Summary: Max, Alec, the cure, a hostage situation…
And here you have it. Everyone deserves a happy ending for Christmas. Thanks for all the reviews. They make my day.
Time seemed to slow as Alec stared down the barrel of the gun. He'd run into angry family members, spouses, angry girlfriends, boyfriends, employees, etc, from time to time. People just didn't like it when you killed someone they cared about. Some screamed, some threw things, some had guns. But it had never been another transgenic. It had never been someone capable of moving fast enough to actually take him out.
The knowledge that he probably couldn't get his muscles to obey anything he asked of them wasn't reassuring. He'd realized about twelve hours after he left the doctor's office that something was wrong. He'd felt light headed, a bit weaker than normal. He'd shrugged it off, but at the twenty-four hour mark, he'd known he was in serious trouble. At that point, he'd come to a simple decision. Suck it up. Max needed the cure and he was the only thing that could make that happen.
Max had caught him off guard when she'd asked for his help with the hostage situation. He'd been going downhill too fast and he'd been trying to rest, thinking maybe it would help him make it through to the forty-eight hour mark without Max being any the wiser. He shouldn't have worried. She hadn't noticed any difference. Alec had though. Taking out 017 had nearly killed him. Literally. He'd almost been too slow to save the hostage the other transgenic had been about to shoot. Worse, Alec hadn't been strong enough to overpower the other man. It had required fighting dirty and even at that Alec had barely managed to win. It was why he'd accidentally hit the artery in the guy's neck. Alec had already been weakening and his aim was off.
Now that he thought about it, he probably should have slept the night before. It might have helped him now. Still, Alec couldn't bring himself to be sorry. Max had been in his arms and he hadn't wanted to waste a minute of it. He'd known how little time he had left.
"Look, let's talk about this," Max said steadily, edging closer to the woman.
Alec saw her muscles tightening, a millisecond prelude to his brain being splattered all over the wall behind him.
He and Max moved simultaneously. Alec rolled, falling off the bed to the floor, the bullet passing close enough that he imagined he could feel the breeze. Max blurred forward, knocking the gun aside just as their attacker fired again, causing the second shot to go wide. After that it was an ugly transgenic version of a street fight. Max grappled with the woman, struggling for control while Alec freed himself from the lines still attaching him to the monitoring equipment. Max finally succeeded in forcing the gun out of the woman's hand and Alec snatched it up.
Max and her opponent were now on the floor and Alec rose, moving to stand over them. "Enough," he snarled and both women froze. "Max, back up."
Max slowly disentangled herself. She stood and came back to stand shoulder to shoulder with him, both staring at the woman still sprawled on the floor.
"Finish it," the woman ordered. "What are you waiting for?"
"I didn't want to kill your friend and I don't want to kill you," Alec said plainly. "I will if I have to," he shrugged, "but I don't want to."
The woman began to sob, curling into herself. "Please. Just do it. End this."
Alec looked at Max, unsure of what to do or say. The woman had been ready to kill him and now she'd simply crumbled. Max didn't look like she knew any better than he did.
"I can't do this any more," the other transgenic said, looking up at him, tears still streaming down her cheeks. "Not without him."
Max frowned and knelt down in front of the other woman, although she was careful not to block Alec's line of fire. "He was your friend?"
"I don't know what to do," the young woman said. "None of this makes any sense anymore."
Alec saw Max stiffen at the words and wondered, but chose not to interfere. "Why didn't you come to Terminal City?" Max asked. "We could have helped you."
"017 said we couldn't trust you." Anger flared in her eyes again as she glanced up at Alec, real hatred burning there. "He was right."
"He was going to kill an innocent woman," Alec replied evenly. "We don't do that. Not anymore," he amended.
"We have standing orders," the woman snapped. "We don't leave witnesses."
"Manticore's gone," Max said sharply. "We don't have standing orders."
"We do. We have to." The woman seemed to crumble again. "It's so much simpler."
It was a feint. Alec had seen it coming. The woman reached forward and grabbed Max, flipping her around. Alec lunged forward simultaneously. He knocked the woman backward and landed on her, his knee planted in her abdomen, his handgun pressing into her chest over her heart. She immediately released Max who sat up and punched the woman furiously, all compassion flown.
"Don't do that again," Max ordered.
