Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: Property of Tim Minear & etc., not me. Alas.
Summary: Alex wasn't crazy; he was hallucinating. There was a difference. 1200 words.
Notes: Yuletide 2007 Treat for Nyssa23, prompt "Alex Tully". Set post-"No Turning Back" (1.04).
Alex Tully pressed the gas pedal a little closer to the floor, then reached up to adjust the rear-view mirror for a better view of the kid. Still unconscious, it looked like; bleeding all over the leather seat. Going to be a chore to clean up, if he ever had time to.
"And time ain't something we got a lot of," he muttered, rubbing a weary hand over his face. His muscles were still twitching from the adrenaline rush back at the bank, and combined with several days' worth of exhaustion it felt like he had sand in his veins. "No time to rest."
"You can't go on like this, Alex," the echo of his wife's voice sounded faintly in his ears.
"I can do whatever I have to," he growled in reply, glancing at the empty passenger seat of the Challenger. He could almost see her sitting there, wearing that cute, concerned frown of hers; first woman besides his sister ever cared more about him than his pocketbook or his ride.
"You can't save me if you're dead," her image added reproachfully. "And you will be, if you push yourself until you collapse from exhaustion."
"I'll sleep when I find you," he insisted, then shook his head, blinked the illusion away, and tightened his grip on the steering wheel.
A groan from the backseat punctuated his brooding, and he glanced up at the mirror again to see Sean's eyes flutter open. "Who're you talking to?" the younger man slurred, voice tight with pain.
"My wife," Alex replied, shortly.
He didn't have anything against the kid, really; but the gunshots, the blood on Sean's shirt, the guard's body slumping to the floor-- all of it had brought back memories Alex had spent the better part of four years trying to suppress. He'd got out of this life, damn it; he'd turned his wheels in for a gardening shovel and bought a house fit for a family. He didn't have the reflexes for this anymore. They'd died with the old Alex Tully-- the real Alex Tully-- buried beneath the man Kathryn had fallen in love with.
They didn't do it to me. They did it to some other guy.
He knew he was in denial. But denial was a lot more comfortable place to be right now than reality.
"Uh. You know your wife's not here, right?" Sean asked, struggling to lever himself a little more upright.
"Of course I know that." Alex rolled his eyes, treating the question as seriously as he felt it deserved. "I'm not crazy; I'm hallucinating. There's a difference."
"You're-- what?" Sean blurted, caught off guard. "Should you even be driving?"
"You think you're in any condition to?" Alex replied acerbically, then pushed the gas pedal down a little more, whipping down the dark Tennessee highway in the direction of Haskins' gym. His old buddy Gil had better still be there; he didn't know what he was going to do with the kid if he wasn't.
"Where's my brother, man?"
"Back at the motel with Corinna and the safe deposit box. You just concentrate on keeping what's left of your blood inside your body; we'll get back to 'em as soon as we get you fixed up."
"You can't take me to a hospital," Sean groaned. "They'll know; they'll ask how I got shot, and then they'll find out about the robbery."
Alex almost wished he still had the wrench he'd decked Allan James with; the kid had been much better company when he'd been unconscious. No use taking it out on him, though. It was clear his brother-- if that was what he and Winston actually were, Alex couldn't remember if they'd said before-- was the one with all the criminal experience; Sean had bravado and nerve, but no staying power. "I'm not taking you to a hospital," he assured him. "I know someone out this way. You're going to be fine."
"Does this someone have a medical degree?" the kid replied, chuckling weakly. "Shit, this is so surreal; when did my life turn into something out of an action movie?"
"Probably about the same time mine did," Alex grunted. "Again."
Silence stretched out in the backseat in reply; when the seconds began to stack up uncomfortably, Alex glanced at the mirror and saw that the kid had passed out again. Probably the best thing for him; Alex's knife might still have been tucked in its custom compartment under the dash when the Race-runners got their paws on the car, but he doubted there were any painkillers still rattling around in the glove compartment.
Hell, they'd probably have been out of date even if they were there. He should have thought to grab some when he'd packed his bag; shouldn't have allowed the years of peace to lull him into thinking it would be as easy as go-to-Florida-and-fetch. Nothing in the world of secret, illegal and crosscountry was ever as simple as it seemed; it had a way of stripping the roots from you, immersing you in an endless, adrenaline-fueled present, and tangling you up in endless webs of obligations and favors. Maybe that was why he wasn't afraid Corinna would cut and run on him with Winston and the jump start clue, despite all the lies she'd laid on him before; he recognized the steel in her backbone, the layers of determination and willingness to do what was necessary layered like armor over a scarred soul. If he'd had a woman like her back when the First National job had gone south, he might never have left the business in the first place.
But he hadn't. And he had. And then he'd found Kathryn.
It had been a long, hard struggle for him to tear free and start over, but Kathryn had made it all bearable. Kathryn, who had seen past all the armor he'd spent years developing; who had pried his secrets out of him gently, one by one, and accepted each as part of what made him the man he was. He'd probably have gone mad those first few months of settling back into the rhythms of soil and green growing things if not for her habit of stopping by to ply him with lemonade and gossip; she'd befriended him first for his sister's sake, rolling out the red carpet for the prodigal brother, but after the first few months of casual meetings they'd both known it would be something more.
Their first kiss had tasted of sunshine, sour and sweet and full of joyous welcome. He'd thought it would never last, the day he'd taken her on their first official date; he'd never been happier to be wrong the day they'd finally wed.
Two years, they'd been married now. Two years of the new Alex Tully, wielder of life instead of death. This Race-- these Sponsors-- seemed determined to strip that from him, and didn't seem to care about the wreckage they left in their wake.
...So why should he?
You don't want to meet the real Alex Tully.
Fuck denial. Kathryn would just have to forgive him.
It was long past time he made them play by his rules instead.