Summary: Some things are just inevitable. Especially if you're transgenic and having all these strong animalistic instincts that you just deny only so long and eventually succumb to. MA all the way.
Warnings: Oh, the usual. Angst, choosy words here and there, maybe some torture, be it physical, emotional or sweet...
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Dark Angel.
Copyright: Sarah Diaz 2008
Chapter 1: Safety
Everything hurt. Hurt a lot. So much that she could barely move, let alone walk. But she was a tub-child, a transgenic, trained to ignore her own body failing her, trained to black out the pain, no matter how excruciating it was. Then again, she hadn't stuck around, so she did feel the pain. But ten years of escaping and survival alone on the outside had none the less taught her to ignore it enough in order to get herself to safety, at least as long as she was still conscious and able to walk. Or perhaps it was just her screwed up freak DNA that no matter how you've grown up, it's just there.
For now, she was conscious and she was able to walk, albeit slowly and unsteadily as it might be, so she walked, her entire focus on moving one foot in front of the other, keeping out of sight as much as possible - and find safety, find help.
Her being in this much pain, had brought forward the animal full front in her and every action, every thought and every decision was ridden solely by instinct. An instinct that was now driving her forward, tiny, slow step after tiny, slow step, following the red beeline in her narrowed mind, ever since she had picked up the faintest whiff of his scent upon making it back into the city, barely. She had been ready to collapse by then but once she had caught that whiff, it had given her a last surge of strength, enough to enable her to continue her slow, painful way.
Ever following that scent, her instinct overwhelmingly telling her that at the end of this beeline, there would be safety, there she could finally let go and succumb to the most welcome, painless darkness while she would be taken care of, find the help she needed.
She just had to continue to put one foot in front of the other.
"So there she is, the most gorgeous woman you can imagine and my blind is just blank while she is just waiting for me impatiently to say or do anything, but by the life of me, I just can't form a single thought let alone a word. I'm so stupid," Sketchy whined, leaning against his locker with an almost pained expression, looking desperately at Alec. "But, Dude, she was wet and naked. What real man wouldn't lose his speech at such a sight?"
Alec smirked, deciding to not pointing at himself. Instead he nodded compassionately. "I hear you, man. So, did you give her the package after all?"
"Yeah, eventually I managed to remember it and held it out - still saying nothing though, so I don't have the signature," Sketchy sighed, grimacing.
His eyes lightening up with interest, Alec smiled his best 'get-me-what-I-want' smile. "Well, I can go get it for you, if you want."
Unfortunately, Sketchy, despite everything, was still a man and therefore a bit more resistant against that lethal smile of Alec - especially when he was also still as horny as he was. So he just snorted. "Yeah, right. I think I'll pass on that one. If anyone is going to get laid by getting that signature, it will be me, Dude."
Alec offered a shrug, still smiling. "Just offering you to save another round of humiliation." Because really, if that chick was as hot as Sketchy claimed her to be, she was way out of his friend's league. But she might just be in his league.
"I'll risk it," Sketchy just answered dryly, pushing away and grabbing himself a new packet on his way out.
Chuckling, Alec let him go. He had memorized the address of the hot chick from the delivery receipt Sketchy had waved around long ago anyway.
He turned around, ready to head out himself, when he came face to face with Original Cindy. A very riled up Original Cindy, as he noticed after half a second.
"Have you seen Max lately? Do you know where she is?"
Raising an eyebrow, he smirked. "Now why should I know where our lovely Maxie is? Shouldn't you rather ask roller boy instead?"
"Can it, Alec, I'm serious. She hasn't come home in a week, she's not answering her pager and that's just not like my boo," OC snapped at him though.
He sighed. "She's probably on one of her precious Eyes Only missions, OC. It can't be the first time she dropped off for a view days. And you know she's unlikely to check in with me before she does anything," he added, giving her a poignant look.
