Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel or the characters
Setting: after Freak Nation
Genre: general
Pairing: MA friendship (and more?)
Rating: K+

Stripped of formalities, Max makes a choice about what Alec really means to her. MA


Introductions

"This is Alec, my Second in Command," Max informed the man matter-of-factly. From his stiff, manly posture, to his white collar that held a firm crease, the man was all class. His black, polished shoes were tied onto his foot with a tight knot that he'd made sure wouldn't come loose.

He was professional, certainly, though not to be confused with rigid. Although his stance demanded respect, he had a dignified grace about him, and didn't hold himself on a pedestal.

Nonetheless, his position called for formalities, titles and such. A senator, despite the turmoil going on and the corruption that had come into the light regarding the government, still had unspoken mannerisms associated with the title.

Why can't introductions be less formal? The question flashed into Max's mind, sending her a wave of discomfort as she heard the label ring again in her head.

Her SIC. The three words used to mean something to her, the attachment that came with them. But as she heard her own voice spit out the title today, she was struck with how dry and empty it sounded, even though it had come out through a smile. Her temperature increased slightly at the tension that the standard introduction gave to her.

The label was meaningless to her today as she let it roll off her tongue in the most unattached fashion. She'd answered without thought, the title popping into her mind out of habit more than anything else. It had been her way of referring to him for so long now that she didn't have to consider a thing when she said it.

So why was she now?

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The senator reached out to her SIC to offer a man's handshake; one that Alec politely accepted as another matter of formality. "Alec. Good to meet you, finally. I've heard so much about you."

You have? Max tried to recall what she'd told the man about Alec.

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"You've done a fabulous job, Miss Guevara."

"It's Max," she answered with her usual spunk. But the attitude that she normally held when dealing with any sort of authority was gone. She was facing this man as an equal, and more importantly, he was returning her respect with his own.

"The bill is my top priority. We're gaining more support every day."

"Thank you," Max answered graciously, truly beaming out of the happiness it gave her to hear words that at one time she could only dream of coming true.

"Don't thank me," the senator dismissed her gratitude. "You have done this, you and your people. The example you've set of late is exemplary. I don't even need to explain my case any more on the floor."

Max nodded with a small grin. "We've all worked very hard, every one of us. There were times when we were …less hopeful about our cause. But Alec has done a fantastic job of keeping the spirits up." My spirits up, she thought in silent appreciation of her closest ally.

"Alec… your Second in Command. I've seen a few of his interviews. I'm excited to meet this outstanding individual."

Max laughed lightly at his words. A government official praising Alec wasn't exactly something she foresaw happening when she'd first met the transgenic. An amused grin came over Max's face as she thought of Alec, the lovable rogue soldier who'd broken countless rules but was now doing everything in his power to appease to the law.

"He's outstanding, all right," Max began. An outstanding pain in the ass! But the irritation that had at one time driven her crazy was now just one of those aspects to their unique relationship that she silently appreciated.

The glares that she sent Alec and the slaps upside his head for every slight innuendo that came out of his smirking mouth had lost their sting somewhere along the lines. Now they were more playful than anything else.

"He's… a unique creature unlike any other," Max continued absently, before coming to her senses. She cleared her throat in an attempt to bring the professionalism back into her words. "That is… I've never met anyone quite like him. And I don't think I ever will."

"Well, if he's anything like his Commanding Officer, I'm sure we'll get along just fine," the senator politely steered their conversation back onto topic.

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An amused grin stretched across Alec's chiseled face as the unnatural image of Max talking about him filled his mind. The corners of his mouth curved upward at the humorous thought. "Well, Max and I have grown close over the struggle."

We have? Max questioned silently.

"We all have," Alec finished, sending ease through Max's mind as he lessened the seriousness of his statement.

The senator nodded in acceptance. "You're extraordinary individuals. And I don't just mean the genetics."

"Thank you, sir."

Alec wasn't faking his gratitude, Max could tell. It sent a warmth through her, knowing that everything was really coming together.

The senator smiled kindly at Alec's hospitality, but he made an effort to dismiss his ranking from the conversation. "No need for such formalities. We're equals here. That's the point of all of this, anyway, isn't it?"

Yeah, Max thought to herself in agreement, a ray of light figuratively filling her mind as she made the realization. We're equals.

She didn't like it when people referred to her as simply 'the CO'. She had a name, and people damn well better use it. She hoped that she meant more to people than just 'CO' …more to Alec, that is.

I wanna be more than his CO…?

