Title: A Rainbow of Color
Disclaimer: Dark Angel does not belong to me. (Neither does Fantastic Four.)
Pairing: Max and Alec, mostly AU (figure part of Hello, Goodbye happened)
Author's Note: This was originally going to be 'V' in From A to Z, but it got a little long and became its own one-shot.
Clothes are never a frivolity: they always mean something. James Laver
She was wearing red when Alec realized she trusted him.
He stared blankly at the tuxedo that had been thrust in his face. "What?" It was abruptly dropped and he had to grab to keep the clean black fabric from hitting the not so clean hallway floor.
She strode past him, hair half up and half down, red gown swirling as she turned to face him. "Eyes Only mission, let's go."
"Alec." The amount of exasperation she could put into that one word was astounding.
"Max." His reply was no less annoyed.
"You owe me." Her arms crossed over her chest, doing amazing things to said chest in that bodice.
"I think we're even by now. I'm not running around dressed like a penguin so that you and Logan can make moon eyes at each other once it's done." At this very moment, her brown eyes were narrowed and not at all moon-like.
"Alec…I need you to watch my back."
His sarcastic reply was bit back, the look in her not-moon eyes was sincere and the tone of her voice was grudgingly honest. "You serious? You trust me not to screw up?"
She nodded, eyes sliding away from his. "I'm serious. I…" Even white teeth bit at scarlet lips. "I trust you." There was no qualifier tacked onto the end of the sentence, she just trusted him.
Alec smiled, not that she noticed as she was pointedly not looking at him. "So what are we doing?" he asked, moving toward his bedroom to change.
"Guy's name is Smith." He snorted. "Rich, crusty bastard owns a drug company that used to do business with the government. Now he's in it for himself and making some side profits on the poor populace of Washington. Logan wants to grab some documents from the safe in his office."
"Isn't that a little obvious?" He stuck his head out the doorway as he started buttoning his shirt. She was flipping through an old magazine he had left on his small dining table.
"These guys never have much creativity. Did I mention that the part of the government he did business with ran a VA hospital?" She sounded smug.
"Manticore?" he asked, even though her smirk made the answer obvious. He exited his room, fidgeting with his cuffs.
"Aren't you the quick one," she drawled, turning from the magazine. Her involuntary smile of appreciation at the sight of him walking toward her made him smirk himself.
"And I clean up pretty," he boasted, stopping in front of her. She reached up to tug his collar a bit, straightening the black bowtie. "So I'm doing a little B&E while you distract the guy?"
She shook her head, a lock of perfectly curled hair falling over a bare shoulder. "No, I'll be doing the breaking. You," and her grin was wicked, "will be doing the distracting."
She was wearing pink when Alec realized she was just a big softie.
"Whoa! I think I may have stepped into an alternate dimension." He started backing away, eyes widened comically.
"Shut up." Max glared at him, an act that was ruined by the make-up on her face, making her look soft and feminine.
"What's with the get-up?" He gestured at the ankle length tea dress with its rosebud pattern and lace collar. The barrettes holding back her hair really completed the picture. And the shoes…little white flats with a pink satin bow glued right on top. Alec started laughing.
"I said, shut-up!" She smacked him, but as with the glare, it just didn't have its usual effect.
"Ready to go, Max?"
The two transgenics looked at the intruder. Sketchy was standing awkwardly at the end of the row of lockers in a suit that was a little too short. His tie was noose tight, and he kept pulling it away from his neck. Max sighed, moving away from Alec and relieving Sketchy's pain by loosening the knot. "I'm ready."
"Wait, Sketch, man, what's going on?" He asked Sketchy because there was no way Max was going to answer him. And because it was looking way too much like a date and that wasn't registering on Alec's believability scale.
"My mom's in town." The other messenger made a face. "She wants to meet my girlfriend."
"You don't have a girlfriend," Alec pointed out.
"Yeah, but, dude, my mom doesn't know that. She thinks I'm seeing a nice, sweet elementary school teacher from Sector One. I just don't have the heart to tell her the truth." He was looking pretty pathetic.
"So, naturally, Max was your first choice for a fake girlfriend. I totally get that, I mean," he sent Max a grin, "she's so nice and sweet and teacherish."
Sketchy laughed, choking on the sound at the look Max leveled at him. "I am doing you a favor, so I suggest you shut it before I make sure Mrs. Theodore won't be having grandkids. And you," A finger was pointed sternly in his direction, "I hear one word about this and I will kick your ass into next week."
"Sure thing, Miss Maxie," Alec said innocently, "but I think a trip to the principal's office would be more in line with the school's no corporal punishment policy."
"Funny," she sneered, before turning on her heel and stalking toward the entrance of Jam Pony and into the night. "Sketchy!" she yelled impatiently.