But hell, it sure was no secret what the ever knowing and saint Max thought of him. Not that he minded. Much. He was screwed up, no doubt about that. But every transgenic was that, so he wasn't particularly special in that department. He just thought that their 'rescuer' was more screwed up herself than she wanted to admit - perhaps even to herself.
After all, despite all her efforts, she was still one of them and always would be. Even if she was a 09er.
Then again, sometimes he thought that the ten years on the outside had maybe screwed her up more than what Manticore would have been able to do to her over the years. It sure had screwed up his twin, no matter what Max said about him. And there were things that Max was just ridiculously stupid about. Like her prudish ways. Like her reluctance to use guns. Like trusting no one completely, not even members of her own pack. Like having this completely weird sense of morality, fed by his high mighty majesty Eyes Only.
"No, she's not. She was heading out to the woods to..."
OC's abrupt stop and slightly darker tone of skin her cheeks took on brought Alec's eyebrows up in interest. "To what?"
"Spend some frustration," OC ditched his question, then narrowed her eyes at him. "It doesn't matter anyway. What matters is that she said she'd be back in three, four days and now she's four days overdue, without her leaving a word or something. I'm telling you, something's wrong with my boo."
Alec frowned, unease settling down in his stomach. OC hadn't bad instincts for an ordinary and it really wasn't much like Max to head off like that, he guessed. But still... "Maybe Logan contacted her a few days into her - vacation to send her on a mission."
But OC shook her head. "Then she would have called you for back-up."
At that Alec laughed, sarcastically. "Sure."
Annoyed, OC slapped him upside down his head.
"Stupid boy. When was the last time she went on a mission without you, huh?" OC asked, glaring at him. "My boo knows better than to risk herself if she can help it, with you around now."
Thinking of, it really had been a while since Alec had heard about her doing a solo mission. And they had spent more time together lately as well, ever since his arrest for murder and their little heart-to-heart over Ben. Also, with time like these and all the mutant fear going around, you just had to had the back of each other. Still... "What exactly do you want me to do, OC? She hasn't said anything to me, I have no idea where she could be and I wouldn't know where to start looking anyway. There are kind a few woods around Seattle where she could have gone to, in case you forgot."
For a moment OC's face fell, but then she shook her head. "Then think of something. Just do something, put that engineered super brain of yours to good use for a change," she snapped, giving his head another smack before turning on her heel, heading out.
Rubbing the back of his head, he stared after her, glooming. Great. And just what was he supposed to do now? Go for the woods, calling Max's name over and over again? Okay, perhaps he could pick up her scent after all, but then he'd still need to know to which woods exactly she had gone to. He hadn't been kidding about the many woods out there. And after a week, it would be questionably if her scent still lingered around anyway.
What the hell had Max headed for the woods for anyway? If she really had only wanted to spend some frustration, she would have just taken it out on him or anyone else stupid enough to cross her way. And as she had killed his twin in the woods close to Manticore he doubted she'd just go on a trip into the woods for fun. Not to mention the trouble to get in and out through the security gates. So what else could have driven her to the woods?
It had to be a mission after all.
And why exactly was it his problem that Maxie had missed the curfew anyway? Without Max he'd never let himself talk into these stupid Eyes Only missions. Okay, maybe they were for a cause he could respect, but he still thought Logan an opportunistic bastard to guilt Max into doing them for him. At least that is how it seemed to have started in the beginning, from what he had gathered. Well, if it just had been that, maybe he could accept roller boy's decision to use a super woman soldier/cat burglar for his own agenda. But Logan was supposed to love Max. Now, he hardly was an expert, but if you really loved a woman, then why did you send her out onto dangerous missions time and time again?
Because they were dangerous, not every one, but most of them. And especially now with the secret out on transgenics it was just an unacceptable risk. As if Max hadn't already enough on her plate with her resolve to help and protect all those transgenics out there with that freak snake cult doing its best to destroy them all and Max in particular.
