Pairing: Max/Alec, established relationship
Spoilers: Set post Season 2
Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel or its characters. I'm just borrowing them and will put them back, possibly a little more worn than they were before.
Author's notes: Written for yourlivewire for the Winter 2008 jamponyfic Ficathon on livejournal. Prompt used was Max/Alec. Max catches him playing piano and they talk, leading to kissing, leading to wherever you want to take it. This can be with an established relationship or not, but I think it would make more sense if it were with one. (You don't have to explain how they got together.)
Thanks to aithine for the beta.
Max hadn't planned on a lot of things in her life. She'd planned on surviving, sure, but that had been a nebulous thing, not so much a concrete plan as state of being or some such crap. She was more than capable of planning, of course - Manticore had designed her to be many things but most of all they'd designed her to be a good soldier, and a good soldier needed to be able to plan his or her campaigns.
No matter what the newscasts said she was more than the sum of her DNA, but she was still a good solder; there was no fighting that. But even Manticore hadn't planned on her being a leader - that role had been reserved for Zack. And yet, here she was, three months after the Jam Pony siege, leading a rag tag bunch of transgenics; straight into hell it felt like some days.
Life never ended up the way you'd planned. She got that now, but then Manticore had also made their little toy soldiers adaptable. All in the name of the game, and the name of the game was survival. Max was used to rolling with the punches, and life threw a hell of a lot of those at her and hers.
She hadn't planned on letting anyone in but that had happened too. It had taken her years to get past that element of her Manticore conditioning, but it had happened. Slowly at first, Original Cindy and Kendra being the first to breach her defences. Her girls had a way of sneaking past her guard unnoticed that would do a transgenic proud. They were the first to make themselves at home in her heart, but they weren't the last. Others had followed after them - Logan, Joshua. Alec.
Maybe that was why she could step up to the plate now. Some new age crap about how she'd grown as a person. Once she'd let one in, the rest came flooding after. Maybe she just hadn't had a choice.
She'd never planned on letting her guard down and some days it felt like the whole world was crowding her, wanting things she didn't know how to give. Joshua, with his constant need for reassurance. Logan, with his constant need to hover just within reach, even though it could get him killed. Would get him killed if she didn't watch herself every single second of every single day.
It was exhausting. She'd pushed him away and he was still there for her, a constant presence and a constant pressure.
Some days it felt like she couldn't breathe.
She'd never planned for any of it - Logan, friends and family. But then when life threw you a lemon what was a girl to do but make lemonade? That was an Alec saying, had to be, except for the 'girl' part. Only Alec could come out with crap like that, stuff he'd picked up from Common Verbal Usage and hadn't managed to let go of entirely. Max was more of the opinion that if life threw you a lemon, you threw it back. bHard/b.
She'd never planned on letting Alec in and she still wasn't sure how bthat/b had happened. Except that even with his stupid little common verbal usage phrases, he'd had more Manticore training than she had - something he never tired of reminding her about. That got real old, real fast, and that right there was an OC saying. She worried less about her girl getting under her skin than she worried about her boy doing the same.
Her boy. That was another OC phrase and it was one she'd grown tired of fighting, not when there were so many other, more important things to fight for. That battle was over and she'd have to concentrate on winning the war even if she wasn't quite sure where or why the war was being waged. But Alec would have a field day about being 'her boy' if she were ever stupid enough to let the phrase slip out. She wasn't nearly bthat/b stupid, no matter what else she'd let slip recently.
But she was forced to admit that Alec had more skills than she'd first given him credit for. He was even more of a chameleon than she was in some ways, once he'd learnt to be a little less stupid. Took his time about that as well. But he'd wormed his way in, making himself indispensable. Alec was good at reading people, good at giving them what they wanted. He knew how to cut a deal, too, that silver tongue smoothing the way for many of TC's underground transactions.
Good at infiltrating. Boy, was her boy good at infiltrating and that - that was a Kendra thought. It wasn't a thought that Max would have entertained, not before Alec and his stupid sayings, but then a lot of things were changing and not always for the better.
But not always for the worse either, and Max could never have planned on that.
Three months in and they were all getting a little stir crazy, pinned up in TC. Transgenics were - usually - disciplined so there'd been few fights but the tension hung in the air anyway, like the faint taste of smoke in the back of the throat, the one that had you looking for the fire. No one had been stupid enough to light one. Yet. There was enough hostility coming from all sides to douse any flames before they took hold. Two men - humans - fought over nothing but too little sense and too much testosterone and they were idiots.