"Calvin!" Sketchy responded, lanky form loping to where she waited, foot tapping in those ridiculous shoes, "You gotta call me 'Calvin'."
He heard them moving off down the street and finally let his grin spread. She was such a light touch. He bet Sketchy only had to beg for two minutes before she gave in. Alec chuckled, giving Normal a wave as he left as well, and wondered which market could provide him with a shiny red apple to leave in Max's locker tomorrow.
She was wearing orange when Alec realized she was more than Manticore pretty.
"It's like she's a walking, talking traffic cone."
"What?" Alec looked up at his boss from the pile of packages he was sorting through. Sector Six had that new strip club, but Sector Eight would provide recon for houses that might need to be uncluttered of plasma TVs, original artwork, or expensive jewelry.
"Missy Miss." Normal snorted. "At least she's advertising the fact that she's dangerous."
Alec glanced leisurely over to where Normal had been looking as the older man hurried from behind the dispatch desk to chase after another worker. Max was eating lunch with Sketchy and Original Cindy and she was, indeed, wearing a shade of god-awful orange underneath her open jacket.
He gave a little wince. Nobody could pull off orange, not even him. It didn't matter if it was bright or dark or pastel. Orange was orange, and orange was ugly.
But Max wasn't. He watched her laugh at something OC was saying and it occurred to him that Max was beautiful. It wasn't that she was genetically created to attract and seduce or that she knew how to use those looks to her advantage. Max was beautiful because she was Max, even in that hideous shade of orange.
She was wearing yellow when Alec realized she knew how to have fun.
Max showing up at his door was not unexpected. Max showing up and not asking for a favor or scolding him was, however, a surprise. She was smiling up at him, another shocker, and wandered past him to examine his apartment as though she didn't pop in for one thing or another at least once a week.
"Thanks." She swung around, asymmetrical bangs sweeping over her forehead and hopped onto the back of his sofa, not noticing that her fancy sunshine-colored dress rode high up her thighs or that her feet in their four-inch black heels were moving back and forth like a child's when bored. He guessed anyway, Manticore hadn't been big on fidgeting.
"I thought you were against the whole 'exposure' thing?" He said it nonchalantly, leaning next to where she was perched. Craning his head, he noticed the laser job was holding. "The whole above your neck cut isn't gonna help that." He tugged on a strand of her now short hair.
"You'll tell me when I need a touch up," she replied confidently, "Besides, it'll grow out in a month. Two at most."
She was right; their growth rate was twice that of average human. Hence why he had to give himself a cut every two weeks instead of once a month. "All right." He gave her another once over. "Eyes Only gig?"
"Nope." She glanced at him slyly and he shifted so that he was standing in front of her.
"Can I ask why I rate the FMPs then?"
She smiled, and it was pure mischief. Alec wondered why she didn't smile like that more often. "We're going out."
"Poker tournament at Club Deuce, I figure we can clean up. I'm tired of lugging your sorry ass around on my bike's bitch pad. You need a set of wheels to keep up with me."
Alec felt a smile start on his face, "I can keep up just fine."
She scoffed and eased off the couch, head tilted, "In your dreams. Now, are you gonna change or what?"
"Gimme ten minutes."
"You have five. We have to be over to Sector Two by eight o'clock to get into the game." Alec ducked into his room, searching his closet for something suitable to wear. "We're going as a couple, high stakes; your alias is Robert Royce."
"Cute play on words." At least it wasn't Tom Collins. "Are you going to be Shirley Temple?"
"Haha," she said, shooting him a look as he switched to the bathroom, "Its Sherry."
"Even better." He exited, grabbing his leather coat and helping her into it. "So, Sherry baby, ready to be my arm candy?"
She rolled her eyes and hooked her arm into his, "Arm candy or not, Rob, darling, you're still riding the bitch pad."
She was wearing green when Alec realized they were friends.
"Max?" Alec asked blearily, "It's three in the morning."
"OC has company." She plopped down next to him on the couch where he had dozed off three hours previously.
"And you came here?" He was a little bewildered and more than half-asleep.
"Where else would I go?" She jumped up and he watched her disappear into his bedroom with confused eyes. She was way too awake and he figured having shark DNA must suck.
He was almost asleep again when he felt her sit beside him again, this time closer. "'s that my shirt?"
She glanced down at herself, at the soft, faded army green T-shirt and grey sweatpants she had slipped on. "Yeah."
"Why're you wearing my stuff?"
Max rolled her eyes and leaned over his body to grab the remote out of his lax hand. "Because leather isn't that easy to get comfy in." She stayed where she was, body resting against his, eyes focused on the television, flipping channels until she landed on some girly show rerun that Alec had absolutely no interest in, even if the lead chick was hot.
"I'm really tired Max, I pulled a double today."
