Toys for Tots
Disclaimer: Yeesh. Not mine. So not mine. How many times do we have to say that we're totally, but lovingly infringing on copyright?
Summary: It's Christmastime in Terminal City and Alec saves the day.
I wrote a little Christmas one-shot for SN and it occurred to me that it was only fair for Max and Alec to have one of their own. This is set after "Loose the Hounds," I guess, but… heck, you can set it after any of the stories you like… Max and Alec are together, just still in a bit of an awkward stage - ahem - which seems to be where I leave the poor pair at the end of about every story, doesn't it…
Oh… This is the biggest, schmaltziest pile of Christmas fluff imaginable… So, fair warning…
Alec stood atop the building looking past the main yard and the gates and out over the Seattle skyline. It was snowing and the blanket of white covering the city made it somehow not as ugly, not as threatening, despite the fact that it was still dangerous for a transgenic to step more than a foot outside the fence.
His eyes traveled over the two armed guards on sentry duty near the front gate, knowing there was another pair of guards out of sight as well just in case the ordinaries decided to take out the two visible ones. Someone had strung up a few lights along the main gates to make their prison a little more festive. 'Tis the season, blah, blah, blah…
"There a reason you're scowling at the cheerful Christmas lights?"
Alec had heard Max's footsteps coming across the roof behind him, but hadn't bothered to turn. He held out his hand, still low to his side, with his fingers splayed. After a few seconds, Max's hand slid into his and he allowed himself to relax. Max still preferred for him to make the first move. It gave her the option of accepting it or not and she felt more in control. Alec tried not to let it bother him despite that niggling fear that one of these days maybe Max would just turn him down flat. Logan was still in the good-guy business after all and they couldn't help running into him occasionally. But for today, Max had still accepted his offered hand. He had Max and Logan didn't.
"Alec?" Max's hand tightened around his.
"You? Scowling at the Christmas cheer?"
Alec nodded his head in the direction of the guards. "The merry little elves dancing at our gates have machine guns."
Max shrugged, then purposely bumped his shoulder with hers trying to jostle him out of his funk. "Even Santa probably has a security team. It's a rough part of town."
Truth be told, Alec wasn't sure why he was in such a mood. Normally he would be all over a bit of revelry. Even Max was in the Christmas spirit, smiling and joking with everyone. The last time Alec had seen Mole he'd been wearing one of those headbands with antlers attached. With his leathery skin, it made him look like a cranky, cigar-smoking reindeer with the mange.
But not Alec. He was feeling twitchy, like something just wasn't quite right, which was why he'd spent the last hour standing on this rooftop in the snow on the lookout for he didn't know what.
"You ready to come inside?" Max asked. "Or you wanna stand out here and freeze some more?"
"In a minute," Alec said absently, his eyes scanning the fence-line yet again. There was a news van with a few people milling around it just outside the gates. The networks took shifts now that the situation had calmed for the most part, but there was always a team there just in case the freaks did something freaky. Other than that there were a few other people, some just walking past, a few cops and military types in plain clothes who were always keeping an eye on things, others were crazies who'd permanently set up tents outside the gates to keep an eye on the 'hell-spawn' living among them.
"You know, Alec, the blue lips thing is kind of a turn-off, just so you know."
Finally, Alec turned toward her, taking in her beautiful hair dusted with snow, the city lights behind her creating almost a glow around her. She was wearing a heavy sweater, but no coat. She'd probably come up to get him, hoping he would just follow her back inside.
"Got a problem with my lips?" he said archly. He brought her hand up, placing a heavy, warm kiss across her knuckles, the barest touch of his tongue, before drawing back fractionally so that his warm breath could slide over her hand. "Maybe I should just keep them to myself then."
Alec looked up to see that her eyes had darkened and her breathing was slightly faster, and if that wasn't enough to make a red-blooded male want to go back inside, he didn't know what was.
A hint of movement in the courtyard caught his attention and Alec turned. In a flash, he took it all in, saw the disaster as it began to unfold. He saw the homeless bum by the fence, who'd been wandering back and forth for a couple of days. Alec finally recognized him now, now that it might be too late, remembered seeing him on the news, but without the disguise.
Alec ran. He dropped Max's hand and he ran.
