disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel, the characters, or even the idea! This was a challenge from CandyCentric over at the nuns
THE LOVE LETTER
Very simple challenge. An unsigned, unadressed love letter is found in the middle of TC. No one seems to know anything about it, and everyone starts gossiping about different ideas of where it came from and who it was written for. Did the person who it was written for ever read it before it was found? Did they even know the letter was meant for them? Or was this letter even written recently?
setting: Terminal City, after Love Among the Runes, but no plot development of those random tattoos!
pairing: if you know my writing, you don't have to ask! If you don't... well, you'll see the direction it's going!
Chapter 1: Confessions of an Unknown Heart
His daydreaming broke with the sound of a hand slapping onto the table in front of his face, the sudden force creating a short-lived breeze that struck his face, calling his attention.
Alec lifted his head cautiously, his green eyes raising to meet the serious set of brown held in front of him.
"Max," he greeted nonchalantly, as though her dramatic entrance hadn't affected him in the slightest.
His stare fell again to her hand that was firmly planted on the table in front of him, and that was when he noticed a single piece of paper that looked rather crumpled resting underneath her flat hand.
"We need to talk," she said finally to him, not bothering to return his greeting.
"Aren't we talking now?" Alec asked smartly, which probably wasn't the most appropriate approach. It was at the very least unwelcome, given that Max responded by challenging him with one of her classic death-glares.
"This is serious!" she stated.
Alec sighed inwardly. Isn't it always with her! He never saw her more tense than when she was around him, a façade that he was always trying to crack. He'd seen her more carefree before, but whenever those rare moments occurred, he was forbidden to mention them ever again, for fear that she would be told to her face that he could see right through her 'tough chick' act.
"I'm all ears," Alec offered, his lips pressed together in a thin line lacking of any real expression that he normally offered, which was a cocky grin, to be specific.
"Heard anything going around lately?" Max asked him.
At this, Alec's brow furrowed in confusion. As usual, he couldn't guess where she was headed with her questioning.
"Any rumors?" Max elaborated to clarify herself.
Understanding more of what she was asking sent a grin flashing across Alec's face out of amusement. He'd been expecting her to tell him that a raid went wrong, or that supplies were running short. Maybe even that morale was down. But asking about petty gossip? He'd have to tease her about this. "Well, I did hear something about a leader so set on her warpath that she started freaking out over gossip in addition to her other usual overreactions."
Max frowned at him, shaking her head in disappointment. "You're worthless. The least you could do while you're ignoring your duties is stay in the know."
Alec laughed. "I was kidding, Max. Calm down. Give me a minute to think. These things are usually in one ear, out the other."
Max frowned again, but did hold her tongue so the silence would encourage him recalling anything he might have heard recently.
"I think a couple of the X5s have been sneaking out at night to gamble," he admitted to her.
Max's eyes widened in shock and a burning fury. "What?!" she asked, completely taken aback. "Why is this the first time you've shared this with me?"
Alec shrugged. "I don't like to share," he joked.
"What? I was gonna check it out myself. I didn't think it was something to bother you with."
Her glare softened, but she still looked disappointed. "You've got one day to take care of the situation. Then we'll do it my way," she told him decisively.
Alec considered doing nothing, only because he knew Max's way would provide him with more amusement. But he was in a good mood, and so feeling more generous than usual, and he didn't feel the need to offer Max's personally delivered punishment for breaking one of her rules onto the poor transgenics.
"I'll handle it," he accepted. With that, he stood up to leave the office.
"Wait!" Max protested, lifting the hand that was on the table to hold onto his arm in a request for him to stay.
Alec was surprised by the gesture. For a brief moment, he considered whether something serious was going on, before his eyes registered the shock in hers at the realization that she'd just latched onto his arm so affectionately.
Max quickly released her grip, but her stare didn't falter. "That's not why I stopped by."
"What else?" Alec asked her.
"This," Max told him, handing him the piece of paper.
Alec's eyes roamed over the document before his lips parted out of shock. It was a letter. And not just any, it was a love letter.