Two transgenics fought over nothing and the 'animal' comments hit a little too close to home.
So they found other ways to ease that tension. Alcohol worked, for some transgenics anyway and given the rotgut being brewed from potatoes by some of the transhumans, even an X5 like Max could come away from a drinking session with a pleasant buzz.
She couldn't blame everything on the alcohol though. It had nothing to do with the fact that she was here instead of hiding in a dark corner in one of the jerry rigged bars in the more populated sectors of TC. It had nothing to do with the way that she was staying in the shadows either, holding onto the doorframe with one hand while she listened to Alec play.
Some days a girl wanted something more than just something to deaden the pain.
Some days a girl wanted a 'someone' to do that, and Alec…
Yeah, Alec had skills in that department too.
This place had been a bar too, once. It had that upmarket feel about it, even now that the paint was peeling off the wall and the panelling was warped with damp. The piano in the corner helped her picture what it must have been like back before the Pulse, crowded with ordinaries after a long day working in the biotech firms that had dotted this part of Seattle. Back before those same biotech firms had poisoned several city blocks, made the whole area terminal, at least for ordinaries.
It must have been a sight, once. Bustling with people without a care in the world, flocking around the piano like brightly coloured birds. She'd lay odds, though, that none of the crooners who'd sat where Alec was sitting now had played so well.
Her boy had skills, and in more than just ass kicking and being an ass.
"You going to stand there all night?"
"Maybe." She couldn't feel too bad about being spotted. She'd stayed in the shadows, and there was a faint smell of mould overlaying everything, but he was transgenic, just like she was. And she wasn't going to ask what had given her away.
"How did you know I was there?"
Except for the fact that she totally was.
He snorted, running his fingers over the keys so that they sounded a soft, discordant note. "Could hear you thinking." He finally twisted his head to look up at her where she hovered on the steps before he looked back at where his fingers rested on the keys. "You should probably stop doing that."
She echoed his snort with one of her own. "I think one of us not thinking might be enough."
She couldn't read his face, turned at angle like he was to her, but she could tell from the way one of his shoulders hitched up slightly that he'd be smiling, maybe a little bitter, but smiling anyway. That was another thing she hadn't planned on - the fact that her bitching at him could make Alec smile. It was… not as annoying as it should be.
"So what brings you to this part of TC?"
She thought about lying but Alec wasn't stupid and she was tired of it anyway. There were more important battles to be fought, and she'd already called a strategic retreat on this one. She shrugged, even though he couldn't see it, and said, "Looking for you."
"Ah." He ran his fingers across the keys again, the sound softer this time. "What have I done?"
"I don't know." She moved closer, letting her fingers trail over the panelling. It felt a little weird under her fingertips, bubbles in the covering where the rain had got in and the varnish had blistered. "What have you done?"
Now he turned to face her, one eyebrow raised and a familiar smirk playing around the edges of his mouth. "Depends. What's going to get my ass kicked and what's just going to get me spanked?"
She knew she was expected to glare, and far be it for her to disappoint. There was no heat in it, though, and the smirk he wore didn't slip. But she was good at adapting quickly and it was strangely effortless to switch streams on him, to let her expression slide into one of patently false sweetness. She'd grown to enjoy this, this give and take with him that meant nothing and meant everything both at the same time, even if some days it seemed as warped as the wood she was touching.
His expression grew wary and she had to damp down on the urge to smirk back at him, to treat him to his own look for once. But that was a little too close for comfort, a little too like she was adopting more than just a few of his sayings.
She moved closer still, sauntering across the floor towards him, not missing the way that his eyes dropped slightly, watching her hips sway.
She could kick his ass now, while he was distracted, but that wouldn't do anything to improve her mood, which still hovered a little too close to melancholy for her peace of mind.
"What were you playing?"
He shrugged, eyes now focused on her face, watching her. Reading her. It would have made her pissed, once, but there was something weirdly comforting about the way that he wasn't running his mouth off about nothing. Even if that meant that she had to break the silence again.
"It was nice."
It was an awkward and kind of stupid thing to say and he snorted, which set the embers of her temper flickering.
