Author's note: Ok, so this is my first ever Dark Angel story.. I usually write Supernatural stuff, but I have a soft spot for DA as it was the first thing I ever saw Jensen in :)
I've just watched the Berrisford Agenda and this popped into my head afterwards, so I hope it's ok!...
As the soft sound of a piano drifted through the night air, Joshua looked up from the painting he was working on and cocked his head.
It wasn't just that he recognised the playing, he knew that the fellow transgenic was the only person who would find their way into his house at 2am to play the piano abandoned in his basement. He'd been expecting it really, ever since Max had dropped by and told him the girl Alec had been so upset about, Rachel, had died.
Putting down his paintbrush and wiping his hands on his trousers, he made his way downstairs. Despite his size he moved silently, coming to a stop in the doorway and watching his friend. Alec's eyes were closed, the look on his face wistful, pained and lost all at once as he was transported in the music. Joshua waited until the final note died away. Alec opened his eyes, staring at the keys lost in thought. Joshua cleared his throat and Alec's head snapped round as he realised he wasn't alone.
"Uh, hey Joshua. I didn't mean to disturb you." he said, looking awkward.
"You did not disturb. Joshua was painting. Come – I will show you." said Joshua, beckoning eagerly.
"I should go, it's late." said Alec, keen to escape, but Joshua wasn't letting him off the hook so easily. He stepped forward, his beckoning becoming more urgent.
"Please – I want you to see this." he said, a slight growl at the end of the sentence a hint at his agitation and a by-product of his canine DNA.
Alec really wanted nothing more than to go home and drink himself into oblivion but the look on Joshua's face was so eager he didn't have the heart to disappoint him. A voice in his head mocked him for getting soft – since when had a dog-man's feelings become so important to him? Since when did he start caring about others, thinking of them as 'friends'? It was a weakness Manticore would have beaten out of him but of course he wasn't their problem anymore. Trouble was, as much as he hated the organisation that had created him and made his every living moment hell, without them he felt adrift. He didn't know who he really was or what he should be doing. And now on top of that all the feelings about Rachel and what had happened, feelings he had tried so hard to bury, had come flooding back in a tidal wave that threatened to drown him.
While all this was running through his head Joshua had come over, pulling on his sleeve to get him to follow. With a reluctant sigh Alec did, trying not to drag his feet too much.
Joshua didn't stop pulling until they were back in the main room of the house, the only one he really used. There was a canvas in the middle of it and it was covered with huge swirls of red paint, surrounding a whirlpool of black.
Alec stared at it, trying to look enthusiastic. It wasn't just the current situation that was dampening his enthusiasm – on a good day he didn't get Joshua's paintings.
"That's, uh – that's really great, big guy. Nice.. Colours." he said, managing a half hearted smile.
Joshua's canine features broke into a smile. "Alec." he said, as if imparting some kernel of knowledge that was hugely important.
"Yeah, I'm here." said Alec, confused as to why Joshua was saying his name in such a significant way.
Joshua shook his head, pulling on Alec's sleeve so he was closer to the painting.
"No! Don't understand – painting is Alec. Colours. Red on outside, black inside." said Joshua in his halting pattern of speech, clearly waiting for Alec to understand they symbolism of the canvas in front of him.
Alec stared at the painting again, feeling another stab of pain somewhere deep inside. Great – now even one of his few real friends thought he had a black heart. Perfect.
"That's great, Joshua. Nice imagery. I gotta go now." he said, pulling his sleeve away from Joshua's grip and trying not let the despair and pain leak into his voice.
Joshua could see Alec didn't get what he was trying to tell him though, and he stepped in front of him, barring his way.
"Joshua." said Alec warningly, well on the way to reaching the end of his already frayed nerves.
Joshua wasn't intimidated though. He knew Alec would never hurt him, not intentionally. And this was important.
"Alec not understand. Joshua explain." he said and Alec rolled his eyes exasperatedly.
"I understand fine, ok? Red on the outside, black on the inside. You got it spot on buddy – now will you please get out of my way?" he said, struggling not to loose his temper.
Joshua shook his head again though, his long hair flying round his face.
"No – you are not seeing. Outside – redness – this is mask. Not real Alec. And inside – blackness is not bad, it is pain. Confusion. Running from memories. From Manticore." he said, as if it was the most simple thing in the world.
Alec stared at him, stunned. In his own unique way Joshua had cut right through to the very heart of him. Every word was true and he didn't know whether to laugh hysterically at the fact he was so transparent that apparently even Joshua knew everything about him, or cry that someone finally understood him. As it was his instinct kicked in and the sardonic words sprung from his mouth without him even thinking.