Max blinked in surprise. One second Alec was in front of her, holding her hand, doing an excellent job of making sure she stayed warm despite the temperature outside, and then he was gone.
She watched in horror as he sprinted for the edge of the roof and simply dropped over the side. Max ran after him and looked down to see that he had fallen two stories and landed gracefully on his feet before once again taking off at a run. Max looked ahead in the direction he was running and saw two things. She saw a man, dressed like a million other homeless bums in the city leaning through a hole in the fence, a stuffed animal in his hand. Almost to him, a child was approaching hands held out to take the toy.
Max dropped over the side of the building, the impact sending a brutal shock through her body, making her bend her knees deeply as she landed. She raced after Alec who was already almost all the way across the yard.
Max watched the child, a girl, maybe three years old, take the stuffed animal. A smile spread across the man's lips, a genuinely evil grin, as the kid took the toy. Alec shouted, startling the child. She backed away from the man at the fence turning toward Alec, her eyes going wide as he barreled toward her.
Alec skidded to a halt in front of the little girl, throwing snow up at her. He viciously slapped the toy out of her hands and snatched her up. He turned on his heel, wrapping his arms around the child, and Alec ran, ran back toward Max.
"DOWN!" he screamed. "GET DOWN!"
Alec barely had the words out before the blast hit. He fell forward. She saw him put out a hand as he fell in an attempt to lessen the impact and keep from crushing the child in his arms. The next thing Max knew she was on the ground herself, knocked flat by the concussion from the bomb.
Max forced herself back on her feet, sparing only a second to decide she was unhurt. People were running everywhere, although the scene was eerily silent. There was shouting and commotion coming from outside the fence, but inside it, despite the amount of transgenics pouring into the yard there was no talking. They simply kept their eyes and ears open looking for the source of the problem. Once they saw Max was already there, several practically fell into formation waiting for orders.
Max looked toward the fence and saw that the sector cops who were permanently stationed outside TC were wrestling the bum to the ground. "I want the guard tripled," she bellowed. "Now, people. I want an extra squad patrolling the perimeter and the rest of you better get your asses inside. If there are any more of those things, I don't want anybody hurt."
There was a small group assembled around Alec, and Max quickly moved in that direction. They parted as she approached. Alec was struggling to his knees. He was using one hand to rise, but the other he kept very carefully at his side.
Alec shook his head as if to clear it, breathing heavily. He blinked and started to sway, but somehow managed to stay upright. "Is… is she okay?" he asked shakily.
The little girl was crying quietly. She rolled to her feet, transgenically graceful even at her age, and threw herself at Alec, wrapping her arms around his waist. Alec swayed again and had to prop himself up with his hand.
"Where's," Alec paused, visibly gathering himself, "where's Pigeon?"
Mole, who had appeared at Max's side, turned toward one of the others, a transhuman Max didn't know. "You. Make yourself useful. Find Pigeon and tell her the kid got loose again."
Max stepped closer to Alec and started to put her hand on his shoulder, but stopped when she saw the damage to his jacket. His back had been to the blast and had taken the brunt of it. "Alec?" she asked worriedly.
He held up a hand to stop her. "Just… just give me a minute," he said breathlessly. Alec brought his hand back down and rested it gently on the child's back, making soothing circles. Max had felt Alec do the exact same thing for her too many times now to count, knew the strength and the reassurance in those hands.
"Ca-" Alec closed his eyes briefly, his jaw clenched. "Callie, are… are you all right?"
Max didn't know how Alec knew the child or whoever Pigeon was, but at this point Max was used to Alec knowing pretty much everybody. For a sociopath, he was certainly Mr. Sociable.
The little girl nodded her head, still buried against Alec's chest. She shifted her arms still clasped around him and Alec winced.
"What did we talk about?" Alec said tightly. The little girl mumbled something against his chest. "What was that?"
Callie sat back, cross-legged in front of him with her head still down. "Stay away from the fence, stay out of trouble, do what Pigeon tells me." It sounded like an oft repeated phrase.
"That's… that's right." Alec swallowed and had to lean forward again, bracing a hand against the ground. Max noted that he was still keeping the other hand out of sight on the side away from her.
"Alec?" This time Max knelt beside him.
"M'fine," he said through gritted teeth. "S'Pigeon here yet?"