He had tried to talk sense into her, but of course she hadn't listened to him. Why should she have, after all, he was just her annoying and screwed up breeding partner Alec from Manticore, having helped her infect roller boy with that killer virus that allowed no touch between them and oh yeah, he had also tried to kill her and Joshua. Among other things. But really, hardly things to held up against him ages later.
They were pack now after all. And he did have her back on all those stupid, unnecessary missions, hadn't he?
So this was so not his problem. Most likely, Max was going to skin him alive if he messed up one of her holy missions by go looking for her and perhaps bust her cover or something like that.
But... What if it wasn't a mission after all and the reason for her delay was indeed trouble? And any trouble that could hold up this fiercy transgenic spit-fire for days like this was serious bad trouble. Perhaps she was even hurt and now out there all alone, unprotected...
Contemplating that for a moment with a slightly faster beating heart, he yanked out his cell phone with a growl and dialed the least favorite of his numbers in his address book.
Having lost his good mood, Alec came straight to the point, unwilling to talk to the annoying ordinary longer than necessary. "Yo. Did you send Max on any of your missions lately?"
There was a beat of silence on the other end. "Why?" Logan finally asked, tightly.
Alec suppressed an eyeroll. "Look, just answer the damn question. I can't find her. OC says she hit the road for a few days. Usually, that means she's doing something for you."
Again, Logan waited quite a moment before answering. "No. I haven't seen her or talked to her in a while." His voice was bitter when he said that, and for a moment, Alec paused, frowning. Trouble in paradise again? "You think she's in trouble?"
Forgetting about Max and roller boy's screwed up relationship, Alec rubbed the back of his neck, worry settling in more and more. Now that that was cleared, he was almost certain that Max indeed was in trouble. It would also explain the uneasy feeling he had had and had ignored the past few days, coming to think of it. He had been more on guard than usual, sensing that something was wrong. He hadn't thought it was Max though that was the one in trouble. Stupid. But then again, this whole pack shit was still so new, he just didn't know all the rules yet. And now was not the time to try to figure them all out. "Maybe. Please see if you can find out something. Best start with anything in a twenty miles radius around Seattle, especially the regions close to the woods," he ordered, the soldier in Alec automatically taking over as it usually did when Alec was driven into a corner, attacked - or scared.
Logan didn't seem to mind - or notice. "Okay. I'll call if I find anything."
Frowning, Alec ended the call, putting his cell away. While Logan did his thing, he wanted to talk to Joshua. The big guy may know something about Max, after all she confided pretty much into him. And he needed to talk to OC again. He needed to know why Max really had left for the woods. Maybe that would help him determine her last location and from there on, he might be able to pick up her sent, leading him to her.
Shouldering his bag, Alec snapped up the first packet he could see and headed out himself.
Cursing Max and her stubborn, stupid independence all the way to Joshua's house.
Joshua's dog face appeared from behind the couch, lightening up. "Medium fella!"
Despite his worry, Alec smiled, coming forward. He couldn't help it, the animal in him just loved being part of a pack, however small and more or less unacknowledged that pack may be. "Got you some goodies, big fella," he said, putting down the bag with meat he had picked up on the way over.
If possible, Joshua's face lit up even more. "Thank you, Alec! Joshua will make dinner for everyone again then! Alec coming too!"
"Sure thing," Alec nodded, though he did hope the big guy wouldn't invite Logan again this time. That guy just was no fun and the party killer in person. Then though he turned serious. "Listen, have you seen or talked to Max lately?"
Joshua nodded. "Little fella came by some days ago. Said she'd leave for a while. Would come back soon though." He looked at Alec and a worried shadow fell over his eyes. "Little fella in trouble?"
Alec shook his head. "I'm just looking for her right now because she's a bit overdue. No need to worry yet," he told Joshua, not feeling not worried at all though. Plus, part of him was kind of annoyed and perhaps even a bit hurt that apparently Max had told the whole world that she was leaving but had neglected telling him as well of course. If she had, he could have asked her where she was heading to or could have just gone with her and now they wouldn't all have to go out of their minds with worry and having no clue where to look for her. He sighed. "Did she mention anything about where she was headed to?"