She met his heavy eyed gaze with a challenging raise to her left eyebrow. "Am I stopping you from sleeping, Alec?"
He opened his mouth and then shut it. She really wasn't. He could sleep just fine where he was; lounging on the sofa cushions with Max half in his lap, warm and soft and safe feeling. "I can go back to sleep?" he asked, "You don't want me to entertain you?"
"It's three a.m. and I'm plenty entertained." She waved a hand at his boob tube. "Go back to sleep. I'll even make you breakfast in the morning."
"Really?" his eager question was screwed up due to an unforeseen yawn.
"Really." She turned the volume down so that he could barely hear it. "It's the least I can do."
"Thanks," he murmured drowsily, eyes closing.
"That's what friends are for."
She was wearing blue when Alec realized she didn't think of him as family.
"This has got to be a joke, right?" Alec smoothed his hands over the blue spandex and looked desperately at Max.
She was in her own blue spandex, but she also had on a blonde wig and bright blue contacts. "Joshua wanted to go out this Halloween, he picked the costumes."
Alec looked up when Joshua entered the living room in his own blue spandex, something orange covering his hands and a rocky looking mask on his head. "Clobberin' time!" Joshua exclaimed, and Alec could hear the big doggy grin behind the latex mask protecting his features from the outside world.
"Sure is, big guy," Alec agreed, wishing he could find whoever had made these costumes and clobber him or her.
"Joshua help Mole," and the big man went back the way he had come. Mole didn't have to wear spandex. He got some green cape and his own mask.
"What are we again?"
"The Fantastic Four and their arch nemesis, Victor Von Doom."
Alec swore she was deriving some evil pleasure out of this. "Which one are you?"
Max rolled her eyes and flicked back her head in a gesture that normally meant dark hair flying, but her blonde wig was pulled back in a severe twist and he wanted to laugh at her. "I'm Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. And you're Johnny Storm, the Human Torch."
"Flame on," Joshua huffed from behind him and Alec jumped, having not heard the big guy come back into the room. Mole snickered at him from his position behind Joshua, cigar poking out from the slit in the metal-looking mask.
"Nice pajamas, Princess."
"Nice cape, Robin Hood."
"Boys," Max warned.
"Tricks and treats!" Joshua said happily, pilfering through the candy he already had in a pillowcase. Max had brought it for him. He offered Mole the makeshift bag. "Mole want treats?"
Mole snorted, but peered into the bag anyway. "Got any chocolate?"
Joshua nodded, "More in kitchen, come." He pulled the lizard man out of the room and Alec turned back to Max.
"So, same last name, we married?"
She blinked those unnerving blue eyes at him. "Brother and sister. Sue's in love with Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, scientist and general do-gooder. He's the leader."
"Huh." Alec nodded, staring at the ground and was surprised for the second time that night when he felt her finger on his forehead. He met her unnatural gaze and consciously smoothed the furrow he'd gotten between his eyes.
Her smile was soft. "Don't worry Alec, I've never thought of you as my brother."
"Good," he replied, voice as soft as her smile, and grasped the hand on his head lightly, "Because I'm not."
"Max?" The query rang out as the front door shut and Max's hand was suddenly gone from his grip as she faced the intruder. Logan was standing there and judging from the blue spandex with its little logo in the top left, he was meant to be Mr. Fantastic. "I made it."
"Great. Joshua, Mole!" she called into the other room, "We can go now. You brought Bessie so we can pick up Luke and Dix?"
She shot him a grateful smile and Alec felt himself glowering at the sudden onset of mooning. Logan definitely couldn't pull off the spandex, the pair of pants he had on over his exoskeleton proved that, and he'd put talcum powder at his temples, who did that? The older man turned and went back out the door, the transhumans following; Joshua eager and Mole grumbling.
"Yup." He was totally on Mole's side tonight.
She cocked her head to the side as they started walking to the car. "You okay?" She was touching him again; hand in his as she tugged him to face her. Alec wasn't sure what to call the mix of hope and disappointment that sat heavy in his chest, but he wasn't okay with it. Not that she had to know that.
He smiled. "Fantastic."
She was wearing purple when Alec realized he was in love with her.
The call from OC had been short and to the point. And so Alec was bursting into the apartment she shared with Max holding a bag filled with milk, Tryptophan, and a stolen rotisserie turkey.
"Where is she?" he demanded, already pouring a glass of milk and pocketing the bottle of pills.
Max was huddled against the wall in the corner, arms wrapped around her knees, shaking uncontrollably. She looked up when he entered, eyes miserable. "Alec."
"Maxie…" he trailed off, voice hoarse. He'd never seen her look so broken. He was kneeling beside her in an instant, tilting her head to accept the little white pills and to gulp down the warm milk. "Easy," he said, not relinquishing his hold on the glass as she tried to take it from him with trembling hands.