"So, you really haven't heard a thing about this letter? It's spreading like wildfire, and I can't believe that we actually have to address this."
Alec looked confused again. "What's the big deal? It's just some sappy love poem. Nothing to get a city ablaze over."
Max nodded in agreement. "That's what I thought! But everyone must be bored out of their minds, because for whatever reason, this is causing disruptions like you wouldn't believe."
Alec almost laughed at the information. It seemed more than ridiculous. "What's to be distracted over? It's a letter." Alec said it as though the document was the most uninteresting piece of information he'd ever come across.
"Did you even read it?" Max asked him.
Alec continued to be amused by her serious take on the whole thing. "Let's see… oh, here's a golden one: 'Thoughts of you caress my mind in the day, Fantasies flowing that my heart can't say'." He couldn't hold his laughter any longer. "Great stuff, Max. I can see how this would grab your heart and send someone into mischief."
Max frowned. "Don't be such a smart-aleck. It's not as stupid as you make it seem. Actually, it's kind of…romantic." She finished quietly, her voice full of conviction, and a warm glow of pink coming to her cheeks.
Apparently, she wasn't comfortable being so open with Alec about her idea of 'romantic'. Well, it certainly wasn't one of those "Queen Bitch" traits she liked to portray as their CO.
Alec's eyes now were wide with surprise. "Max," he said seriously, "I'm still not seeing how this is a problem." After a pause, he came up with his solution. "Burn it."
Max's eyes flared with anger. "What?! You're kidding, right? There's no way I'm burning this. At least, not until I figure out who it's from and who it's meant for."
Alec was visibly bothered by her determination over something so trivial; he couldn't hide how ridiculous he considered any deep contemplation about the worthless scrap of paper. "Max, what the heck does it matter? Just be rid of the thing and move on!"
Max folded her arms at him with these words. "Oh, so you're telling me you're not affected in the slightest?"
Alec almost laughed at the question before he realized that she was serious. She's not kidding! he thought in complete shock. She was really asking a genetically engineered killing machine if he was 'affected' by someone's love ramblings. He considered a sarcastic reply, something along the lines of 'oh, sure, Max. I'm holding back tears here. Got a tissue?'
But he had enough sense to hold his tongue. At this point, she probably wouldn't hesitate to punch him at such a remark.
Alec shrugged innocently and decided to go for the blunt answer instead of the mocking one. "I've seen better romance in the cheesy dialogue on 'Days of Our Lives' and all those other cheesy soap operas," he defended his position against the lame verses.
Max snorted at this comment. "Is that what you do in your spare time, Alec? 'Days of Our Lives'?"
Alec rolled his eyes, knowing not to bother defending himself by explaining that he was just using an example to emphasize his point. She wouldn't listen, anyway.
Instead, he brushed off her teasing with more brutal honesty. "I'm usually too busy dealing with the real world. My opinion? This letter isn't real. Some talentless writer's attempt to get attention. Everyone'll be over this in the morning."
Max was unmoved by his quick assessment. "I don't think you're thinking it through enough, Alec. This letter is from an unknown source, to an unknown receiver. What if there are more like this? And I haven't even brought up the ghost yet."
Alec couldn't contain his comments any longer at this new addition to her concerns. "Woah, hold on," he interrupted her, holding up his hand in protest. "A ghost? You believe in that stuff?"
"Of course not," Max dismissed the question immediately. "But people are talking… It's causing groups to go out at night, and its dangerous." Her expression then looked as though a light bulb had clicked on in her mind. "Maybe that's where those X5s are really going- to see and help the ghost. Are you sure that gambling is what's driving them into breaking the rules?"
Alec opened his mouth to argue, not only to point out that there were many more reasons to break her overbearing rules other than simple gambling, and also to tell her that the existence of a ghost was a physical impossibility.
But the words died on his lips, and he stopped mid-gape as he realized that he didn't know for certain why the group was wandering around after hours. "Well… there's plenty of reasons to go out," he began. "Why not gambling? I saw them packin' a big wad of cash. Are you suggesting that the ghostie handed it to them?" he finished by teasing her.
Max gave him a short glare before continuing. "What I'm suggesting is that they're on a manhunt, or ghosthunt, to be more specific. It's foolish and unsafe. And more importantly, it's a blatant disregard for the rules. At first it wasn't a big deal to me, but more and more reports are coming in of way too much activity going on at night."
"So what's your solution?" Alec asked.
"Figure out the letter. Disprove the ghost theory. And then get everything back to normal."
"Why don't we just give them extra chores for breaking the rules? Or here's a fun idea -give them something else to preoccupy their wandering minds," Alec suggested.
"Like what?" Max snapped, a bit miffed that he didn't support her idea. She didn't want to admit it to him, but a part of her was rather intrigued by the letter and the idea behind it. Her curious mind wanted answers to the mystery.
But she figured, let Alec think it was only to bring order back to the city.
She didn't like that he was so against her on this, though. Why did he care so much? Normally, he just let her have her way with a session of minor complaints. This time, he was arguing her point by point. His newly adopted devil's advocate approach set her off to no end.
"Distract them with another rumor," Alec continued. "Maybe about their two intrepid leaders having a secret affair," he finished with a suggestive wiggling of his brow.
Max scoffed at the gesture. "Please! The thought of you and I doing anything even resembling an affair is even less plausible than the ghost."
"Just kidding, Max!" he insisted somewhat roughly. Damn! A simple 'Yeah right' would have done the trick. Does she always have to act like I have cooties?
"Besides," she added, "People aren't talking about this because it's random gossip. It's a love letter… has a way of grabbing your heart and your interests."
Alec decided to bring the conversation back to the ghost, if only to save himself from another awkward moment of staring at a love-struck Max. "So what do we know about this ghost? I mean, who in their right mind came up with that?" he asked.
Max shrugged. "It's a mystery. All I know is the story that's going around. Supposedly, this letter was written years ago, and resurfaced when we disturbed the woman's resting place."
"Wait, who says that a chick wrote this?" Alec asked.
Max frowned at the question she deemed ignorant. "Like any guy is that sensitive," she scoffed. "Trust me. As a woman, I can tell this came from the heart of a female."
Alec raised his brow in question. "'My heart burns, filled with desire…Thoughts that only you inspire'…You're telling me a girl wrote that crap?"
Max glared vehemently at him. "Well, what exactly were you picturing?" she demanded.
Alec should have known better than to answer her, but in keeping with his blunt approach to the entire conversation, he thought about it seriously. "If you ask me, there's some lonely loser out there having a nice wet dream right about now over the hot chick he's been stalking."
Max looked to the ceiling in disgust as though seeking salvation. "You are such an idiot," she muttered.
"'Your picture haunts my memory, All the things I'll never be.'" Alec quoted to prove his point. "Lonely stalker," he finished, as though that settled it.
Max looked at him with disdain. "You don't need to read it to me! I already know what's written there."
Alec thought that Max was getting far too furious at his disbelief. He was struck with how closely she identified herself with their mystery author, how connected she felt to the paper confessions.
"What, do you write poetry, too, Max?" he asked with a cocky smirk.
Max only deepened her glare. "You really are an idiot. As if I have the time! I'm lucky to make it to the Space Needle and gather my thoughts, let alone write them down in scripted verse."
"But… you have the time to look into this," Alec pointed out her flawed logic.
"Quit arguing this, Alec!" she demanded. "Are you going to help me or not? 'Cuz so far, you've been completely useless!"
"What exactly do you want me to do?" Alec asked.
"I already asked Luke to take your post tonight," Max began.
"Why do I not like where this is heading?" Alec commented.
"We're going to look for the ghost," Max continued as though he hadn't spoken.
"We're gonna play ghostbusters?"
"But first," she continued, again ignoring his comment, "We need to go see Sketchy about borrowing a camera. We're gonna need proof if we see her."