"Great – now you're Picasso and Sigmund Freud. I'm thrilled you're branching out into the psycho analysis buddy but how about you practice on someone else, eh? I'm not really in the mood right now." he said, stepping round Joshua to get to the door.
Joshua was faster though and grabbed his arm, not letting go even when Alec tried to pull away.
"Alec hurting. Joshua want to help." he said, his gaze so compassionate that Alec found himself swallowing a lump that had suddenly materialised in his throat.
"That's sweet, but I'm fine remember?" he said, as soon as he was sure his voice would be steady.
Joshua wasn't fooled though. "You are not fine. You are sad. Rachel gone – Alec loved her. Blames himself for her death. Not your fault though. Manticore. They are the ones. Not Alec." he said and Alec dropped his head so he was looking at the floor, unable to meet Joshua's gaze anymore.
"It was my fault, Joshua." he whispered, brokenly "It was my job to kill her father. I set him up. And she was the one who paid the price. How is that not my fault?"
"Had no choice. Manticore would have punished. Alec tried to save Rachel, cared for her. Did not want her to die." said Joshua simply and Alec shook his head, still looking down.
"Of course I didn't want her to die! But I should have told her the truth, as soon as I knew I had feelings for her. If I had, she wouldn't be dead. Whichever you look at it I might as well have pulled the trigger myself." he said.
Joshua growled. "No! Must stop this – stop blaming. Let Joshua help." he said and Alec snorted humourlessly.
"Trust me, you don't want to try and help me. You'll only end up getting hurt. You're better off keeping your distance." he said flatly.
Joshua shrugged even though Alec couldn't see him, so fixated was he on the floor.
"Too late. Joshua care for Alec. Alec is friend. Joshua help." he repeated and Alec finally looked up at him, a fierce look in his eyes.
"Don't care ok? I didn't ask you to! I didn't ask anyone to – just leave me alone!" he shouted, stepping away from Joshua. But the larger transgenic wouldn't let go of his arm.
"Too late – cannot un-care. Alec Joshua's friend. That is fact. Cannot change it." he said simply.
Alec met his gaze, seeing the concern and affection in Joshua's eyes and feeling the last vestiges of control he was desperately holding on to crumbling away.
"Please." he whispered, pleading now, but Joshua wouldn't let go.
"No need for mask. Show real face, like Joshua." he said quietly and Alec felt his eyes burn with tears. He swallowed convulsively, feeling his stomach churn and his throat ache. He couldn't do this. He had to be in control. He had to leave.
But Joshua's grip was like iron and suddenly Alec's feet were like lead. Rooted to the spot there was nothing he could do as he felt hot tears start to roll down his face. Through blurred vision he could only watch as Joshua let go of his arm only to pull him towards him, putting his arms round him and holding him tightly. Briefly Alec just stood there. But then he found himself putting his arms round Joshua in return, clutching the back of his shirt like a drowning man clinging to driftwood. As the first sob escaped from him, unable to stop it, he felt Joshua's hand come up and rest on his head, smoothing his hair in a soothing gesture.
Part of Alec knew he should be embarrassed. That he should be able to control himself, that this was 'unacceptable'. But the rest of him was awed by these unfamiliar emotions.
The simple feeling of being able to let go and have someone else take care of things - take care of him. And so he did just that. He cried for Rachel, for the future that was taken away from her, from both of them. He cried for all the hours spent in a dark, solitary cell. Beaten, alone, and wanting nothing more than to be with the woman he loved who was now gone forever.
And all the while Joshua just held him. He knew there was nothing that could be said, no words that could make this better. So he acted by instinct. Soothing. Caring. Taking care of his friend.
Eventually there were no more tears left. Alec pulled away, slowly, and Joshua let him. He rubbed his hands over his face, wiping away the remnants of the tears. He felt drained, exhausted. But he also felt lighter somehow. As if the real grieving process had begun, the one that would allow him to remember Rachel one day without the pain, without the guilt.
He looked up at Joshua's compassionate gaze, and managed a weary smile.
"So." he said, feeling a little awkward now the intensity of the moment had passed.
Joshua smiled back at him. "Alec feel better now?" he asked and Alec ducked his head, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand.
"I guess so, yeah. Thanks, Joshua." he said softly, looking up again.
Joshua just nodded, once. "Alec friend. Joshua take care of him. That is how it works." he said, as if it was the simplest thing in the world. Which, when Alec thought about it, maybe it was.