Alec looked down at the woman, their eyes meeting. Broken. He could see it written there on her face. She was just one more soul that Manticore had broken. And no matter how much he tried to fix things, it just got worse. It was Manticore's gift that kept on giving. Fix one thing and something else fell apart. He'd told Rachel the truth only to have her run from him to her death. He'd killed the transgenic who'd taken the people hostage, but in doing so had driven this woman to the breaking point. He'd tried to help Max with the cure and probably killed himself in the process. Or worse, he'd found a cure for Max and she was going to leave him for Logan. Alec was tired of trying to fix things only to find they were still broken. Alec was tired of being broken.
"What's your designation?" Alec asked, using his best Manticore tone. It was the second time in as many days that he'd had to use it and it pissed him off that it was still necessary. Manticore had screwed them all up so much, it had them longing for the bad old days of taking orders and killing people.
"X5-553," the woman said, then after a second added, "sir."
"017 disobeyed a direct order and that will not be tolerated. I won't tolerate it from you either." The woman swallowed heavily, but didn't respond. "553, you will report to the corner of Anderson and Corbett St. Your contact will be X5-637. You will follow his instructions to the letter. Is that understood? To. The. Letter."
The woman frowned in confusion, tears once again falling. "Sir?"
"Is that understood?" Alec barked, digging the gun into her ruthlessly until she nodded. "Good." Alec quickly stood and backed up a step. "Now get up."
553 hesitated, just lying on the floor staring at him for several seconds.
"On your feet, soldier," Alec snapped. "You have your orders. Anderson and Corbett. Move."
The woman immediately got up and saluted. Of all things she actually looked relieved, even grateful.
"Now!" Alec barked. "And don't think we won't talk later about your behavior."
553 marched from the room, not daring to look back.
"Max, call Ice. Tell him to meet her there and take her back to TC. Full Manticore mode 'til we can deprogram her."
"Already on it," Max answered.
Alec felt more than saw Max take out a phone and call base. The adrenaline was fading fast. He heard her talking, but couldn't make out the words. He started when he heard a loud clank and realized he'd dropped the gun on the tile floor. He felt Max's arms around him and then everything went black.
Alec's hearing came back first. It always did. He could hear a voice, though it didn't make much sense. His eyes felt unbelievably heavy as he fought to open them. It didn't really work and even the effort seemed to exhaust him further. He had the sudden absurd notion that maybe his eyes were open and he was just blind. He tried to raise a hand toward his face, but his muscles felt loose, weak, almost useless.
Max sounded very far away, her voice worried and tense.
"Come on, Alec," Max said almost angrily. "I'm tired of sitting in this room. Wake up."
Whether it was the instinctive reaction to the order, or his continued efforts to force the darkness away, Alec finally managed to pry his eyes open, first one, then the other. A face swam in his bleary vision, a ring of too-bright light glaring at him from around the shadow. "Max?" he asked, although it probably sounded more like a grunt.
"Yeah," he heard her say, sounding close to tears, which was worrying in and of itself. Max only cried when someone was dying. Or dead.
Alec poured all of his concentration into getting his eyes to focus and finally Max's face steadied in his field of vision. "You ok?"
At that she did let out something close to a sob, although it was on a laugh. "I'm fine. How do you feel?"
"M'all right." He felt like he'd been run over by a truck, but that was more than he cared to admit.
"Sure." Max swatted his arm lightly and he winced, as if even that much contact had been too much for his overtaxed body, and closed his eyes. "Alec, I'm sorry. I…"
She sounded panicked and Alec forced his eyes open again, though it seemed to be an even greater effort this time. "S'ok," he said. "Tired."
"Alec, stay awake for me."
The tone, half-pleading, half-command, seemed to clear away more of the cobwebs. Alec took in a deep breath and made a colossal effort to try and straighten up in the bed. He was in his own apartment, which seemed wrong now that he thought of it. He'd been somewhere else the last time he was awake. He was sure of it.
"How did I get here?" Alec asked, frowning. Even the muscles in his face seemed tired. That was certainly a first.
"Dr. Miller said there wasn't anything else he could do for you, so I brought you back here."
"Dr. Miller's real good at that," Alec said, though it sounded more weary than bitter.
"It's not his fault you let it get out of hand," Max snapped.
"Don't hit me again," he said, not quite joking. Alec jumped when he felt her hand sliding across his forehead, brushing his hair back. He hadn't realized he'd closed his eyes again and her gesture startled him back awake.
"How long have I been out?" he asked.
Well, that got his attention. "Guess I was sick."
"And whose fault was that?" Max said, steel in her tone, though she softened it by running her fingers through his hair.
"Does that mean I slept through a sponge bath?" Alec asked, realizing that he seemed pretty clean for a guy who'd been in bed for over a week.
"Don't look at me," Max said. "Joshua's been here almost as much as I have."
