An Autumn Solstice

Disclaimer: Let me check . . . no, I still don't own Dark Angel.

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: M/A

Summary: 'For the test of the heart is trouble . . .'

Author's Note: Blame my cartridge pen; it just doesn't know when to give the angst a rest.

Epilogue

October 2023

Red, orange, yellow and brown; the streets were covered in layers of crispy fallen leaves, signifying the arrival of yet another season in a long year.

From where she was sat, a vast, colourful sea seemed to expand around her. People milling about their daily business in the far distance, to the cluttered roads packed with vehicles and the massive queue as the unlucky waited for more gas. She smiled in satisfaction, her gas tank having been filled not two days ago.

The wind blew around her just then, a few wayward strands of hair flying from her face, and whipping behind to join the rest of her masses of curls. A sigh of contentment escaped her lips as she stretched her feet out in front of her. She hadn't felt like this, well, ever really. As it was the smile that had replaced her perpetual frown suited her. That's what everyone told her, anyway.

It seemed that she finally had something to smile about. The transgenic plight was making more and more headway everyday. In fact, just the last week, the government had poured a substantial amount of funding into helping to rebuild Terminal City and make it more liveable. Dewy had wanted to argue that they had lived just fine as they had been in the City and that the money wasn't really necessary, but Mole had promptly squeezed a very large hand around the smaller transgenic's arm and halted him mid-sentence. It was a step in the right direction, and they would take what they could.

Joshua's art pieces were once again the talk of the art world, with Rita firmly by his side helping to fuel his creativity and spur him on. Rita, much like Clemente had been great aides to the transgenic cause, back in the dark days, when their futures had been so precariously balanced in pursuit of survival.

It was exactly a year to the day.

That small fact had been playing furtively at the back of her mind from the minute she had woken up to greet the warm sun shining through her bedroom window; and it had not left her, hazing in and out of the forefront of her mind whenever it so pleased.

It was a year today that he had walked out of her life.

And it seemed that that single pivotal moment had shaped the rest of her life. The closet romantic in her head wanted to casually slip the words 'for the better' on to that last thought, but the realist in her argued that only time would tell.

She had felt his presence atop Space Needle before he had even spoken a single word.

She waited.

His soft footsteps increasing in amplitude as they neared.

His warmth enveloped her as he sat ever so gracefully behind her, his large safe arms wrapping their way around her waist, pulling her back against his own chest. Nuzzling his head in her hair, he whispered in her ear, "Hey."

She smiled despite herself, "Hey."

Leaning his chin on her shoulder, he joined her in staring out at the sight that greeted him.

Funny how the post apocalyptic world they had been born into seemed to be the most beautiful thing they'd ever seen. They of course knew nothing of what life had been like pre-pulse and perhaps even in spite of that, they could not shake the thought that even if they had seen the world in all its glory pre-pulse, it was neither here nor there in describing the beauty with all its flaws of the world they now lived in.

They sat like that awhile, in comfortable silence, watching the world around them. Everything seemed to move so fast, and Max sitting there in the arms of a man she was pretty sure she loved, but had never had the courage to yet tell him so, couldn't for the life of her remember if her life had ever seemed as chaotic and lawless as those around her. It was an irony, for her whole life could be summarised by those two words and various other synonyms; but she just couldn't remember.

Thinking back to that momentous day in May, Max realised she had never thanked the person who had started all those rumours. She had promised herself she would track them down, but she had forgotten as she found herself caught up in the whirlwind of the summer months; for if it hadn't been for those unsubstantiated rumours, Alec would never have come knocking on her door, and the events that followed would never have unravelled as they had.

The journey from then to now had not been without its fair share of misunderstandings and miscommunications, but if she had ever been a believer in fate, there was no more certain evidence than the fact that the tides would somehow, in one way or another, bring them back together.

Of course, she had been the first to make the move; taking that step forward and into his arms. If he'd been shocked at her action he had masked it well, or perhaps she hadn't even noticed what with her own heart thudding in her chest, and hearing nothing but the sound of her blood rushing through her veins. If Alec had been shocked at her actions, she had been just as startled and petrified.

She wasn't really sure what had happened after that. It was a hazy blur of emotions, incoherent sentences and mutual understanding that what they had could neither be defined nor explained.

Whilst Max liked to think she was the one who took the initiative in this relationship of theirs, the truth was that it was Alec who had made the first move all along. For in reality, it was his fateful departure which had opened the floodgates to realisation, albeit painstakingly slowly, of what he meant to her.