"I really should go now, it's pretty late." he said, glancing at his watch and seeing it was now almost 3.30am.
Joshua reached out his hand and put it on Alec's shoulder though. "Wait. Why not stay? We talk. You tell me about Rachel. Joshua like to know her, as Alec did." he said, echoing the words Max had spoken to him after his brother had died.
Alec hesitated, and couldn't stop himself yawning. He couldn't remember the last good night's sleep he'd had, but it certainly hadn't happened since he'd come across the Berrisford mansion what felt like a lifetime ago.
Joshua saw suddenly just how exhausted Alec was and started to pull him towards the old couch in the corner of the room.
"Alec stay – sleep. We talk in the morning." he said.
Alec resisted briefly, but then he thought about it for a moment. At his place he had a pretty comfy bed, warm blankets, and enough whiskey to ensure he didn't wake up until the next day. Whereas here there was a lumpy old couch, most likely with springs that would stab him all night, and a blanket with legions of fleas that would probably have made themselves right at home on him by morning. But there was also something else.
Someone who cared enough to make him stay at 2 in the morning, to make him talk even when it was the last thing he wanted to do, to hold him while he cried as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
When it came down to it, there was no contest.
"Sure. I'd like that." he said quietly, giving a rare genuine smile. One that Joshua realised made him look young and innocent in a way he'd never had the chance to be.
Joshua smiled back in return, clapping Alec on the shoulder happily in a manner that Alec was pretty certain was gonna leave a bruise. Still, he'd meant well.
Yawning again he made his over to the couch, kicking off his boots as he lay down. Joshua disappeared, coming back with a threadbare cushion and an old, slightly moth eaten blanket.
"Thanks buddy." he said, putting the cushion under his head and covering himself with the blanket. Joshua reached over and straightened it, pulling it up and smoothing it out.
Alec tolerated the fussing with an expression that was a mix of slight exasperation and fond amusement.
Happy now with the blanket arrangements Joshua stood back with a satisfied look on his face.
"Tomorrow we talk. Now, sleep." he said firmly and Alec gave him a mock salute.
"Yes sir!" he said, making Joshua chuckle in that growling way that was uniquely his.
He watched as Joshua blew out the candles that lit the room. As his enhanced eyesight adjusted to the darkness almost immediately he saw Joshua lie down on his own bed, shifting the blanket until he was comfortable.
Alec lay there, feeling more at peace than he ever had before. Manticore had taught him to be self-sufficient, to rely on nobody, to be the 'perfect soldier'. But he was beginning to learn there was more to life than that. Relying on nobody was overrated, especially when you were going through the tough times. And for all his bravado, for all the attitude he was careful to show the outside world, there were a few who were slipping past the barriers.
While he and Max would always rub each other up the wrong way most of the time, she'd saved his life even after he told her to leave him alone. And she'd seemed genuinely concerned when she'd left messages for him over the last few days. Even Logan had stuck up for him and despite the fact the guy could be a little geeky when it came to the techno babble, not to mention the continuing drama that was him and Max, Alec actually liked the guy and enjoyed his company.
And then there was Joshua. If anyone had told him a few months ago that he'd end up practically best friends with a half man, half dog, fellow Manticore freak he'd have laughed himself silly. But here he was and although he'd never admit it out loud, it felt pretty good. Actually it felt really good.
"Hey Joshua?" he said, calling out softly in case the other transgenic was already asleep.
"Yes?" came the reply and Alec shifted a little, glad that Joshua was facing the other way and therefore couldn't see him.
"Thanks. You know, for listening and all that other stuff." he said, deliberately avoiding actually mentioning aloud the whole 'sobbing in Joshua's arms' incident.
"You're welcome." said Joshua, feeling pleased to have been able to help Alec when he really needed it. He'd meant what he said before. Alec was his friend, his family almost. Him, and Max, and Logan, and Original Cindy. They knew him and accepted him. Gave him a home.
Across the room Alec smiled to himself as he got comfortable. He may have lost Rachel, but perhaps he had discovered something he hadn't even realised he had. Maybe he wasn't alone anymore after all.
Closing his eyes he decided in the morning he would tell Joshua all about Rachel. What she was like, who she was. It would be his way of keeping her alive and honouring her memory.
Manticore had taken everything from him, but maybe it had given him something more important than anything.
Feeling a warmth spread through him that had nothing to do with the thin blanket he began to drift off to sleep. Tonight he would dream of a girl with laughing eyes and a dazzling smile. And tomorrow – tomorrow he would share that girl. With his friend.
Just the way it should be.