"Woods," Joshua nodded.
This time, Alec did roll his eyes. Great. "Any special woods?"
Joshua denied and Alec cursed slightly. "Damn it! Why couldn't she just tell me!" he muttered, grudgingly.
Stupid Max and her damn stubbornness! She was so going to hear an earful when they got her back!
"Little fella couldn't. Would have been bad idea," Joshua answered, of course having heard Alec's grumble.
His head snapping up, Alec narrowed his eyes. "What? Why? What do you know?"
Startled, Joshua sniffed the air like always when he was nervous, shifting uncomfortably on his feet. "Max was going into heat. So Max left city, avoid the males." His eyes were suddenly heavy on Alec. "Medium fella too."
His eyes widening, Alec stared back at Joshua. "Shit! She was going into heat?"
No wonder she had fled town. Every last male with enhanced noses would have been all over her, especially the X-5s. Him included. Hell, probably especially him. All caught up in heat pheromones, ordinary boyfriend or not, bitchy Max or not, he doubted he would have let anyone else claim her but him. The thought alone evoked a low growl deep in his chest. Max was pack, his pack. And she sure as hell wasn't his sister. Oh no, he wouldn't have let anyone else have her.
But them claiming or even worse, mating during her heat would indeed have been a marginally bad idea.
Still - he couldn't believe that he hadn't noticed her going into heat. It wasn't as if that happened bing bang boom. There were signs, giving everyone a chance to prepare. Like Maxie leaving for the woods or Joshua smelling it on her. Like he should have too. But... thinking about it, he actually hadn't seen Max in the three days before she had left.
Maybe, she had already avoided him in precaution.
Yeah, that would make sense.
Looking out the window, Alec thought over these new facts. "The cycle should have been over for a few days by now though."
Joshua nodded. "Little fella not back yet?"
"No," Alec answered quietly, then forced himself to shrug. "Maybe she met a hunk to enjoy her heat with after all and they are now still enjoying the afterglow," he suggested, but his heart wasn't in it. It wasn't even that hard to suppress the growl he felt like again at that particular thought.
Joshua too just gave him a dubious look.
"Yeah, I know," Alec nodded, patting Joshua's back. "But don't worry. Max can well look after herself, you know that. I'm sure she's okay."
He hoped so.
"Alec looking for little fella?" Joshua asked, turning expectant eyes onto him.
Briefly, Alec wondered since when everyone seemed to mistake him for Max's keeper, but he nodded anyway. "Sure, I'm looking for her. She'll be back soon."
Relaxing visibly, Joshua patted Alec's head - or attempted to as Alec quickly ducked away. "Hey! Men don't pat other men on their head, Josh, how many times do I have to explain that to you? Not all of us have so much dog in us as you!"
Joshua smiled and held up his hands. "Alec goes find Max now," he prompted.
Grumbling, Alec went for the door. "Yeah, yeah, I'm already on my way. Jeez..."
Once paddling away from Joshua's house on his bike though, he turned serious. He didn't like the thought of Max out there alone, in the throes of heat none the less. What had she been thinking, heading out alone like that? Who knew what lured out there in the woods and on the worst of her heat cycle, Max would just be helpless against any male attacking her. Even less did he like the fact that she hadn't come back yet. She should have. If she wasn't on a stupid Eyes Only mission and hadn't hooked up with another male (and that just wasn't an option. Not this X-5 woman, heat or no heat), then what the hell took her so long?
The soldier in him recognized that it probably meant that she simply couldn't return, either because she was too hurt or because she had been captured, but the human in him shied away from that conclusion. He suddenly realized that he had come to depend on Max, and the thought of losing her now...
It terrified him.