He set the glass down on the cold floor and wiped away the excess milk around her mouth, his thumb pressing gently, and then he moved so that he was behind her. She made a little noise of protest, but he just wrapped his arms around her tighter, his hands sliding over the violet silk of what he was sure was OC's robe.
"I…I tho..ought…it was," she gasped, "over."
Alec shook his head, closing his eyes at her stuttering voice, and tucked her under his chin, ignoring the long wet hair that was soaking through his T-shirt. A fair amount of X-5s had ended up with the serotonin deficiency. He'd seen them taken away in the beginning, before Manticore had enough data to come up with a treatment plan. Max had probably been put on the program when she had been recaptured, but she'd broken out without completing all the steps. A temporary cure.
"Just hold on, Maxie," he whispered, using his body to take on some of her tremors, "I'm here."
"Don't…don't lea…ve…me." Her hands tightened on his arms, knuckles white, and he just squeezed her closer to his body.
"I won't, Max," he swore, "I'll never leave you." He didn't think he physically could anymore, not with her looking up at him with those big brown eyes so filled with faith and trust and need.
She needed him, and God help him, he needed her. She burrowed back into his form and he let his head fall back, thumping against the wall. Dammit, of course he had to be an idiot and go and fall in love with her. Always, always the ones he couldn't, shouldn't, have.
She was wearing black when Alec realized she might be an angel.
He was a product of science and had never stored much faith in the Almighty except to occasionally use His name in vain. He didn't pray, and he thought the concepts of Hell and Heaven were odd considering your body just rotted in the ground if it wasn't cremated, and the existence of a soul had never been proven.
But here he was, standing in the grey of dawn next to a woman who had silent tears dripping down her face. Here he was, just as silent, as they both let loose handfuls of ash for the wind to blow away.
The denizens of Terminal City had decided that cremation would be performed on any deceased transgenic. They didn't want to leave anything for Manticore to dissect and study. It was a good, rational decision, and it still allowed those close to whoever was gone a chance to say good-bye. For closure, whatever that was.
It had been close. An inch to the left and Max would have been the ash that was slipping between his fingers. An inch to the left and Alec would have been hoping that the final bullet had taken him in the heart and not the shoulder. He would have had enough staying power to snap White's neck either way.
But it was Joshua they were saying good-bye to now; the large, affable transhuman who called him 'medium fella' and always hugged him until he could barely breathe. His friend, Max's brother…
She turned to look at him, the rising sun making her form a shadow, but he could still read the grief in her eyes and he could still see the tracks the tears had formed down her pale cheeks. She shivered in her dark shirt, wiping her hands on her blue jeans, and walked towards him.
Alec felt his heart twist when Max looked at him like that, sad and haunted. Felt his mind racing with guilt at the relief that it wasn't her. That she was alive and that he could touch her. Max's dusty hands found Alec's dusty hands and they stood like that for a long time, until the sun was over the horizon, until they were both a little numb.
If there was a God, then Joshua would be in Heaven. If he prayed, it was for Max to never leave him. If he had a soul, it belonged to her. And when he died, he wanted her to be looking at him just like she was now, the last thing he would see.
She was wearing white when Alec realized he couldn't give her up.
It was a wedding wedding. Flower arrangements, bridesmaids, grooms, ushers, and a priest. Alec sat in the middle of the church, on the bride's side, close to the aisle and watched the proceedings with a heavy heart. She was in some cream organza creation that should have looked silly, but didn't, and she was vowing to love Logan for all eternity. Blah, blah, woof, woof. He was this close to running for the doors-
"If anyone objects to this union, speak now, or forever hold your peace."
Alec hadn't even realized he had spoken out loud until everyone turned to look at him.
"What was that young man?" the priest asked, expression incredulous.
Alec blinked and suddenly jumped up from the pew, stepping over a few people to get out into the aisle Max had walked down just fifteen minutes before.
"I said, I object."
He could hear the whisper spread through the church, Mole's guffaw was especially loud, even from the back. Logan's eyes seemed to be glowing with an unholy light and his face twisted with rage and disbelief. Alec didn't care, he kept his gaze on Max, who didn't look angry or upset or embarrassed, simply curious.
So he said it steadily, deliberately, and in a firm, clear tone.
"I love you, Max."
She was wearing nothing at all when Alec realized she loved him back.
"I can't believe you came with me," he murmured, his hands stroking the smooth skin of her bare back. She raised herself off of him so that she was looking straight into his eyes, her own bright, her lips swollen and smiling, and he ran a hand through her mussed hair as she kissed his forehead and then his eyelids and then finally his lips.
"I love you, you idiot," she murmured back, and her exasperation was filled with loving amusement.