"What are you thinking?" She felt his chest behind her rumble as he spoke the words. The low, breathy tones of his voice tickling her ear and making her shiver almost imperceptibly.

She laughed quietly, not really sure how to sum up the words that would describe the year that had passed. Feeling the upturn of his lips as he smiled against the soft skin of her neck, she knew she didn't really have to explain after all; he already knew.

"Quite a year, huh?" he said, answering his own question.

She smiled, "I guess so."

"How does it feel?" he asked.

Max turned slightly to face him. She could make out his profile as he continued to rest against her. Having felt her gaze upon himself, he too mirrored her actions. She could see her own eyes clearly reflected back at her in his own now almost entirely green eyes. She'd always thought they were his best physical attribute; and in simplest terms – just breathtakingly beautiful.

"How does what feel?" she asked.

He smiled - that infuriating smile that was half self satisfied smirk, and half unabashed amusement. "Everything," he said.

She knew what he was asking, and she also knew that he knew she didn't really have an answer to that.

How did one describe the transformation she had witnessed in just the space of a year? She'd never have believed this time last year that the transgenics would now be well on their way to gaining full citizen and human rights. If anything, she had expected their cause to take many years to come to fruition, and perhaps never even succeed. For all they would have tried, people just didn't overcome prejudices that easily and certainly not as quickly as within a single year. She wasn't naïve enough to know that their struggle was in no way over.

There of course was the exposure of the Familiars and the gradual, ongoing end to their reign of infiltration and manipulation of Ordinaries, and their crusade against the transgenics. White's demise behind bars was definitely something worth celebrating, but for all that the man had done to her and her family, she couldn't help pity the man. After all, he was only a slave to his genetics, much like themselves.

But that was just it. They had finally taken a stand. The transgenics were no longer sitting in the dark, obeying orders like the soldiers they'd been moulded into. They were finally pushing their way out of the darkness and into the light. Max's eyes instinctively scoped the landscape in front of her, directing them towards Terminal City, and the flag that still stood proud, rippling in the wind. From darkness, to bloodshed, and finally into the light; her smile grew wider.

"Careful Max," Alec grinned into her ear, "Wouldn't want to expose your soft, girly side to the whole world. They'll see right through your tough, bitchy exterior now."

Max grinned, elbowing him half-heartedly in the stomach. "Shut up."

He chuckled.

The sound warmed her from the inside out.

She couldn't quite believe it herself. Who would have thought, she'd come to care so much about the once manwhore rat-bag sat behind her. On some level, perhaps she'd always known. But just like with Logan before him, she had had neither the guts nor fortitude to explore her feelings for him and see where they could have led her. She had been terrified. She had lost so many people in her life, and she had nearly lost him too. And so she had learnt the hard way that not taking a chance was perhaps the worst crime she could commit against herself. Didn't mean she didn't try to fight it. Oh hell, she had tried. But the stubborn ass had wormed far too deep under her skin for her to ignore, and before long she knew she was unequivocally doomed; for he had firmly, with a single touch of his lips over hers, taken a hold of her heart. He would never let go and neither did she want him to.

He ran one finger slowly through her curls, the other hand resting gently across her abdomen, "You still haven't answered my question."

She knew it wasn't. Common sense knew that things could never be that way. There was too much wrong in the world for it to be true. Mistakes were there to be made; to err was what it was to be human. And perhaps it was for all their faults, however tiny, which made them so. Sitting there now, she could only think of one word that described everything around her.

Turning suddenly in his arms, the wind now blowing against her, so stray curls swept into her face, she lifted her hand to his face. Tracing the line down his jaw, her fingers brushing against the emerging stubble, she smiled with everything from her lips to her eyes.

A question glittered in his eyes, and she finally answered him,

"Perfect," she said.

His smile grew wider, and she could only marvel at its beauty.

"Everything feels perfect."

He kissed her then; soft, sweet and with such affection that made her feel she had never been loved and cherished as much as she was now and maybe ever would be again. No, nothing could ever really be perfect, but for just the moment, as everything around them faded to a distant grey, she could think of no better word.

For now at least, everything truly was perfect.

End.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

A/N 2: So there it is. After the bucket loads of angst, I hope this last chapter compensated; there's never any harm in an odd fluff ball. I had high hopes for this piece, and though some parts were perhaps more successful than others, I still hope you enjoyed the ride. A massive thank you to those of you who took the time to review and let me know what you thought; I appreciate every single comment.

And so I leave you with one last parting plea; please review and share your thoughts.

Over and out,

SmilinStar

xxx