By the time he got back to Jam Pony, he had already decided that he was heading out to the woods himself, the sooner the better. Actually, he probably would already be on his way but he first wanted to talk to Original Cindy again. He was sure that she had known just why exactly Max had left and maybe, now that Alec knew the real reason also, she would tell him if she knew of a specific place Max would have gone to. Knowing Max he couldn't believe she's just head for the woods if she hadn't a real good reason to think she'd get over her heat there relatively unharmed. Probably, she had found herself some sort of isolation cell, keeping males out and herself in.
He still thought that it had been a stupid risk to go out alone though, even if he couldn't really think of who could have protected her properly, should something happen. An ordinary hardly fit that job description, they hadn't any female transgenic hanging around and he wasn't sure just how unaffected Joshua may be, exposed to the full load of heat pheromones. Transhumans could resist them more, at least if they lacked all the overwhelming cat DNA in their cocktail, but they weren't immune against the pheromones either. Plus, getting the big guy past the security gates would be a nightmare.
That he was out of the question was self-expletory, him definitely one of the reasons why Maxie needed to lock herself away, far away from him.
Still... If things continued to go downhill with the transgenic situation and the familiars, they somehow needed to find a safer solution for Max. That would be a real bitch though, he could already tell as much.
Or course, there was a very simple solution, he just doubted that always-pissed-off-with-him prudish Maxie would ever go for that one. Besides... To be honest, while he sure wouldn't mind to do his undeniable gorgeous and hot savior from big bad Manticore and Obi-Wan of this crazy outside world once in a while, he wasn't so sure if he wanted risking ending up mated with said bitchy transgenic.
Sure, copulating during a heat cycle didn't lead to an automatic mating, Heaven forbid, though while the cycle lasted, it imitated mating behavior. But repeatedly copulating during heat cycles, like every time, with the same partner - well, that could lead to a more permanent bonding. Which inevitably would be the case if Max would ever go for that solution to the heat problem.
But of course she wouldn't, so no need to worry about such a ridiculous worry.
Though he really didn't know what else they could do about this very special problem, courtesy of their fucked-up origin in a lab.
It hadn't been pretty when the first X-5s had gone into heat, catching the guards and doctors and commanders plus of course the X-5s totally unprepared, having no clue what had happened. Most of those first victims hadn't survived the following testing and exploring in order to find out what was going on with their prime soldiers or how to stop or at least control it. Alec luckily had been on one of his first outside missions at that time, otherwise... He was Alpha, after all, always had been, so most likely he would have ended up as one of those test subjects as well.
In the end, Manticore had found some solutions, like strict isolation and closely monitoring every female's cycle. After a few years and several mishaps during missions having gone FUBAR, resulting in females going into heat while on missions and especially when teamed up with any males, resulting even in some mating bonds not to mention pregnancies, Manticore had started to carefully try to train the transgenic to control the animalistic instincts, triggered by the overdose of pheromones the female in heat produced. It was only semi-successful, resulting in the insight that no transgenic, Alpha or not, was able to resist on the spike of the heat cycle. But before and after, some of the strong ones, mostly Alphas, could resist to at least some point.
It was a bitch of a struggle though, one he was glad he hadn't had to undergo lately.
And if Maxie had come back as she was supposed to, he probably would thank her for sparing them both the madness heat descended on them poor but always fine X-5 asses.
But she hadn't, had she, worrying them all to no end and back, bringing forth just how dangerous her solution to the heat problem with all the transgenics on the lose indeed was.
Where was she?
Finally reaching Jam Pony, he absentmindedly turned in his receipts to Normal, already scanning the room for Max's best friend, realizing after a moment of carefully sniffling the air that she wasn't in yet. Or anymore. Hard to tell in this place of coming and going.
Big question was if she had already called it a day or was just on another run. With a sigh, he headed over to his locker, quickly retrieving his emergency set he kept there. Some clothes, cash, weapon and a well-packed first-aid kit. He'd follow Cindy's scent and then head out of the city straight on.