"I'm sorry, Alec," the little girl said, finally looking up at him. "I promised, but…"
"S'okay," Alec said, and Max might have believed him if she couldn't smell the blood. The child could too, and she started crying again. The fact that a three year old could smell blood and knew what it meant was as painful as anything else.
"I'll be good, Alec. Promise."
"S'good, Callie. S'good."
There was a flurry of movement as a very harassed looking young woman appeared, elbowing her way through the small crowd that had ignored Max's order to go inside. "Callie? Callie where are you?" The little girl jumped to her feet and flung herself at the woman who must be Pigeon. "Somebody wanna tell me what in the world happened?"
"Your brat got loose again," Mole growled, "walked straight up to the fence and accepted a bomb from a complete stranger. If Alec hadn't grabbed her, she'd be dead."
"Callie!" Pigeon said, horrified. She pushed the girl back, searching for injuries.
"We know the kid doesn't have any DNA from a bomb-sniffing dog at least," Mole muttered. "We were wondering since she keeps prowling around the fence with the patrols."
Max ignored them, all of her attention focused on Alec who was as gray as the dirty snow they were kneeling in. "Alec, can you move?" she asked quietly, but every pair of transgenic ears around them heard it anyway.
"Pigeon, take Callie inside," Alec ordered, steel in his tone. "Please," he added more gently.
"I'm sorry, Alec," Pigeon said, picking the little girl up to go. "She's a fast one. I turned my back and she was gone. She's just too curious."
"S'okay." Alec nodded, just barely in Max's direction. "Got one of those myself."
"This is touching," Mole grumbled, "but we need to take this inside. The newsies are already broadcasting live."
Max looked up to see a reporter standing in the bright lights of the camera crew. "Wonderful."
"Yeah," Alec bit out. "We needed more Christmas lights anyway."
Max moved around in front of Alec. "What's up with your arm?"
Alec gritted his teeth, his head bowed again. "Callie gone?"
"Didn't wanna scare her." Alec brought out the hand he'd been hiding.
His hand was a disaster. All of his fingers were broken and Max remembered Alec holding that hand out to keep from crushing the little girl as the blast knocked him forward.
"Didn't get my fingers flat when I fell. Kinda mashed 'em into the ground."
Alec closed his eyes and silently held his misshapen hand out toward her. Before either of them could think better of it, Max reached out and snapped the bones back in place. She could feel them grinding as she worked to reset them and knew she was causing him more pain, but Alec bit his lip and never uttered a sound, which was somehow worse.
"Done," Max finally said. "It's done."
She heard everyone around her sigh and realized she wasn't the only one who'd been holding their breath.
"S'my gun hand too," Alec panted. "Stupid," he said, real recrimination in his tone. "Stupid."
"Ok, now that we all agree Alec is stupid," Mole snapped, "can we please take this inside? The news crew is giving me hives."
Even now, the reporter was shouting questions, trying to get one of them to come talk.
"Can lizards… get hives?" Alec asked breathlessly as Max helped him to his feet.
"No, but they can mold if you morons keep me out in this wet weather any longer." His gentle actions, however, belied his harsh tone. Max took one arm and Mole took the other as they slowly walked Alec toward the apartment buildings.
"Moldy, huh?" Alec grimaced as the movement pulled at the injuries to his back. "Don't want that. You're already… rusty."
"I'm rusty?" Mole said indignantly. "Remind me how many times you've been shot?"
"Before or after… we got outta… Manticore?" Alec asked through a strained grin.
"Never mind," Mole grunted. "We don't have enough time for all of your disasters."
"You just don't want me… impressing Maxie with my… daring tales of… bravery under fire."
Mole snorted. "Didn't say you weren't brave. Said you can't duck worth a crap."
Alec slipped on a patch of ice and Max and Mole had to grab him to keep him from falling. Alec let out an involuntary noise, too close to a sob for Max's comfort.
"Are you two idiots finished sniping at each other?" Max asked to give Alec a second to regroup.
"Don't like me taking potshots at your boyfriend's manly prowess?" Mole shot back and Max knew he was doing the exact same thing, shifting the banter to her to give Alec time to decide whether or not he was going to pass out.
"Could you two," Alec gasped, "not talk about my prowess?"
Mole chortled and Max couldn't help a smile as they once again each took an arm and began moving forward.