"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts," Alec commented, pointing out her conflicting views. The way she was talking now, it was like she was completely captured in the possibility of the haunting image of a woman wandering around at night from beyond the grave.
Max frowned at him again. "How else are we gonna be able to examine whatever it is? I'm sure we'll see something. Probably not a ghost, but this way we'll have something to analyze later.
"I was hoping you could get the camera, and I can stop by Logan's to see about figuring this out," she finished, grabbing the letter back.
Alec frowned grudgingly. "Sure!" he forced excitement. "'Cuz it's not like there's a city to run in the meantime!"
"The city will be fine. Mole's got it covered, and no one's leaving 'til the raid after lunch. That'll give you just enough time to get a camera from Sketchy."
Alec let out a sigh as he realized there really was no getting out of this. It wasn't like he had other plans, but anything had to be better than searching for a nonexistent ghost.
Then again, he couldn't even count the number of times he'd gone into the sewers for this woman.
"Alright," he gave in with a light sigh.
Max grinned appreciatively. Her eyes flickered with excitement at his answer.
The reaction surprised Alec slightly, given that it wasn't as though he had a choice anyway. He was sure that if he'd refused, Max would have ordered him otherwise.
"Great!" Max said. "Tell Sketchy I said hey. And you better be back here for lunch, 'cuz mine's gonna take longer."
Alec nodded. "You sure you're not going to mix business with pleasure?" He wasn't sure that a stop by Logan's was ever just to work on something. Max liked to act like she was over him, but it was clear to Alec that she still had feelings for the guy.
Instead of getting upset by the comment, Max took the opportunity to tease him. She must have been in a really good mood. Who would have thought that a pointless little love note would be all it took to lighten her up?
"Now, Alec," she came back with a grin, "Not everyone is as stupid as you. Don't think I've forgotten about Little Suki and Marina."
Alec grinned, being reminded himself. "No… and I haven't forgotten Little Suki or Marina, either."
Max rolled her eyes. "Ass," she mumbled dismissively before she moved to the door.
She turned to say one more thing before leaving. "I'll call you later or something to figure out when we're gonna do this. It should be late enough so everyone's asleep, but I have to double-check what time she appears around."
Alec rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Midnight, 2 AM 5 in the morning... It's all the same to me. I don't have shark DNA, so I guess I'll get a big cup of keep-me-the-hell-awake while I'm out to see Sketchy."
"I'll get one for you later," Max offered.
Alec's eyes widened in surprise.
"I'll be out longer than you. It'd be stupid to do that before lunch. It'll wear off by dinner in that case. You should wait 'til sundown."
"You're gonna be with Logan until sundown?" Alec asked, not bothering to question why the information didn't rub him the right way. It shouldn't, but the idea that Max was spending her entire day with Logan didn't sit well with Alec.
"No," Max answered. "But you reminded me how long it's been since I went to the Space Needle. I think I'm gonna hit it up after Logan's." A playful grin spread across her face as she finished, "Maybe I'll even write a poem."
Alec's mouth gaped at this. "Who are you, and what have you done with Max?"
Max took a finger to flick the side of his head. "Funny, Alec. Don't worry. Even if I did write a poem, it wouldn't be about you."
"Good," he accepted. "'Cuz I wouldn't want you to butcher me in it."
"No," Max agreed. "Shame, though. I just thought of a title."
"What, 'Ode to Alec'?" he joked.
"'Dick'," she said simply.
She left him to ponder that, leaving as soon as she finished.
Alec shook his head, considering the mystery and the woman that had just blurred out of his office. "Max is more of a mystery than this ghost theory ever could be," he muttered under his breath before grabbing his coat to fulfill his part of the plan.
a/n: agh! I just noticed that fanfic is going to delete the files I have stored!! I might be 'starting' a lot of fics, sorry about that, but I don't have them stored anywhere else and I don't want them to disappear!
ps. the Round Robin is off to a start! hopefully, we'll be posting some of that soon!
oh yes, and thanks for reading this! I'll try to update and not leave this one hanging.