a/n: This is a challenge response to beldoc from nunswithpens. I don't want to give it away! So I'll post the actual challenge at the end of the chap, if you don't mind. (now don't go cheating and read it first! haha)
It's already complete! (I know, a first for me!) So I can tell you with absolute certainty that it's going to be 2 chapters long, plus an epilogue (yes, an epilogue!)
Disclaimer: I don't own dark angel or the characters.
Setting: After Hello Goodbye; with blips from Love Among the Runes
Genre: angst (for all three characters, cuz there's so much to go around!)
Pairing: MA friendly (well, the challenge calls for it!)
Chapter 1: Nothing's As It Seems
Thou Shalt Not Kill.
He didn't need to be a man of faith to understand or follow it. In fact, he'd only been to a few services in his entire life. Whenever those few Cale weddings occurred that he was obliged to make an appearance at; a few childhood memories of attending service on various holidays when his mother still held a strong place in his life.
To be fair, he didn't strictly adhere to any particular code of ethics. And he had certainly broken more than his share of rules.
But there was one law system that even he couldn't deny. In fact, justice was a word that meant a lot to him, too much, really. Before her, it was his life.
And apparently, it was all that he now had left. Again, he was left standing alone. It seemed that doing the right thing these days really was a long, cold, and barren road.
Secrets are never a good thing. He'd discovered that the hard way, more than once.
But he'd never met another person so good at it. Deceit was like an art form for her.
He found himself wondering just how much of it was all nothing but a big lie to her. He'd seen her lie right through that gorgeous 100 mega-watt smile of hers before. And to think, he'd been impressed.
The more he thought of it, it was disgusting.
But he hadn't known at the time.
There's a lot of things you don't know about Max.
Logan's eyes burned at the words. The smart-ass whose mouth had smirked upon letting him know just how strongly he'd 'underestimated' her. Clearly, the idiot thought the foul deed would somehow strike Logan, inspire him even, with just how strong Max really was.
But that was the problem. Logan had tried, god he'd tried. He went at it from every possible angle. He'd analyzed every single aspect of the damned ordeal.
But after hours of calculations and rehashing the whole scenario, he'd come up with the worst possible conclusion. He didn't understand. He couldn't understand.
Because no matter how many times he tried to fight it in his mind and in his heart, he just knew that it was wrong.
It was so wrong, it made him sick.
His mouth felt dry as he found himself nearly choking, puking on the twisted truth to his thoughts, his memories, his knowledge. All of her, and who- what she really was.
It was drowning him, all of it. And there wasn't a damn thing he could do to stop it.
The feeling of helplessness was one that he'd been working to overcome for a long time. It was practically his existence. And he'd always succeeded. At least, that's what he liked to think.
They said he'd never walk again. And he'd proved them wrong. They'd told him he would never amount to anything. And he'd worked to make a difference, even if no one knew where the credit was due.
She'd been taken away from him once before. It was a time so dark he found himself almost succumbing to it again just thinking about it. Until he forced himself to be strong and aware of the truth. It was in the past.
And besides, he'd been wrong.
Betrayal was not a new feeling to the man. He'd felt the pain of being stabbed in the back, cutting straight through to the heart, before. And he'd been wrong before, too, as much as he didn't want to admit it.
But it was different this time. He couldn't believe how blind he'd been. She wasn't as human as he'd once believed.
His beautiful Max.
Tears flowed freely at the innocence that he now knew was never really there to begin with.
His blue eyes fell to the pieces of the shattered glass that he'd been holding together in his hand only moments before. He remembered again, the rage he'd felt in that moment as his eyes poured into the broken pieces that were still laying on the cold floor.
He could stand, for the moment. But who knew how long it would be until his legs would again reject the strange blood from his last transfusion.
But as his sights fell to the broken pieces, he found his legs losing their will anyway. The helplessness completely took over and he slumped to the floor despite himself, this time because of a near emotional breakdown instead of a failure in his nerve connections.
Logan watched as the light reflected, dancing from the tears falling onto the tiny glass pieces, mirrored back into his blue eyes that had never felt so empty.
18 hours earlier------------------------------------------------
Logan was still somewhat woozy as his body tried to fight the waking hours. It took him a moment to identify the pounding at the core of his mind as more than just a bad headache. No, this was a hangover.
The now familiar feeling brought a dry, sarcastic grin to his face as he dared to smile at his circumstance.
That's right. They weren't the only ones capable of dry sarcasm. Logan recalled that pleasant Manticore attitude that they'd all been blessed with, their dry wit and sarcasm.
He let out a laugh in his tipsy state, recalling earlier times when putting up with their snarky mouths was the worst of his problems.
Well, it was laughable, anyway, the whole thing. He was the biggest schmuck of them all.
Schmuck? The word brought a new thought into his hazy mind. Maybe he was still drunk, after all.