The question brought with it confusion- confusion that Max didn't have time to answer, given her current situation. But with the questions and misplaced feelings settling over her, she knew where her destination would be as soon as the meeting ended. Her wandering thoughts called for a relaxing session at her special place.

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Max reveled in the sense of peace and togetherness that she felt, sitting on top of the world. She hadn't been to her place in a long time, being too busy at Terminal City. Not to mention, up until recently, she had to sneak out just to get a carton of milk.

But given the new developments on the 'transgenic situation', as the government was calling it, she didn't have to fight just to walk around like every other person.

She was completely alone, and as she felt the breeze whip around her, she felt her walls melt away. There was no need to be Commanding Officer up here, or Queen Bitch. She was just Max, with no one to answer to but herself.

She'd been up here at some of her worst points, frustrations of Logan, Ben, and Zack filling her mind at those times. Other times, it had been the transgenic cause that was frustrating to her, fighting the Familiars and people with prejudices. It wasn't hard to think of an aspect to her life that was troubling. There was usually plenty to occupy her mind.

But as she sat on the edge of the Space Needle, the highest point in Seattle, peering out at the busy people that were only little dots below, her thoughts were centered around only one person.

Alec.

"I've never met anyone quite like him. And I don't think I ever will."

"This is Alec, my Second in Command."

Well, what was she supposed to say?

"This is Alec… my good friend"? It didn't sound right in her mind.

"This is Alec, the pain in my ass that I can't get out of my head."

Max let out a sigh as she considered something she hadn't had the time to lately, her feelings and desires. She could almost picture her good friend Cindy standing in front of her, giving her the girl talk smack down for being so uncertain. Probably something like, 'Boo, get yo genetically modified ass into gear! You ain't foolin' Original Cindy. He's ya boy. When are you gon' do somethin' about it?'

A light smile crept onto Max's face as she pictured her friend's typical sass.

"This is Alec …my boy." Max laughed lightly at this possible introduction. It didn't sound right to her, either. Something's still off…

"This is Alec, my…"

"Boyfriend," she finished aloud. It sounded right in her mind, which didn't mean much to her, considering she'd been calling him that for some time now to deflect her relationship with Logan.

But when the pair was behind closed doors, that wasn't what she called him. When no one was looking, he was just… her SIC.

Cindy's voice popped into Max's mind again as she became lost in her thoughts. "I know you, girl. You ain't the same when Pretty Boy ain't around. Think whacha want, boo, but my heart don't go all a flutter with some 'SIC'. Nah, that's reserved for a special lickety chick. See what I'm sayin?"

Max couldn't deny that Alec meant more to her than just her SIC. But did that attachment stretch so far as to be 'boyfriend'? …behind closed doors?

"I don't know…," Max whispered her confusion into the wind.

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"Don't know what?" a whisper floated back to her sensitive ears. It was familiar, as was the shift in wind to let her know she wasn't alone.

Max turned her head immediately and cocked her angle toward him as he approached. "Alec," she greeted softly, failing to shield her appreciation of his company as he drew near.

She couldn't tense like normal and put up a blank Manticore mask, not in her special place.

"Been a while, hasn't it?" he commented casually as he took a seat beside her.

Max grinned as his scent collided with her own, surrounding her in its familiarity and appeal. It was already lingering in the spot, or maybe it was only in her memory, of the last time she'd been up here when Alec had come unexpectedly, just as he was now. Either way, as his body brushed against hers, the scent hit her senses, sending with it a rush of attraction tingling up her spine.

The last time he'd abruptly sat beside her, she'd been rigid toward him, drowning in sorrow and not wanting any company. But as he'd told her, he'd figured she could use a friend. And he'd been right.

This time, she also could use a friend, and not just any friend. She needed more than that tonight.

His presence didn't add to her confusion. If anything, it helped provide her with some answers. But she still couldn't seem to put them into words.

"How'd you know I was here?" Max asked him. A part of her already knew the answer, but she needed to hear him say it.

"I was in the neighborhood," he answered casually.

Max shoved him lightly. "Right," she commented with a rolling of her eyes. "In that case, I should give you latrine duty for leaving your post."

Alec laughed. "You know, we don't need to keep our guard up so much anymore. Things are really coming together for us, for the cause."

Max nodded in agreement, a smile lighting up her face. "I know, and I'm glad for that," she confessed to him.

Alec nodded, taking a minute to enjoy the peace of the spot himself before continuing. "So then… what are you doin' up here?" he asked her seriously.

Max pursed her lips as she considered how to answer. It wasn't something she could just let out. She didn't quite understand it herself, so how could she help him to understand?

"Earlier today, you said that we've grown close," Max attempted to lead into opening up to him.