Alec chose not to comment on how wrong it was for a dog to be giving a cat a bath. "You've been here?" he asked carefully, his gaze meeting hers, amazed when she didn't look away.
"Of course," she answered. "You think I'm gonna let you get away with dying when I still owe you an ass-kicking?"
"No good deed goes unpunished," Alec muttered, then quietly, "Logan been keeping you company?"
Just that one word had his heart tightening painfully in his chest, though he refused to let it show. He'd hardly dared to believe it when Max had kissed him. He'd known it was a mistake. He'd known she hadn't been thinking clearly, but he just hadn't been able to stop himself. She had been too warm and wonderful, so far beyond his wildest dreams. He'd known he was sick, that it was his last chance and, thanks to the cure, Max would be beyond his reach in a matter of hours.
Then Logan had called and instead of hours, it had all fallen apart in a matter of minutes. For an Ordinary, Logan was an extraordinary pain in the ass.
Looking at Max now, Alec just wasn't sure what to say. He'd assumed he would already be dead at this point. The virus had been too quick, had brought him down too fast. He'd assumed it would save him the grief of seeing Max with Logan, and at the same time, save Max the aggravation of Alec still being a fly in the ointment. And yet, here they were again, knee deep in awkwardness. Alec tried not to be angry, knowing that Logan and Max had been in his apartment while he was unconscious, talking and doing… whatever.
"Don't," Max frowned.
Alec realized he'd been scowling and forced himself to relax. Now that Max had the cure and she and Logan could be together, it didn't matter whether Alec was dead or not. He might as well be, for all Max would care. The cure meant Logan could touch her now and Alec couldn't. Before, when she'd kissed him, she'd been grateful. That was all it had been.
Alec felt lips, soft inviting lips against his own and realized that he'd yet again been trying to fall back asleep. After only a second, the lips became more demanding, far less gentle, an almost bullying demand for attention before they abruptly left him.
"Do you believe it now?" Max asked.
Max just shook her head. Alec watched as she lifted the covers and slid beneath them, fitting easily to his side, wrapping one arm around his chest. The sensation felt oddly familiar and Alec wondered if this wasn't the first time Max had been there beside him. Max was still looking at him, her face only inches from his. "I'm sorry I didn't notice sooner, Alec," she said steadily. "I should have."
"Will you quit answering everything I say with another question?"
"Is that a bad thing?"
"It will be when I hit you."
Alec fell silent, just studying her face that was so close to his, close enough that he could reach out and touch it. It was so beautiful and, at the moment, purposefully intent on him.
"Logan and I had a long talk," she said. "He has work to do and so do I, but it's not necessarily the same work anymore."
"He'll find a way to drag you back in," Alec replied. "Always does."
"Maybe so," Max acknowledged. "Logan's a good man. Sometimes he needs help."
Alec couldn't bear to look at her and turned away, but Max wouldn't allow it. She physically turned his face back toward her.
"Tell me what you're thinking." It was a direct command and Alec bristled. He didn't like commands much anymore, despite the instinctive reaction to immediately comply. "Please," she added, softening it.
"I'm thinking I want to kiss you. I'm thinking I would rather gouge out my eyes than see you anywhere near Logan ever again. I'm thinking I want you. I'm thinking I want you with me, 'cause I like Logan and all, but I like me better." Alec couldn't help a slight grin from appearing. "Not that it should surprise you."
Max didn't smile in return. She simply looked at him as if memorizing his features. It stretched on until Alec couldn't stand it any longer. "Tell me what you're thinking," he said, repeating her own order.
Max hesitated. She opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again. "I don't like you better," she finally said.
"Thanks for that," Alec replied. "I'd kind of like to go to sleep now, if you want to leave."
"I don't like you better, Alec." Max leaned in closer, almost nose to nose with him. "I love you more."
Max kissed him fiercely, demanding that he believe her. She pulled away just far enough to speak. "Cat got your tongue?"
She gave him a knowing smile. "I was going for sexy, but I guess cute will do."
Alec desperately wanted to stay awake, but he could feel himself fading, the edges of his vision blurring slightly, his eyelids drooping. "Meant for you… be free," he said, hearing his own words slurring. "Logan's better. Not so much baggage."
"You want me to be with Logan?"
"Why don't I believe you?"
Alec sighed, feeling Max rest her head against his chest as he drifted off, contentment like he hadn't felt in, well… ever, washing over him. "Never do."
Max let out an answering sigh as she settled herself more comfortably beside him. "Good thing, too."
Been a pleasure. Hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading!