Archive: Please ask!
Pairings: No romantic pairings, just friendship/family ones
Spoilers: 411 on the DL; Cold Comfort; Blah Blah, Woof Woof; The Kidz are Aiight; Pollo Loco; Hit a Sista Back; And Jesus Brought a Casserole; Designate This; Proof of Purchase; Some Assembly Required
Summary: Takes place after Some Assembly Required; Max and Alec take a road trip to visit Zack at his new home.
Author's Notes: This is my first non-poetry fic. Please R/R! I'll write more if/as people want it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Max, etc., or Dark Angel (I wish!!) but I like to watch them on tv. Please don't sue me for loving your show; I can't help it. :)
VIA MEMORIUS - VIAJE DEL CAMINO
Max glanced over at Alec as they drove, saw that he was sleeping, and sighed inwardly. He looked so much like Ben. Well, he looked exactly like Ben. He was a clone of Ben. Except Ben had never acted like Alec did- obnoxious, conniving, sarcastic. It was odd how two people could look so similar yet be so different. Ben had been sweet, so full of faith, but so lost... Alec didn't even grasp the basic principles of humanity, not really. But never mind. Ben was dead, and she didn't want to think about him. If she did, then she might have to remember how he died, and she couldn't handle-
Max fought the tears that were threatening at the back of eyes and focused on the road, the destination, the present. They were taking a road trip, she and Alec. To see Zack. Alec thought she was crazy, she knew that, but for once he was actually keeping his opinions to himself. She knew Alec knew that Zack was beyond important to her, though she also knew he couldn't understand why. That was fine with Max, as long as he didn't push the issue. And for once, thankfully, he actually wasn't.
They had taken Alec's convertible, because the last thing she wanted was to drive all the way across Washington with Alec yelling obnoxious comments in her ear while he held onto her. If she was to put herself in that situation, he might just fall off the bike. Forget that; she might just push him.
As she drove mindlessly along, Max thought back to how this road trip had happened. She'd been planning the trip for two months, ever since she'd watched that rancher wheel Zack down the hospital corridor and out of her life again. First she'd planned her trip in her mind, then out loud with Original Cindy. As much as Cindy didn't like Zack or want to see him again, she loved Max and she knew that her brother meant a lot to her. They had planned out the trip together, deciding to take Max's motorcycle on the sixteenth of July and ride it out to Zack's 'home,' which was up the coast of Washington, in a little town called Sedro Woolley, which was past Everett and not quite as far as Bellingham. on the other side of the state. Max had been growing more and more excited as the day they were to leave drew closer until, on July thirteenth, Cindy had shown up at Jam Pony for work crying. She'd received a phone call that morning from her sister in Olympia; it seemed her mother had fallen and broken a hip, and Cindy had to leave right away. She departed that afternoon, dashing all of Max's hopes in the process.
It wasn't that she needed someone to go with her, she had explained to Alec that night at Crash. It was just that she didn't want to go alone. Not for something as big as this; not without support. She would have taken one of her other friends with her, except that they didn't understand about her and Zack's complicated relationship, and they of course knew nothing of Manticore. And she couldn't take Logan, what with her virus and Zack's buried desire to murder him, a desire which might just become unburied if her brother saw Logan again. Then Alec proposed something that never would have occurred to Max had he not uttered the words.
"Why don't I go with you?" he'd said, taking a sip of his beer. "I know all about your past, and I could help you handle Zack if the need arises." His blue eyes were regarding her with their usual ambiguity, his emotions veiled as he took in the world in his calculating way, always looking for an opportunity. Or a danger- in that way, he actually reminded her of Zack, a comparison that didn't often suggest itself to Max.
"First of all," she'd said after staring at him in surprise for a few moments, "Nobody's going to be 'handling' Zack. If he remembers me, we'll deal with it, but no fighting. Besides," she'd added more quietly, "I haven't even decided if I'm going to actually talk to him." Alec had let that go for the moment and waited for something. When Max didn't say anything more, he'd smiled in that patronizing way she hated.
"And second?" he prompted.
"And second," she'd continued, not missing a beat, making him smile and almost roll his eyes, "Why would you want to come with me? I was under the impression you thought this was a stupid idea." She'd waited, but Alec had gazed at her for a moment before speaking, not belaying anything as usual.
"I said I'd go with you. If you don't want me to then just say so."
"Wow." Max had said, feigning surprise. "What an interesting way to avoid my question."
"It wasn't a question." A smile had pulled at the corners of his lips; she'd glanced away from him because when he'd done that he'd looked like- don't think about Ben, don't think about Ben, she told herself.
"Okay." She'd said, smiling at him. "We haven't got a chance to spend any quality time together. This could be fun." At this, Alec smirked.
"Quality time? Come on, Max, no water works, please. I'll have to suffer through enough of that when you meet up with your 'brother.'" she'd heard the sarcastic quotes around the word brother in his voice.
"Why do you think Zack is so hilarious?" she'd asked, both curious and annoyed.
"Because he's not your brother, Max." he'd said, fixing her with a look.
"He is in every way that counts." she'd answered softly. "I don't expect you to understand."
"What I don't understand is why you insist on labeling everyone. Why does he have to be your brother? Why can't he just be a guy named Zack who you busted out of Manticore with?" At this, Max had shrugged.
But now, back in the present, she reconsidered this question. Why did she label everyone as soon as they got close to her? Why was she always trying to think of herself as belonging to a family she really didn't have?
Max shook that thought away as soon as it came. They were her siblings; she didn't care what their DNA or anyone else said. It wasn't just some stupid thing she had just made up to comfort herself; they were a family- that was real. Her brothers were Zack, and Krit, and Zane, and- DON'T. Don't think about Ben, don't think about Ben. She quickly concentrated on her sisters; her sisters were Jace, and Syl, and Jondy, and Ting- STOP. But the thought persisted: Tinga. Tinga was dead. And Eva, and Jack. And Ben, the worst of all, dead by her own hands. Wouldn't she ever be able to forget that four of her siblings were gone?
Max's eyes filled with tears as she drove. She tried to think of something else, anything else, but she couldn't. She glanced over at Alec for a diversion, tried not to focus on his Ben-aspects, and found a smile slowly spread across her lips as she recalled a more humorous memory from that morning...
* * *
Alec had shown up for work late, his lip split and bloody, a gash on his forehead, and his leg in a cast as he hobbled in awkwardly on crutches. Sketchy and Herbal's eyes had filled with surprise when they'd seen him, but Normal had just sworn under his breath and put down the order slip he'd been reading. Max had hurried quickly over to Alec.
"What happened to you?" she'd asked, instantly afraid of Manticore coming after them again. Alec was a genetically engineered killing machine, just as she was, and he had ten years' training on top of her own. Anything that could bring him down, she wouldn't have a chance against. This was part of the reason for Max's concerned look when she reached him at Jam Pony. Another part had to do with the fact that she was fairly certain that Alec, given that he looked like he was in a lot of pain, probably would be too grumpy to go on their road trip. But one last part, she didn't want to admit, was that she was genuinely concerned about his condition.
"Alec, are you alright?" she'd voiced her concern again when he didn't answer her first question. He'd just gazed at her in a funny way, like he was surprised she was worried about him. Max had been irritated; she was showing the guy sincere concern and he couldn't even crack a smile of thanks for it? He'd leaned in close to her.
"How else do you think I'm going to get a leave of absence at this short of notice?" he'd breathed in her ear, instantly erasing all concern for him from her mind and alleviating her fears that he'd been jumped by an enemy whose strength she could not even begin to fathom. She'd given him a dirty look, but inwardly breathed a sigh of relief for more than one reason.
"Alec, what's this all about? You get into a fight with your pointy-headed friends again?" Sketchy asked him, smiling in his usual not-all- there amicable fashion. Alec had rolled his eyes at his coworker but otherwise ignored him.
"Normal." he'd said, limping convincingly over to his boss. "Can I have some time off? I think it might be a little hard to peddle a bike with this leg."
"How bad is it?" Normal had asked, eyeing his employee's injuries warily.
"Oh, I should be back to work in a month or so." Alec had said; Max had immediately reached over and given him a firm jab in the side. "Uh... I mean three weeks." Another prod in the kidney and Alec's sure smile faltered slightly. "Two weeks?" he'd said sheepishly, and Max, satisfied, didn't touch him any further. Alec's smooth, calm look had returned instantly. In the meantime, Normal was eyeing the two of them, perplexed.
"Two weeks?" he'd asked, surprise coming through in his voice.
"It's not that bad of a break." Alec had explained quickly, and Max had smiled, nodding her head. Normal had shrugged and started to walk away.
"Hey, Normal?" she'd called after him, causing him to stop and turn around wearily. "It's noon; I'm off now."
