Title: Reporters and News Reports

Rating: K

Summary: Sketchy could deal with it. He could deal with knowing.

Timeline: Set after Love Among the Runes.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dark Angel.

Reporters and News Reports

Sketchy was back at work, and he felt a little… odd.

He didn't have a big world. Mostly he had Jam Pony. He was a bike messenger; his friends were all bike messengers. He knew two people outside of that, and he only talked to one of them regularly—his drug dealer sold pot on a candid street-corner every few days. His mother didn't do him that same favor, so mostly he just called her on major holidays.

He only had one more thing, and that was his camera. And all of the things that opened up to him as a result of that camera; freelancing for a trash magazine and calling himself a reporter because of (or maybe despite) that.

But recently both of those things, which had seemed so certain, had been turned around. He'd found out things he really didn't want to know, and all because he'd been stupid enough to ask. Ask why O.C had been sneaking in and out of Normal's office while dudes in black suits had questioned their boss; ask why, out of every file in those drawers, she'd grabbed those two.

But he could accept it. He hoped so, anyway. Because he didn't want them dead, which would be the cost of exposing them, and he didn't want to think of them how he'd been thinking of them—as monsters. They weren't, at least not these two, and Sketchy wondered if there were more out there like this pair. Had the entire city been hunting, killing ones that didn't really deserve it?

It was these worrisome and uncomfortable questions that made everything seem a little off at work on Monday morning. Like there were things going on in his life that he'd never known about; like there were undercurrents that he'd never caught despite the fact that he devoted half his time to Jam Pony and the other half to snapping pictures of mutants.

"They're dangerous, and they're running loose in the streets, picking off victims one by one—"

The television was on and blaring, as always, and the subject matter was equally predictable. Another expert, another outcry against the existence of transgenics, another plea for someone to just take care of it already. To terminate them and sweep the whole thing under the rug like it never happened.

Today Sketchy just didn't have the stomach to listen to it. Confused thoughts whirled around in his head, arguing both sides again and again until everything seemed utterly twisted, and he didn't want to deal with any of it. He just wanted to get to work, which was the one thing that would always be the same no matter what; people would always need their packages.

He turned toward his locker and stopped short when he caught sight of Alec. Irrational thoughts flew through his brain, holding him motionless, but after a moment he shoved them down. He could deal with it. He could deal with knowing.

"Hey, man," he commented casually as he passed Alec.

"Hey," Alec replied absently, voice quiet and lifeless.

Sketchy paused at the unusual greeting. There were many ways to describe Alec, but lifeless definitely wasn't one of them. He was always laughing or joking or weaseling his way out of work or checking out girls—he was always doing something.

But now Alec was standing stationary in the middle of the room, eyes tilted upwards, gaze unwavering. Sketchy followed it to the television.

"How could our government have let his happen? How can these… these things even exist? They're not meant to, they're not natural—"

Sketchy's eyes flicked back toward Alec again, and because of everything he knew now that he hadn't before, he could see it. Just barely, but it was there; sadness and confusion lingered around the edges of Alec's face, visible only to someone who knew just how close to home the heartless comments hit.

"No souls, because they shouldn't even be here—"

"Kinda harsh, huh?" Sketchy asked, eyes still darting back and forth between the interviewer on the screen and Alec's shadowed face.

"What?" Alec asked, and he seemed to come back to himself. He shook his head once and replied, "Yeah, a little, I guess."

He sounded genuine, voice set into an easy-going drawl, and Sketchy was surprised. But then, Alec had managed to keep his secret all this time, hadn't he?

"You ever wonder if they're wrong?" Sketchy asked. Part of him felt like telling Alec that he knew, but the other part of him just wanted to know Alec's reaction to all of this. The reporter in him (and yes, he was a reporter) itched to scribble down Alec's words like it was an interview. He restrained himself with difficulty as he waited for Alec's answer.

"We assure the public that this situation is being rectified; we are working to…"

A senator or some other oily politician was speaking now, and Sketchy could tell that Alec was momentarily distracted. After a few seconds he glanced at Sketchy again and asked, "Sorry, what?"

"Do you think they could be wrong?" Sketchy reiterated. "About the transgenics, I mean."

Alec's expression froze and then relaxed. "Oh, I don't know. I don't think about it much, to be honest." He smiled an easy sideways grin. "Doesn't have much to do with me."

"Really?" The question slipped out before Sketchy could think it over, but he regretted it when he saw Alec's eyes narrow.

"No, of course not," Alec answered, grin tightening until it was more of a grimace. "Why would it?"

"Oh, well," Sketchy replied with his best impression of airiness, "It just seems to affect everyone, you know? The whole city."

Some of the harshness left Alec's face, but the tension thrumming through him didn't fade. "Yeah, but I can take care of myself."

Sketchy grunted in affirmative. "I remember, Monty Cora."

As Sketchy said it, the cage-fighting name clicked into place and he almost gaped. The things you missed when you weren't paying attention….

Alec stilled completely again and his expression went blank. Then he avoided Sketchy's eyes and began fidgeting with the strap of his gloves. "Yeah. Crazy coincidence, huh? Just my luck."

"Not like you could have known," Sketchy replied agreeably after a moment. Alec smiled again, the tension breaking.

You did know, because you were there, Sketchy wanted to say. Because you were made there and you lived there until all the mutants escaped.

But he didn't say anything.

"Exactly," Alec replied. Then he patted Sketchy on the shoulder and turned toward the dispatch statement.

"We promise to get this situation under control as soon as possible—"

"Alec," Sketchy called, turning permanently away from the television, and Alec stopped and looked over his shoulder. "I think they're wrong," Sketchy continued, voice firm. "I think there's another side to this that they're not showing."

"Really?" Alec asked, with a hesitant sort of openness that Sketchy hadn't heard from him before.

"Yeah," Sketchy replied, and he was surprised by how the words felt true. "And as a reporter, it's my job to get that story out there. Know any transgenics I could interview?"

Alec laughed. "Can't say that I do. But let me know if you find one."

He waved and walked over to Normal, picking up his packages and exchanging a few, probably flattering, words with the boss.

"I'll get back to you on that," Sketchy muttered, exhaling a slow breath.

Almost as if he'd heard, Alec shifted and glanced in Sketchy's direction one more time. Sketchy did his best to look bland and unassuming. Then, as Alec moved away from the dispatch station and hopped onto his bike, he shook his head and went to his locker.

He paused when he caught sight of his camera, pushed lovingly to the back of his locker and bundled in his jacket. He pulled out his helmet and stuck it on, and then removed his camera and looped it around his neck. He felt a sense of purpose as the weight settled onto his chest.

He had a new story to cover now.