Though he enjoyed a few beers every now and then, he wasn't one to willingly bring on the helpless feeling that one gets when they're completely intoxicated. But let's just say he wasn't exactly feeling himself when he'd taken to the bottle the night before.
How could anyone, really? Watching his world come crashing down had a way of making him feel like a stranger to his life. Or at least wishing he was, once he'd discovered the truth.
There was that moment of disbelief, when he was blissfully ignorant of its truth and repercussions; when he held onto that illogical hope that he just hadn't seen clearly, that he'd gotten it all wrong, missed some vital detail to explain it all away.
But when she'd answered… well… there was really no denying it anymore.
As Logan's eyes fell to the empty glass on the table, he recalled bringing it to his lips countless times, until he'd successfully drunken away his ability to count any more.
And he remembered that somewhere in the night after this point, Max had finally shown up.
Not to see him, of course. For as he'd soon discovered, she was completely over him. No, she just wanted to take a look at his little diagrams.
"I told Logan you and me were together."
Alec heard the words again in his mind, as though they were echoing. It had taken a minute for him to process it. As he stared into her brown eyes, he was struck with how serious they were. She was…
She wasn't kidding.
"What?" he heard himself ask out loud. He certainly hadn't thought before blurting it at her. How could he? She'd just hit him with some news that had successfully interrupted his ability to think straight for a moment.
"I'm sorry, I had to."
Alec couldn't help making a quiet scoff in his disbelief. He swallowed, taking it all in as she went on.
"This virus thing isn't going anywhere and I can't afford anymore accidents."
Alec didn't appreciate being unwillingly, or unknowingly, for that matter, thrust right into the middle of their 'not-like-that' relationship. She could have told the guy anything. But she'd taken the easiest way out, which as usual, left Alec up to take the fall.
As far as Alec was concerned, Max was a free woman. She was welcome to play whatever mind games she wanted with the guy. But he wasn't going to play any part in the twisted lie.
Alec grabbed the bag anyway, despite her protests. "Max, whatever's goin' on with you and Logan's got nothin' to do with me, okay?" He flashed her a sympathetic, but serious look as he continued, "I'm not gonna be the bad guy."
And with that, he slung the bag over his shoulder and went on his way to see the man who more than likely hated him right about now.----------------------------------------------------------
Alec could feel the air of tension before he broke it, or rather, increased it, by entering the room.
"Hey," he greeted the older man, not really sure how else to break the ice.
"Hey," Logan returned only out of the rituals of conversation.
Alec noted the metallic exoskeleton that was strapped around Logan's legs. "Thought you didn't need that thing to walk anymore," Alec commented casually.
"I don't," came the terse reply.
"So, is it more like an enhancer then?" Alec asked, trying to make conversation.
"Somethin' like that," Logan answered, still not bothering to look at Alec as he made the reply. "What are you doin' here?" Logan asked suddenly, wanting to get to the point.
Chatting with Alec was something that Logan wasn't interested in on a normal day. And he was even less inclined to hear what witty lines the transgenic had to spit out today, what with the news Max had left up to Logan to figure out.
She hadn't even had the decency to tell him the truth. She'd just left the dots for him to connect. Somehow, her inconsideration to fill him in made the truth hurt that much more.
"I, uh, I got that computer hardware you wanted," Alec's voice interrupted Logan's wandering thoughts.
"Thanks," Logan managed to say.
"Yeah, no problem," Alec returned. After a pause, he tried to come clean to the guy and free himself from being the fall guy to their relationship that there was really no use in denying any more. "Listen, um, this thing with Max and I-"
"Yeah, she told me," Logan interrupted. "If you're here to apologize, or give me some kind of explanation about how it happened, I'm not real interested." With that, the man dramatically cracked one of the logs he was placing onto the fire, the sharp sound somehow serving to send the point home.
"No, no, no," Alec tried to correct him. "You got it all wrong, you see-"
"Listen," Logan interrupted again. "We've been through some rough times, me and Max. But I never gave up on us. I always figured we'd get through it."
After a short pause, the man continued. "Now I guess, I don't know, I'm thinkin' maybe, I've been selfish. With everything that's goin' on in the world…" he trailed, letting out a sigh before he found his voice again. "Maybe she should be with someone… like her."
Alec was struck with the two little words that the man had chosen. It shouldn't have mattered to Alec, especially since he'd come with the intention of leaving only once the man understood that there was nothing going on between Max and Alec.
But something in how judgmental and condescending the words sounded as they flew right out of the man's mouth hit Alec with their ignorance. Alec felt defensive immediately, not only for himself, but for Max, the woman that this guy supposedly loved.
"You say that like she's beneath you," Alec couldn't help saying. Not really his first choice of words, but the first ones that came to him.
