A Little Birdie Told Me
Summary: Supply runs keep going wrong and Max needs to figure out why… MA.
And here you have it all wrapped up. Thank you for the lovely reviews and I hope you enjoyed the story.
Max awoke slowly, sounds filtering into her groggy consciousness. Beeping. Beeping was never good.
She struggled to open her eyes and was immediately exhausted by the effort it took. As she pried them open, she winced at the blinding lights overhead. She didn't have lights like that in her apartment.
Beeping, overhead lights…
Medical. She was hurt.
Which didn't quite make sense. She remembered the alley. She remembered Alec grabbing her and kissing her.
The light was suddenly blocked out by a huge shape looming over her. A shape that smelled a bit like… lizard and tobacco. "Mole?"
"It's a good thing you're not dead," he said gruffly, "or I'd kick your ass myself."
"I voted to abandon this dump and it was your brilliant idea to stay. You get yourself killed and leave me here to put up with these morons by myself, I'd never forgive you."
"Softy," Max mumbled. She felt like she was missing something, but couldn't quite get her fuzzy brain to focus. SWAT team, Alec in the alley, then… "Alec?"
Mole stepped to one side. Max turned her head slightly and saw another cot several feet away. Alec was lying very still, pale as a ghost.
"Had to rebuild his knee. Stab wound caused most of the problems though. Not sure where he got it. Lung collapsed. Somebody bit him too which is kinda freaky."
Mole was still talking, but Max was fading away. Alec was all right. That was enough for now.
Max awoke slowly, blinking her eyes against the too bright light. Her stomach hurt and she tried to raise her hand only to find it wouldn't move. She looked down and saw that she couldn't move it because it was already in use.
Alec was sitting beside her bed, his head resting on the mattress near her hip, her hand held tightly in his. He was facing her and she could see that he was fast asleep, dark circles beneath his eyes. He looked sickly pale and as worn out as she felt.
Her gaze rose and it took a few extra seconds for her eyes to focus on the figure at the end of the bed. "Hey, Logan." Her voice was barely a croak and he moved around to the other side of the bed. He grabbed a thermos with a long straw and brought it to her mouth so that she could have a drink. "Thanks."
"How are you feeling?"
"You're gonna be fine," he assured her. "Just need to take it easy for a few days."
"Alec?" she couldn't help asking, although she knew it was almost cruel to ask Logan to be the one to tell her.
"Fine, I think." Logan looked down, an almost rueful expression on his face. "He won't leave your side long enough for the medics to look at him."
Max smiled indulgently. She used a little more muscle this time and pulled her hand from Alec's grip. He stirred, frowning even in sleep, until she rested her hand on his head and brushed her fingers through his hair. He sighed and relaxed again, the frown easing away as she continued to run her fingers lazily through his dark blond locks.
"You find anything on the informant?" she asked. Logan's uneasy shifting on his feet suddenly stopped and Max looked back up. "What?"
"Alec found him and shot him," Logan said baldly. "He shot him point blank."
"Oh." Max really wasn't sure what else to say. Alec had found the person who'd caused so much disaster and taken care of it. She was kind of sorry she'd missed it.
"No, Max," Logan said frowning, "he shot an unarmed man. He just killed him."
Max just shook her head, too tired to explain. A transgenic was never unarmed. As long as they were breathing, they were dangerous. They were walking, talking, lethal weapons. Logan never had understood that. He liked to think of her as a girl with a little bit of freaky DNA and a few problems shaking the evil government guys who were chasing her.
He didn't know about Carpenter either. Or Pepper. Or Blink who'd caught a stray round or New Guy who would be dead if Alec hadn't taken a bullet for him. He didn't know about all of the hardship caused because the supply runs had hit so many snags. Whoever the mole was, he'd earned his sentence.
"Someone named Flit. He was apparently trying to get rid of Alec to get to you."
Logan shrugged, still unhappy that she wasn't more upset. "I guess."
"Shoulda known. Those guys are jerks." It was also kinda weird, with the bird DNA and all. Birds chasing cats was just wrong.
"Max, I don't think you understand. Alec just shot him."
Max nodded. "S'ok." There was a reason she'd never told Logan but she'd told Alec about Ben's death. Logan never would have approved of what she'd done, not that she really did either, but she understood the necessity of it. A great many things in their lives weren't pretty. In fact they were downright ugly, but they were still necessary. Alec understood that all too well.
Max let her hand fall back to the bed and clasped Alec's in hers. She closed her eyes and let her head rest more heavily against the pillow.
She heard Logan's shuffling steps as he walked away from her and for the very first time, she didn't feel troubled at the idea.
Max awoke slowly. She opened her eyes and was momentarily disoriented. She'd expected the bright overhead lights, but instead she was surrounded by darkness. It wasn't a hard mattress beneath her either, but the comfortable mattress she was accustomed to. She was home.
As if drawn to a magnet, she turned her head and was faced with a sight a hundred times worse than almost anything she'd seen in years. It hurt more than any bullet, felt worse than any number of failures or disasters.
Alec had his back to her.
Max closed her eyes, a crushing weight settling on her chest. Nothing had changed. His back was to her as it had been from the beginning. She'd thought it would be different now, after the alley. She'd thought he finally believed her, that she'd convinced him she was serious.
She heard Alec stir, heard him turn on the bedside lamp, but refused to open her eyes for fear he would see the tears shimmering there. She felt his hand slide across her stomach and settle over the bandage.
"Max?" He sounded worried, scared even.
He leaned close and she could feel his breath whisper across her damp cheek. "Max, I'm…" She heard him swallow heavily. "Max, I'm sorry it hurts." He gently kissed her tears away, his full lips brushing her eyelashes. He pressed himself close to her side and slid his arm further around her, careful not to bump the wound as he held her.