"Did I say that?" Alec feigned confusion with a playful smile.

Max's brown eyes lit with fury at his response. He certainly wasn't going to make this easy on her.

"Alec," she complained, her voice tight.

A smirk spread across his face at how quickly her temper could show. "So you were listening…," he trailed curiously.

Max frowned at his ever present amusement and subtle teasing. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Alec shrugged nonchalantly. "I don't know. I thought you liked to tune me out."

Max glared at him, but it was more playful than anything else, with no real anger behind it. "Trust me, I've tried. Can't seem to keep you out of my head, though."

Alec nodded. "I know what you mean," he offered.

Max's brow arched in interest. "Do you? So my lecturing does make it past that thick head!"

Alec feigned concern at her comment. "Thick head? Hey, I'll answer to 'Pretty Boy', but when you start insulting my intelligence…"

"I'm just kidding," Max admitted with a tiny smile.

"Yeah, I know," Alec accepted. "But I can't tell all the time."

"Well, I can't tell with you," Max replied. "Like earlier, when you said that. Were you just trying to make us appear more united? Or did you really mean it?"

Max immediately regretted asking. Now she was letting on just how confused he made her. But more than that, she was admitting that it mattered to her, whether they were truly close or not.

Alec was quiet for a minute before answering. "I mean it," he answered simply.

For as obnoxious as she knew he could be, Max was surprised with how little he was saying. She wasn't sure it was such a bad thing, though. In a way, it showed that he was perfectly comfortable with where he stood and how he felt about her. He had no questions or confusion to sort out like she did.

Max finally felt herself tense as a thought popped into her head. He was so close to her that she could feel his breathing. The proximity combined with the knowledge that he accepted how close they'd grown made Max want to express her agreement.

But she couldn't bring herself to say it.

She'd leaned on his shoulder before, had his arm wrap around her in a gesture of comfort and affection.

But that was when everyone was watching, when Logan was watching. It was just an act…

Wasn't it?

As Max leaned her head against shoulder as she'd done so many times before, this time it felt different. No one was watching but she and Alec, and that thought brought a smile across her face.

Her smile deepened into a full-toothed grin as she felt his heartbeat increase at the surprise and effect of her gesture. She rested calmly against him in comforting, close silence until she felt the rhythm underneath her touch go back to normal.

Max didn't even notice his arm reach around her so casually until she lifted her head finally to say something more, something she wanted his full eye contact for.

"I formally relieve you of your position as Second in Command," Max told him.

Alec returned her stare with a look of worry and confusion, until he automatically hid his emotions with a quick shuttering of his eyes to project that couldn't-care-less attitude he showed the world instinctively.

"You're kicking me out?" he asked, attempting to sound less concerned than he really was.

But Max could tell it bothered him. The knowledge only reinforced her decision.

"Don't get any ideas," she told him quickly. "I'm still gonna hold you accountable for training and your other duties. But I'm getting rid of the formalities. I don't like the titles. They were necessary to get organized, but now that we're getting the freedom we deserve, I think it's time we moved on."

Alec laughed as he realized she wasn't kicking him out after all, and was amused by her logic. "So you're formally relieving me of a formality?"

"Shut up," Max snapped with a grin. "The point is, I'm not going to call you my SIC anymore. And you're not going to call me your CO."

"So you can't boss me around anymore," he commented with a smirk.

"I can do anything I damn well please," Max replied defensively, a bit of Cindy's sass from her mind's pep talk coming through.

Alec laughed again. "Okay, so what's the point, then? Don't you think you're taking the senator's comments a little too much to heart?"

"No," Max defended herself. "It's like this: I don't want to introduce you as my SIC anymore."

"Okay. Reminds you too much of Manticore, huh?"

"Something like that…," Max trailed casually.

"So, what are you gonna call me, then?" Alec couldn't help asking.

Max thought about it seriously before turning her gaze into his. "You're… Alec," she said simply, a smile lighting her face and eyes as the name rolled off her tongue.

As Alec took a moment to process the meaning of her stare, Max stood up to head back to Terminal City.

"Leaving already?" Alec joked, knowing full well that she'd devoted a great part of her evening to the special place.

"I got what I came here for," Max answered with a smile as her stare held his.

"The meaning of life?"

Max rolled her eyes and then turned around to make the long walk back to the world below. "Just sorting a few things out. You know how it is."

She waited for him to get up so that they could walk back together.

Alec nodded as he caught up with her. "Yeah, I think I do," he said with a wide grin.


a/n: Thanks so much for reading!! any thoughts?