"The piano needs tuning. Badly." He ran his fingers over the keys again, harder this time, and yeah, now that she listened she could pick out the sour notes in the sequence. "Surprised you couldn't tell."
Maybe she would kick his ass. Kick his ass and leave him here, on the damp floor next to his out-of-tune piano, and high tail back to the centre of TC where at least there'd be something like not-quite-scotch to burn everything away.
Only… Only it was dim here, down below street level, the grimy windows high in the walls not letting much light in. Even so, she could pick out the twist to his mouth, nothing to do with a smirk this time and as bitter and sour as the notes he'd just played.
That was something she hadn't planned on either, this concern for Alec, not just whether or not he was breathing but whether or not he was… happy.
"Just peachy." He turned to face her fully, smirk back on his face and leaned back on the keys with his elbows. The cacophony of notes that rose from the piano made her wince, her teeth aching with the sound of it, and he smiled, no amusement in it. "Why did you want me?"
'Why did you want me?' not 'Why were you looking for me?' and, knowing Alec, he'd chosen the words deliberately. Although, maybe not, the way his eyes tracked her face as she bit her lip and turned away, not wanting him to see… whatever the hell there was showing on her face.
That was another thing he was better at, another thing that Manticore had driven home to him harder than it had had time to do with her. Hide what you're feeling at all costs, or someone will use it against you.
Alec could use it against her. He just… didn't seem to want to most of the time. Not any more.
He was still watching her and she shrugged, not able to give voice to whatever the hell was going on with her. And, for once and unlike him, he didn't push her on it. Instead he half turned back to the piano. She thought she'd lost him for a moment, that he was going to shut her out entirely the way he did sometimes when she pushed him too hard, but he merely shut the lid, hiding the keys, and then turned back to face her.
This time when he leaned back on his elbows, it was blessedly quiet, nothing but the sound of his breathing and the faint sound of water dripping somewhere in the corner.
He gave her time to recover her equilibrium and she was stupidly grateful for that, for the fact that for once he wasn't pushing her when it felt like that was all the rest of the world knew how to do. Eventually she shrugged, looking up at the grey light outside rather than at him, and commented lightly, "Figured hanging with you was a better option than watching Mole and Frosty having another one of their pissing contests."
She could feel the weight of his gaze, watching her for a long moment before he finally said, "They still cracking out the fridge and space heater?"
Yeah, there it was again, that little warm nugget of gratitude, sitting in her chest. Weird beyond belief to be feeling that way towards Alec, but he had a way these days of smoothing her path.
"Something like that," she said, meeting his eyes now. She smiled, slow and predatory, and his eyebrow twitched again, the smirk coming back to rest on his lips. He leaned back further, sliding down on the stool until he was all studied nonchalance. His eyes didn't leave her face, however, and they were anything but studied and cool.
She gave into temptation and smirked, letting her eyes trail along the length of his body the way that he'd eyed her so many times. It didn't seem to faze him; when she returned her gaze to his face he was watching her, matching her smirk for smirk.
She could fight him on this, throw out words as weapons and leave him, if not bleeding, then closed off. For an hour or two, until he was back in her space again like he'd never left. He'd push her, she knew, crowd her every step until she swiped at him like they were cats bickering over a place in the sun but it was weird how when the pressure of Alec was there, the pressure of everything else just went away for a while.
Or she could give in, bask in the warmth of the sun for a little while, curled around him.
Plans changed and she just had to change with them.
He wasn't surprised when she straddled his thighs, knees on either side of him on the wide piano stool. He was still smirking at her, but it wasn't quite as annoying this time as it usually was, warmer somehow, less smug than pleased.
Maybe she was projecting, seeing what she wanted to see instead of what was there. She didn't care. She'd still kick his ass if he stepped out of line and as long as he understood that, it was all gravy.
She curled her fingers, dragged her nails lightly over the nape of his neck where his barcode was etched into his skin, and he hissed against her mouth. It turned into a huff of laughter when she arched against him, fingers now digging into his hair.
His hands settled on her waist, one thumb gliding lightly over her skin where her top had ridden up. Sometimes he grabbed and scratched and nipped as hard as she did. Other times, he was slow and sweet and she came close to hating him for it, the way he slipped under her defences and made her ache and want and moan in a way that had nothing to do with friction.