"I'm sorry, Maxie." He placed another kiss on her temple. "We don't have anything for the pain that will do one of us any good." He tightened his hold on her very slightly. "I'm here. I'm right here."
Fresh tears tumbled down her cheeks, this time for an entirely different reason and she felt a sob begin to bubble to the surface.
Alec froze. "What?"
"You scared the crap out of me," Max said, wincing slightly as she shifted and the muscles in her abdomen tightened.
"I scared the crap out of you?" Alec said, in less than a second going from frightened to furious. "Which one of us was stupid enough to step in front of a bullet, miles from help?"
"You would think you'd be grateful," Max snapped.
Alec's lips slammed down on hers, the kiss desperate and almost punishing. He kissed her until she was hurting for air before he pulled away. Alec rested his forehead against hers, breathing heavily. "Don't ever do that again."
"Ever, Max." He kissed her again, more gently this time, lingering, making sure she was thoroughly kissed before he drew back. "Ever," he whispered. "Please."
"So I guess I scared you," Max said shakily.
"You could say that." Alec eased back, stretching out beside her, his head propped on his hand, though he left the other resting against her chest, his fingers wrapped around her ribcage. "You ok?"
"Better now," she answered and knew it was true. Alec facing her, holding her, it made it all better.
"Gettin' kinda careless, aren't you?" he said, his tone slightly accusatory. "You keep getting yourself shot for other people."
Max remembered their earlier conversation and her lips twitched as she tried not to smile. "I know. I'm starting to think I'm defective."
Alec shook his head. "I have it on good authority you don't have a drop of junk DNA."
"I've spent half my life out here in filth and degradation," Max said, all mock-sadness. "Maybe I caught something."
Alec chuckled and she could feel the vibration where he was still pressed along the length of her side. "Yeah. I'm pretty sure you caught the martyr bug somewhere. Or maybe that's genetic."
Max smiled, although she was suddenly far from amused. "I couldn't let him shoot you."
"You should have," he said just as seriously. "I meant it when I said the other transgenics need you. I'm just the smart-aleck supply guy. There are fifty guys here who can do what I do, but you're the leader. There's only one you."
"And the one me says you can shove it, Alec, cause I'm going to protect you if I can," she replied bluntly. "It's just the way this works."
Alec sighed and slid his arm beneath her head so he could move closer still and rest his forehead against her temple. "I know, Max. That doesn't mean I have to like it."
"Me either." She turned her head slightly so that they were almost facing each other, her cheek just brushing his. "So you wanna tell me about the stab wound?"
"Heard about that, did you?"
"I'm the boss. I hear things."
"Mole," Alec said irritably. "Big mouth. I threatened to put him on refrigerator duty if he talked."
Max raised an eyebrow. "Apparently I'm scarier."
Alec snorted. "Only on a bad hair day."
"I do not have bad hair days."
"Says the woman who has me sneak in her special shampoo every week."
"As you like to point out, I'm the face of the transgenics. You want me to look frumpy?"
"You're beautiful, Max," he said almost reverently. He closed the distance between their lips and kissed her slowly, lingering, breathing her in. "You're always beautiful."
"You're not so bad yourself." Max sighed contentedly. "Now stop distracting me and tell me about the stab wound."
"Bitchy, and latches on like a terrier, but beautiful," Alec added.
"Alec," she said, a clear warning. "What happened?"
"Don't really know, to be honest." He grimaced. "I went a little berserk after he shot you. One of the familiars must have got me before I threw him off the roof."
"You went postal because of me?"
"Yeah," he said, clearly abashed.
Max couldn't help a slight smirk. "It's kinda sweet. In its own screwed-up, Manticore sort of way."
"Gee thanks, Max," Alec said dryly. "I'd get myself stabbed more often if I'd known that was all it took to lighten you up."
Max felt tears once again pricking at her eyes. She had missed this. She'd missed the easy banter, the friendly needling. She'd missed the relaxed state of just being with Alec, just enjoying his uncomplicated company. She'd had no idea how much she was going to lose just by asking Alec to be something other than himself. For weeks now, he'd been beside her nearly every minute, but he'd been far beyond her reach, and it had been her own doing.
Max brought her hand up and laid it against his face, her fingers tangling in his hair. "I missed you."
He looked at her, allowing her to see the confusion in his expression. "Hard to miss me when I'm right here everyday."
"I still missed you," she said.
"So what are you doing Friday?"
"Friday. You have plans?"
"Recuperating? I did get shot after all."
"I think we should go out," he said solemnly, though he couldn't hide the amusement in his voice.
"How do you figure?"
"Since you're desperately in love with me, I think you at least owe me a date."
Max opened her mouth to give the usual scathing reply and just managed to stop herself. Alec was motionless next to her. His breathing was shallow and she realized he was bracing himself for the expected rejection. If Max shot him down, even jokingly…
She'd just barely convinced him of her feelings and he was testing the waters. Or maybe he wasn't as entirely convinced as he seemed.
"Fair enough," she said, her tone purposely light. "Got some place in mind?"
Alec remained very still for several more seconds and then a wide, stunningly beautiful grin spread across his face. "There's a new restaurant on Third. You'll love it."
"What's it called?"
He kissed her again, this time a joyful declaration of his feelings. He drew back, still smiling. "Birds of a Feather."
And there you have it. Thanks for reading. Been a pleasure and I hope you enjoyed it. And to those of you who dropped me a line to say you'd taken a look at the novel, a very special thank you. I'm terribly flattered that you took the time. We'll see if the DA muse will strike again!