was entirely lacking of interest or humor, "'Don't you dare! I have to return that in the morning!'"

Alec noted out of the corner of his eye that Max was having just as much difficulty paying attention to the story. It seemed her interests were elsewhere, as he noticed her stare absently wandering in his direction.

The corner of his eye met Max's, sending a rush of warmth through her. Without holding a true stare, both knew where the other's attention lay. Max brushed off the feeling easily, blaming his attention on an attempt to keep up the charade. Still, once he met her eye, she quickly withdrew her sights, like a schoolgirl caught ogling her crush.

Specifically, Max turned her attention to the quickest thing her eyeballs could find, which happened to be a shiny fork resting beside her plate.

Max's stare was so intense, that, had Alec known better, he would have guessed it was a fascinating work of art instead of a simple dining utensil that held her gaze.

Witnessing her complete stubbornness was amusing for Alec. A smirk spread across his face despite his utter boredom with the current situation. The knowledge that Max was currently pouring her eyes into a fork in an effort to distract herself from turning her attention toward Alec had a way of lightening his mood.

While Max was trying to ignore Alec's stares and Logan's conversation, she found her focus on her fork pulled by none other than Alec's confident voice. The quiet trail barely made its way to her ears, but they perked immediately at hearing his familiar voice.

"Beer," he whispered in a voice so low that he knew only a transgenic, only Max, would hear.

Max turned immediately toward him, eyes wide.

"You wanted a beer," he guessed in his whisper of a voice, bringing her attention to the nearly full glass that Logan had ordered for her.

Max for once didn't know how to react. Normally, she had two options with Alec – slap him or slap him. It was one of the few times she'd heard him say something expecting nothing in return, no angry reaction or flirtatious comeback.

While Max was taken by surprise, the waitress came back to check on the group, taking note of how full Max's glass was.

"Do you not like Dave's Martini?" she asked Max politely.

"Oh, no, it's great," Max reassured her.

"I can bring you something else," the waitress offered.

"You heard her, she's fine," Logan interjected. "It's just been a while, hasn't it Max?"

Max caught his longing stare and knew he was drifting into the past at that very moment. She chanced looking at Alec out of the corner of her eye and noticed that he was giving Logan a rather aggressive, territorial stare.

"Actually, a beer would be nice," Max said, offering her first genuine smile of the evening.

"And you ordered all on your own," Alec remarked smartly once the waitress had left. "I'm so proud of my girl."

Max rolled her eyes, but there was less tension to her as she did so. "Let's just make it to dessert," she said.

"You should have seen his face," Logan finished with a light chuckle.

Max's ears wandered, picking up on the usual sounds of the restaurant- footsteps as people poured in, the sharp clang of silverware hitting pans from the kitchen, and the quiet laughter from a couple five tables away. The absence of a voice droning right in front of her told her that the conversation finally had a break.

"So, Asha," she started, taking the opportunity to turn the conversation away from any more of Logan's stories or that question she was most hoping to avoid ('How are things with you and Alec?'), "How's the S1W doing? I haven't heard anything about you guys lately. Well, I guess I wouldn't, since Logan always used to tell me about that stuff." Somehow the casual question ended awkwardly as Max reminded the entire table (like anyone could forget!) that she and Logan had been together only a short time before.

"Oh, we're doing great," Asha told Max warmly. "Eyes Only is helping us on a few things. We've managed to stay under the radar for a while… Gives us time to plan our next event."

Max nodded in fake interest. "That sounds great!"

Asha accepted her gratitude with a grin. "It really is." Her stare then turned to Logan. "Of course, we've had a lot of extra resources lately. Logan's been wonderful."

With that, Asha took a moment to squeeze Logan's hand with appreciation as she stared affectionately into his eyes.

Max couldn't take her stare away from the simple act of affection in front of her. Witnessing a couple holding hands shouldn't have been so striking. But Max wasn't watching just any couple. The way that Logan interlocked fingers with the woman he loved, all right in front of her eyes, brought a pain to Max's heart. All of the affection between Max and Logan had been confined behind a pair of rubber gloves. Touch was just one aspect of closeness in a normal relationship that Manticore had ripped away from her.

Alec noticed the unspoken pain that Max was experiencing. The show of togetherness in front of her only served to make her feel alone.

Alec wasn't much for handholding or being just another warm body, but he knew how much it would mean to her, so he showed his affection in his own way. He put his arm around her, gently nudging her to come closer.

Max absently fell into him, enjoying the comfort it gave her to have a man's arm wrapped so snuggly around her. She rested her head in the crook of his neck and forgot about the game plan for a few moments. If Alec dared to try and use her moment of vulnerability against her later, she would blame it on nostalgia and loneliness.

a/n: I don't know what possessed me to update this and I'm sorry that I can't promise anything. Regardless, I really appreciate any feedback and of course that you even read this at all. Thanks so much! Until next date...? tentatively titled 'love at first charade'