This time was going to be slow, she could tell, and it did nothing to suppress the urge to undulate against him, pull him closer and closer until there was nothing but him, until he was crowding her, in her space and never going to leave.
She hated him a little for that too, but it didn't mean she wanted him to stop. But even transgenics had to breathe sometime.
His mouth was swollen when she pulled back, from where she'd nipped at his lips. He watched, almost quizzically, as she stared down at him, and she let her tongue slide out to lick at her lips. That got a reaction, his eyes darkening, pupils widening like a cat's until there was just a sliver of green around black. And now she could have fast, she wanted it slow, wanted to stretch out each beat to its max.
Now he asked. Now, when she just wanted to lose herself in the rhythm they would set together, whether that was fast and furious or slow and tortuous.
"Just peachy," she ground out, diving in for another taste of his mouth. The hands he had on her waist stopped her, and he pulled his head back, staring up into her face like he could see everything she wasn't telling him written there.
Maybe he could. Who knew with Alec?
She should get up, leave him there with his goddamned piano and the hard on she could feel when she ground down against him. It didn't distract him, though. His eyelids fluttered closed for a beat but then he was back to holding her away from him, watching her like she was going to cave just because he asked her to.
"What's wrong," she snarled, "is that I want sex and you're not putting out."
This time she felt his laughter rock all the way through her. He pulled her down for another kiss, tongue sliding past her lips, kindling fires that made her whine embarrassingly and writhe against him the way she didn't - never did with a guy - unless she was in heat. She could still feel the smile on his lips, taste it in the curve of his mouth, and she nipped roughly at his lower lip until he yelped then smoothed it with her tongue while she indulged in a smile of her own.
"Hellcat," he murmured against her mouth and she should so kick his ass for that comment except for the fact that she had other plans for him, ones that involved him being fully functioning.
When she pulled back this time, he looked like he'd finally got with the programme. His mouth was even more swollen, and his eyes were dark and stormy under lowered lashes.
He looked good enough to eat and she'd worked up a hell of an appetite.
She lowered her head to kiss him again and he let her, matching the movement of her mouth with his. His fingers, however, stayed where they were on her waist, drawing little circles against her skin when by now he'd normally be grabbing at her ass, pulling her closer. She pulled back a third time and he was still watching her, still hungry, but that hunger was tempered now by what seemed almost like concern. For her.
She wasn't going to get away with changing the subject and that just pissed her off. Just not quite enough to get off his lap. Not yet anyway.
"What?" she demanded. Her tone earned her another raised eyebrow and since he actually slept sometimes, unlike her, one of these days she was going to sneak in and shave both of them off when he wasn't looking.
He didn't say anything and that was the most frustrating thing of all, Alec being quiet and waiting her out like that was going to do any good. His fingers were still stroking slowly over her skin and she resisted the urge to lean into his touch, let him soothe and pet her like she was the cat her DNA said she was.
"It's just…" Apparently that not letting him wait her out thing wasn't working for her either. "Stuff."
"Stuff, crap…" She took one hand off his shoulder long enough to wave it in the air, staring over his shoulder towards the windows on the back wall rather than meeting his eyes. "Real girl drama."
He snorted again. "As in, you're actually a real girl or it's drama only for girls?"
She glared at him again, for real this time, and his face softened slightly. His fingers tightened on her waist and he shook her slightly, mostly to get her attention, she thought. She didn't know. This was all new to her, her and Alec, and she wasn't used to it yet. Wasn't used to letting anyone but Original Cindy crawl in this far below the surface, and there were things that Alec got, that Alec understood, that OC, no matter how much Max loved her, never would.
"Let me guess." Alec had obviously tired of waiting for her. "Logan?" There was a tightness to his mouth now that hadn't been there before. It stung - that and his question both. She made to pull away but the grip he had on her waist stopped her. She could fight him - would probably win too if previous experience was anything to go by - but the look on his face stopped her.
It… She didn't want to examine it too closely, but it made her feel all squirrelly inside, fight and flight fighting for dominance. And then his face softened again, became the usual Alec mask, unconcerned. Friendly even.
The squirrelly feeling didn't go away. Not entirely. But the urge to move eased.
She shrugged, not sure that she wanted to talk about it, not to Alec. But he was waiting still and she had that nagging feeling that she might owe him… at least some of the truth.
It was easier to tell him the truth when she wasn't actually looking at him.