Max sat on the bed with her back against the headboard. Alec was stretched out next to her, lying on his stomach. He was bare to the waist, his back covered in various mismatched bandages. He was resting his head on his arms, his face turned toward her, his injured hand carefully pillowed on a small bag of ice covered with a cloth.
Max looked down at him and ran her fingers through his hair. His eyes were closed, but she knew he was awake. The burns on his back had to be killing him, so she kept up the comforting, repetitive motion of her fingers in his hair to give him a little bit of soothing human contact. That and cats appreciated a little petting.
Max's eyes trailed back to the TV sitting at the foot of the bed. They'd gotten tired of people calling and saying Turn on the TV and having to trudge into the other room. It just saved a step when catastrophe struck.
The news was currently showing and re-showing video of Alec in action. The networks had placed several stationary cameras on buildings surrounding TC so they would have constant video in case something unexpected happened.
The news was now showing several different angles of Alec shouting and running toward Callie, followed by the explosion knocking everyone in the vicinity to the ground. Alec had only been a few running steps from the bomb when it exploded. The sight made Max's fingers tighten in Alec's hair.
"Wish you'd quit watching the news if it's gonna make you pull my hair out," Alec muttered.
"Sorry," Max answered quietly. She relaxed her fingers and brushed them through his mussed hair. Alec sighed contentedly and resettled his head on his arms.
The news people switched angles from one of the stationary cameras to another and showed the same sequence of events again. This time they got Alec jumping off the edge of the building. Max would have to remember that building was off-limits from now on if they wanted anything to be private. Alec jumped and hit the ground running, then mere seconds after that the explosion. The banner across the bottom of the screen said Christmas Miracle in big, bold letters. Max was inclined to agree. If Callie had still been holding it, the bomb would have killed her. There was no doubt.
"Max, I swear, I'm gonna turn that thing off myself."
Max took her hand away from him this time. Alec apparently didn't like that either. He pulled one of his arms from beneath his head and caught her hand with his. He kept his eyes closed, but drew her back so that her hand was tucked close to his face.
The news changed views again. This time it was better-quality video from the actual camera crew on scene. They had video of the police tackling the jerk who'd made the bomb. On one side of the screen they were showing a mug shot of him without the homeless guy disguise and now Max recognized him. He was the crazy guy who'd been on the news a week or so before, representing one of the many hate groups that had sprung up. He'd been demanding that the transgenics be destroyed by any means necessary. Alec must have recognized him and realized what was happening.
The video shifted again and now Max saw Alec, dazed and clearly in pain, trying to rise from the ground and hold himself up to keep from falling back on the little girl that he was still shielding with his body. After that he was obscured as others appeared to help including Max.
"That does it." Alec groaned as he released her hand and reached across her. He snatched the remote out of her other hand and shut the TV off just as one of the stereotypical news bimbos came on to comment on what had happened.
"Hey! I was watching that!"
"I know," he groused. "You were about to make sure the fingers on this hand matched the others." Alec put his arm around her and pulled her down so that she was lying next to him. Max snuggled closer and pulled the covers up against the cold night, mindful of Alec's back. He sighed and pulled her close. "Now stop worrying and try to get some sleep. It's late."
Max rolled her eyes. "Stop worrying, he says. Sleep, he says. Even if I wanted to I couldn't." She felt more than saw Alec smile, his lips brushing the skin of her shoulder. "What?"
"S'after midnight, Max," he said drowsily. "S'Christmas. Always get what you want for Christmas."
"I just want you safe, Alec. Safe and with me."
This time Alec stretched just slightly and placed a less-than-chaste kiss on her lips before once again settling beside her. "Good thing you bandaged me up, then," he said.
Alec pulled her tighter still and sighed as he began to drift off. "You wrapped me." He smiled drowsily, and it was distinctly naughty. "Go to sleep. I'll be better in the morning and you can unwrap me then."
"You sure I deserve a present?" Max asked, feeling sleep begin to tug at her as well. The adrenaline was gone now, leaving only relief and exhaustion behind. "Not sure I've been a good girl."
"Naughty or nice, Max," Alec murmured. "You're all mine."
"Merry Christmas, Alec."
"Merry Christmas, Maxie."
And a very merry Christmas to all of you! Hope you enjoyed this and thanks for reading!