"That's the funny part," the man went on, not picking up on the defensive tone Alec had used. "It never mattered to me, what she was… where she was from."
Alec felt his eyes widen as their conversation went on. Not that it was much of a conversation. Alec was doing far more listening than anything else. But he didn't like what he was hearing. And he felt like it was high time he said a few words of his own.
But first, Logan said a few final words before he was satisfied, having spoken his mind. "Not to me," the man finished in an almost whisper while Alec's thoughts wandered.
"You think you know her so well," Alec couldn't help commenting in disbelief, shaking his head that was showing near pity for the man.
"I know everything about Max," Logan dismissed the comment in a matter-of-fact fashion. "And I still love her."
Alec felt his jaw slacken at the man's confident words. Logan was bordering on obsession with Max. He'd made it a point to study the woman and her background like a man possessed. And he apparently somehow felt a sense of nobility, in still finding it in his heart to love the woman, despite… 'what she is'. The man had left no room for questioning, the way he'd stated it so matter-of-factly.
Part of Alec wanted to end it right there, just walk away. But he couldn't let the man go on thinking he had it all figured out like this. "You know, there's a lot of things you don't know about Max," Alec told the man. He couldn't keep the smirk from spreading across his face. It was the only thing keeping him from downright scowling at the guy. And for whatever reason that Alec didn't think he'd ever understand, Max was still head over heels for him. So Alec was careful to hold his tongue down to that simple statement.
Logan didn't appreciate his knowledge of Max being questioned like that. It was like an unspoken challenge, calling for an answer. There was nothing that Logan didn't know about Max. This he was positive of. "You think I don't already know?" Logan asked Alec, letting on his surprise. "You don't give me any credit, do you?"
Before Alec could respond, Logan continued. "I know all of it, Alec. Even your secrets."
Alec's eyes flashed into Logan's dangerously at this statement. But Alec managed to hold his tongue until Logan would reveal what he meant by the comment.
"Rachel Berrisford. Your first deep-cover mission."
"Keep your mouth shut, Logan," Alec demanded, his voice calm but determined. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"I read the file," Logan went on. "Manticore's finest, you were. Piano teacher meant to weasel his way into the heart of a young and innocent girl."
"Shut up," Alec spat at the man.
"You manipulated her so you could do the job easier," Logan went on. "Of course, the free dinner must have been a nice perk, too."
"You don't know a damn thing about what you're talking about," Alec insisted, the calmness in his voice slipping as he fought to control himself.
"She fell for you, the poor fool. I really feel sorry for her. What was it, two years? That she spent in a coma? Before her fragile body finally couldn't take it any more?"
Alec couldn't contain his anger any longer, and with the last taunting, he grabbed the man by the throat and lifted his feeble body up off the ground. Metal legs or not, Logan was still nothing in comparison to a genetically engineered killing machine.
"See?" Logan choked out, as if the action only proved his point.
Alec took one more moment to glare into the man's piercing eyes before releasing his grip, leaving Logan to fall onto the floor.
Logan coughed a few times before saying more. "It's fine though, Alec, really. Because see, I do understand. You were just doing your job, what you were trained to do. I really am sorry that you had to go through with that. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been."
Pft. Yeah, Alec thought to himself with a scowl that wouldn't leave his face just yet. I'm sure sorrow is what you were feeling when you went behind my back to dig into my background files that have nothing to do with you.
Alec tried to stay calm while his mind raced, considering what to say to the man. It didn't seem that Logan was a guy who listened well.
Luckily, Alec didn't have to, as Logan continued. "But Max… she left before they could use her for any of their twisted missions. They never got to dirty her hands with the spilled blood of the innocent."
Alec shook his head at the ignorant man who still had the nerve to think he somehow knew what they'd gone through from some computer file that he'd hacked into, just as he'd hacked his way into Max's life. Alec found himself disgusted with him.
"You don't know anything about us," Alec spat out, his voice wavering. "…the things we had to do…" he trailed as he tried to swallow the lump forming uncomfortably in his throat. Alec felt like a knife was ripping into his chest with every nightmarish memory. The cocky smart-ass front that he normally held so effortlessly around Logan was more difficult to maintain as he felt the pain create tiny fractures in his mask.
"You have no idea what I went through, with Rachel," Alec continued absently, his eyes burning as he relived the horrors of his past. "…what Max went through with Ben… You just don't get it. And you never will. There's not a computer file on this Earth that you can hack into to make you understand."
Logan found his confidence fading as his focus fell onto one thing in particular that Alec had spoken in his pained ramblings. "Wait," he said, his voice no longer sounding so certain. "What did you just say? About Max and Ben?"
Logan watched as Alec's eyes widened as though he'd just made some sort of mistake in letting the words slip. "I… nothing," Alec said quickly. "We both had to say our goodbyes. That's all."