"Yeah, maybe. Everything. Everybbody/b. Always wanting… stuff. Me to make decisions…"
She trailed off, and he moved his hands so that they were resting in the small of her back, his forearms draped over her hips. It was… nice. Comfy even. Comfortable enough that she could look back at him now.
"Perils of leadership," he said lightly, but his eyes never left hers and there was a hint of seriousness in them, the one he let shine through when he wasn't concentrating so hard on being a smart alec. "You got seconds - me, Mole." He shook her again. "Learn to delegate."
"You actually volunteering for stuff? I thought Manticore taught you better than that."
He smiled again. "Depends. Will it put you in a better mood?"
She huffed, looking down at him, and his lips curled up again, never serious for long. Not her boy. Not unless…
She hadn't thought about what might have driven him to the piano tonight. And… it didn't feel right to ask him about it now. They still had their secrets, she and Alec. They probably always would, no matter what happened with this weird thing between them.
He was still watching her, and she let one finger trail down his cheek. That - that tenderness - wasn't them, and it took him by surprise. His eyes widened a little but he didn't pull away. Neither did Max - she was learning to take her small victories where she could.
That was something else she hadn't planned on.
"Logan…" She swallowed, clearing her throat and letting her finger trace the line of his mouth, more just to touch him than to keep him quiet. It would take more than a finger to his lips to keep Alec quiet when he didn't want to be. "Logan knows it's over, but he's still… It's not safe for him here but he won't leave. And I don't know how to make him."
"Yes, you do."
Yeah, it took more than the desire on her part to shut him up to keep him quiet. She pulled her finger back but he caught it, turning her hand over to stroke his thumb along the line of her palm.
"Yes, you do, Max."
"What am I supposed to do?" she asked angrily. "He doesn't believe it."
"He will." Alec was merciless, eyes never leaving hers, holding her there even as his thumb continued to caress her skin. "You believe it, he will."
The urge for flight, fight was warring in her again, and she jerked her hand back, resisting - just - the urge to smack him around the back of his head with it. It wouldn't be playful - not this time. She started to pull away, to stand up, but he grabbed the back of her head, pulled her down for another kiss, this time hard and bruising.
She grabbed at his hair, pulling hard and swallowing his hiss down. It would be easy - so easy - to give in to this, to make it hard and fast and angry. To punish Alec for daring to tell her the things she didn't want to hear, the things that no one else would.
His hands loosened their grip on her face, his thumbs smoothing down over the skin of her cheeks. His kiss softened too, mouth opening under her onslaught, taking whatever the hell she threw at him and rolling with it.
Sometimes it was too easy to hate him. Sometimes it was too easy to feel other things for him too, things she wasn't ready for. Things she wasn't sure she'd ever be ready for, not from Smart Alec, even if he had wrangled his way into being her boy just like he'd wrangled his way into her bed.
When she pulled back this time - when he let her - his lip was split and she could only watch as his tongue darted out to lick at the cut. He was still watching her, though, head tilted to the side and eyes unreadable. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to say, wasn't sure if there was anything that could be said.
He didn't push it, hands dropping to her waist again, sliding underneath her top to smooth their way over her skin.
"So," and there was his smirk, although his eyes stayed watchful, a little wary. More for her reaction, she thought, than her anger. "Anything else you want to get off your chest?"
As he spoke, he slid his hands further under her top, fingers gliding up her sides until they were touching the fabric of her bra.
Now she could give into the urge to smack him around the back of his head. He'd given her a reason for it, a reason that had nothing to do with whatever was twisting its way around inside her. She kept it light though, fingers sliding through his hair after her hand had made contact, down, once again, to trace over the barcode on his neck. He'd given her an out for that too.
"What did you have in mind?" she asked, fingers now idly twisting in the tendrils of hair that curled down over his nape.
He smirked again, but there was a light in his eye. "You, me and a piano." His hands moved up over her back, curling over her shoulders and pulling her down until their lips were mere fractions of an inch apart. She could feel the heat of his smile, taste the sweetness of his breath. "How about we say to hell with the rest of the world for a while and make some beautiful music together?"
She rolled her eyes but kissed him anyway, which was probably what he'd intended. He had a point, she thought, as the kiss turned from heated to hold a tempo that was closer to slow and sweet.
If even a clapped out piano in a desolate abandoned bar could hold a tune some of the time, maybe they could too.