"Off?" he'd asked, looking as though he was about to lecture her on how many hours a full workday generally consisted of. Then he'd remembered, and frowned.
"Oh, is it the sixteenth already?" he'd asked and then, not waiting for an answer, he'd walked off, muttering things about broken legs and broken hips and losing three of his people in a four-day period. Max felt a little bad for him, but not that bad. She was going to see Zack, finally, at last, after all this time...
* * *
Alec stirred in his sleep, brining her attention back to the present, and her eyes back to the- wait a minute. Where was the road? And what was that rushing up-
Max swerved the car out of the way of the tree at the last second and Alec's face hit the dashboard, the wound he'd inflicted on his forehead that morning reopening.
"Ahhg!" he yelled, wide awake now, rubbing at his face and taking his hand away to see blood coating his fingers. "What the hell did you do that for?"
"Shut up." Max told him, annoyed that she'd allowed herself to lose her concentration but smiling a little too, in spite of herself, at the thought of having woken him up in such a fashion. Alec glanced at her a little warily, seeing the anger and humour mix in her face to create a bit of an unnerving look. Not in the traditional sense of the word, that he was scared; Alec would never admit to being scared even if he was. But that look was just a bit unsettling. Maybe she was tired; she'd told him she didn't need to sleep, but everybody, even transgenic soldiers, got tired.
"Do you want me to drive?" He asked, grinning at her.
"Shut up, Alec!" she said again, a little more seriously, turning to glare at him. Ever so slightly, the convertible edged into the other land.
"Uh, Max...?" Alec saw a huge semi coming their way, looming above them. It's horn sounded and he grabbed the steering wheel, wrenching the car back in the right direction, avoiding a second near-collision.
"I'd really like to drive now." he said much more amicably than he felt. Max gave him a look which shot daggers, and he found that even more amusing than their current situation. Don't laugh, don't laugh, if you value your life, don't laugh, he told himself, and succeeded in not doing so. Max was still glaring at him; the convertible was staying relatively straight now. He waited for it to edge off the road again.
* * *
"There, that's better." Alec said, smiling as he firmly gripped the steering wheel, genuinely relieved. Max resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at him.
"Shut up, Alec, or I'll kick your ass." she hissed, and he heaved a deep breath, mostly for show, glared at her out of the corner of his eye, and prepared to deliver a witty comment.
"Look, Max, I know you hate me and all, but I'm kinda getting tired of-"
"I don't hate you." she interrupted, sounding a little confused, cutting off the clever remark he'd been about to make. But he was too surprised to care, though he hurried to cover that up.
"Really." he resisted rolling his eyes at her. "Could've fooled me."
"Well, hate is a strong word." she said, shrugging. "You don't hate me, do you?"
"It's sort of hard to dislike someone who's so..." he looked at her and there was that unnerving wryness in his voice again. "Hot." She threw a disgusted look his way but smiled to herself before gazing at him thoughtfully. For a moment there she'd thought she had actually seen a little flicker of real hurt in his blue eyes.
All jokes aside, Max honestly couldn't decide if she liked Alec yet. What with her and Logan's lost cure and his obnoxious comments that never failed to annoy her, she didn't know how many redeeming qualities he really had, if any. But, she had to admit to herself, hating him was prevented by the fact that she loved him, even if she didn't really like him yet. Alec was an x5; of course she loved him. She may not have grown up with him and he may not have escaped with her and Zack and the others, but he was her brother just the same, as much as she hated to think of him like that sometimes- or, more specifically, all the time.
Of course, if she told him this he would try to cover it up with a joke or change the subject. And she wasn't too wild about the idea of telling him anyway. He certainly wouldn't understand if he didn't even think she should be calling Zack her brother.
Max realized she'd been staring at Alec a bit longer than necessary. She glanced away from him uncomfortably and noticed that her hands had suddenly become very interesting.
"I don't hate you." she said again, in a softer voice. Alec cleared his throat but made no other response, and Max glanced up at him for a fraction of a second to see his expression before turning back to her hands again. She stifled a sigh; his face had been opaque and unreadable.
"Can I have another french fry, please?" She asked after a moment, and he looked grateful for the break in the silence, being for the most part unaccustomed to emotional displays of any degree, even one this small. He passed her the takeout bag and then he turned back to the road once again, this time, she noticed in amused surprise, with a tiny smile on his lips.