His instinct was telling him that he'd better not lose much more time, so the animal in him drove him mercilessly towards those damn woods now. He was still human though, having been taught to mostly ignore the animal within him, so he couldn't just trust that instinct to lead him straight to Max - though he was tempted to do just that, skipping on losing even more time by first trailing down Max's roommate.
Snapping the lock to his locker back in place, Alec once again strapped on his bag to then take another good sniff of the air, trying to pick out OC's in the jungle of various scents, letting his senses fully develop. Usually he, like every other transgenic, had to shield himself pretty tightly to not get overwhelmed by the flow of scents, sounds and things, making it especially necessary in a city like Seattle. The downside of having super hearing, super vision and super smelling abilities. Unshielded, it could drive a transgenic crazy within days. Thankfully, most of the later series had been born with an automatic protection mannerism, some natural shields they all had. With training, they had early on learned to perfect those shields, only using the full extent on their enhanced abilities when needed. They still saw, heard, tasted or smelled a lot better than your average ordinary with the shields in place of course.
Like expected, the myriad of smells lingering around bombarded his nose but he was ready for it and immediately started to sort out and catalogue them, concentrating only on what he needed.
There was OC, although he could tell it was already a while since she last had been here, the trail of her scent already starting to fade again. He was just about to follow it when suddenly, his nose picked up an altogether scent, one far more dominant and important.
Oh yeah, it definitely was her. He'd be able to recognize her unique scent anywhere. And judging from how strong her scent was, she had to be relatively close. Relief flooded him, but it was short-lived because it took him only a couple of seconds before he could also pick up the unmistakable smell of blood.
His worry coming back full force, almost turning into fear, Alec whirled away, barely having enough sense to only start to blur outside of Jam Pony. Blindly following that beeline that led him to Max, Alec moved as fast as he could, barely dodging dozens of people, cars or other vehicles. Four blocks later, he finally made her out in the shadows, progressing awfully slow, barely still able to keep herself on her legs and everything in her stance and movements practically screamed of the pain she had to be in.
His fear spiking another few notches, he blurred towards her. "Maxie?"
Her lungs burned, her sides and chest were on fire, her vision long ago had turned blurry and was darkening with every step she took and it felt as every muscle, every bone ached. She had trouble to keep up her head, hell, she was struggling to remain vertical on every damn, excruciating step she took, but the scent she was focused on was growing stronger and stronger with every inch she dragged herself forward and it somehow kept her going, despite everything.
All she knew was that she couldn't give up now. That she couldn't and wouldn't collapse now. That soon, she would reach safety and until then she could move on.
She had to.
But it got harder and harder and she was more stumbling along than anything else anymore.
And she knew that her last strength wouldn't last for long anymore.
It didn't have to though. Just until...
Suddenly, the scent she had been instinctively following grew a lot stronger and was more rapidly approaching than it should, considering her own slow progress. Some part of her realized that he must be coming for her now, somehow having sensed her as well and she nearly sobbed in relief. She didn't though and she still kept moving forward, the urge to finally reach him still too strong for her to simply give up now. Besides, even if he was coming, he wasn't there yet. And as long as he hadn't reached her, she still wasn't safe.
She didn't know how long it took him to suddenly appear in front of her, calling out her name, but it didn't feel like that long. His fear registered even in her tangled, pain ridden mind, but she just didn't have the strength to reassure him anymore.
"Alec," she croaked out, barely audible for an ordinary hearing.
And finally, she let go, allowing the blissful darkness to claim her aching consciousness, falling soundlessly into Alec's arms.
Safe at last.
(Author's Note: Okay, so I know I definitely should not start yet another story. Really, really not. Let alone entering yet another fandom with this one. But I just can't resist this one and the way I see this story, it could be the end after each chapter I'll post. But it can also continue. For now I have two chapters and we'll see from there on. So I hope you enjoy this story and let me have a little fun with Max and Alec.)