"Wait," Logan wouldn't accept the brushed-off answer. "What made you even think to compare the two situations? They're completely different. You murdered Rachel. Max stopped Ben from killing."
"Exactly," Alec agreed, surprised with Logan's take on things. "So you know, then. About Ben," he concluded. Alec couldn't help finding surprise in the realization. The way Logan spoke about morals and ethics all the time, his self-righteous ramblings… Alec didn't think Logan would be able to handle the truth. And Alec was highly skilled at reading people.
Logan must put a blind eye to everything Max, Alec decided. It made sense to him, that Logan would ignore all of his self-proclaimed rules when it came to Max. Alec still recalled one of the first times he'd pointed out Logan's blindness to Max.
"It's just 'cuz she's hot, you know," Alec said with a smirk.
"What is?" Logan asked without looking at the transgenic.
"Everything," Alec returned. "Everything she gets away with. I mean, do you honestly think we'd be down here in this moldy dump looking for God knows what if she were ugly?"
"We're down here to give Max a hand," Logan dismissed the transgenic's take on the situation.
Alec couldn't help laughing. "You are so whipped."
But as Alec's eyes narrowed at the man in front of him today, he realized it was much more than 'whipped'. The guy was completely obsessed with Max.
As Alec came to his own conclusions, Logan was also losing himself in thought. His mind raced against his will, straining to remember the details to the killing epidemic from so long ago. Manticore, Lydecker, to be specific, had caught up with Max's murderous brother. Manticore had taken Ben away. That was how it went down…
"Max…" Logan stopped before he'd even begun to tell the story. That was when he realized. A panic ran through him, and he cursed himself inwardly for not noticing before. He'd just assumed. God, he'd just assumed.
But now that it was thrust in front of his face like this…
He didn't know for certain what had happened that night. He'd had nothing to base his conclusions upon. Just…
One minute, Ben was free and on a killing spree. Max went to stop him, while Manticore was closing in on the clues to finding him, as well.
The next minute, Ben's murders had stopped. And Max was back.
Logan hadn't really considered what actually happened, in explicit detail. He hadn't seen the need to. But Alec was making him think differently. Was there something he was missing? It was like the situation had somehow been much more complicated than that, the way Alec was looking while he considered it.
Then another thought occurred to Logan, sending another wave of panic through him. How would Alec know what had happened that day? He was no more there than Logan had been.
Which only could mean…
Max had told Alec something about that day. Something that she'd never mentioned to Logan, something he never would have guessed or even thought to guess on his own, as he was doing right now, thanks to Alec's mysterious behavior and sudden attempt to brush the slip under the rug.
But Logan was too meticulous to let it go. Alec had sparked something in Logan's mind that had to be answered.
"Max has said goodbyes before," Logan said, finding his voice again. "What made you bring up Ben? Zack was harder on her. Why'd you say Ben?"
Alec's eyes twitched at the question. Hazel eyes poured into blue, and he watched the fear, the possibilities, the paranoia race within Logan's stare. Oh, my God, he thought to himself with a swallow. The man didn't know, after all. He really has no idea.
Alec tried to keep Max's secret to himself, and shrugged nonchalantly. "Ben was the first sibling that came to mind. Come on, Logan, you know me. I don't really care about all that family stuff."
"But you never even knew Ben. Whereas you actually met Zack. Why would you randomly bring up that name?" Logan asked, clearly still unconvinced. "Don't lie to me, Alec. What do you know that I don't?"
Alec held his usual confident grin as he continued to try and steer away from the subject. "There's a lot I know that you don't, Logan," he said with a sarcastic smirk, "but I really don't see where you're going with this. Of course Max and I are similar. We've both had people we love taken away from us. Nothing to go psycho-analysis on."
Logan let out a heavy sigh. Fine. Alec wasn't going to help him on this one. Logan wanted to just agree with Alec, shrug it off as a mere coincidence.
But he couldn't. Now there was a feeling creeping up his spine that wouldn't shake, telling him that Alec had meant far more than he was letting on in comparing the two situations. "You murdered Rachel…" Logan repeated.
"Thanks again for the reminder," Alec interjected dryly.
Logan continued as though he hadn't spoken, "And you think that Max went through the same thing with Ben."
Logan's eyes lit up with horror as a thought came to him. He didn't want to say it out loud, give it any real meaning. But as sick as it made him feel, it was plausible. God, it was plausible!
"Max… murdered Ben," Logan let out slowly.
a/n: Okay, so here's the challenge
Alec finds out about Max telling Logan they were together and when he goes to talk to Logan, he sort of, accidentally, tells him about Max killing Ben. Logan is completely disgusted, all the fears and doubts he had about Max comes forward and he panics and tells Max he knows that she and Alec are not together but he can never be with her now that he knows what she did to her brother. Max does not take this well…. MA