Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel, but I'd like to, and it's the thought that counts, right? ;-)
A/N: Thanks for the reviews, everyone, they're very appreciated! You all rock, and here's another chapter! Hope it's to your satisfaction.
Quip scraped her spoon around the rounded sides of the bowl. Technically, the bowl didn't have sides. It was spherical in nature, and spheres had no sides, but there was no other way to describe the boundaries of the ceramic dish. She had devoured the bowl of chocolate goodness that Logan had placed in front of her, but that didn't mean she wasn't paying attention to what the others were talking about in Logan's office. They thought they could distract her with sugar and cream and putting hallways and some walls between them, but she was an X8. Multitasking and eavesdropping were a part of her DNA.
"So there was no way you could've kept Krenski alive?" Logan was asking for the third time. It was her experience that Ordinaries' memories weren't as good as transgenics, but Logan should've remembered an answer that he had already heard twice. He seemed intelligent enough for someone who didn't have enhanced mental faculties.
"Nope," Alec answered. She heard him take a sip of coffee. "Look, I got Quip, killed some baddies and left. I wasn't too concerned with keeping him alive at the moment."
Quip sniffed at her ice cream bowl. There was officially nothing left worth having, and she was satisfied. Max had given her three scoops of metropolitan, and Alec had let her put on as many toppings as she wanted. She had stayed away from the chocolate syrup, though. She had a feeling she wouldn't be wanting that for a while.
"How do you think she's doing?" She could almost feel Logan glance at her through the rooms. Why was he worried about her? She was fine. If she had had more time, she would've gotten out of that chair by herself, but it was okay that Alec had shown up. Not that she really needed him to, it was just good to have back-up when you were in a bind like that. She usually worked in pairs or teams anyways, back in Manticore, so having someone else to work with was second nature.
"She's fine," Alec said, his tone light but cool, "Ready to go off to happy joyful family land whenever you want to ship her off."
Quip drew her shoulders up and tapped her fingers on the counter. Oh, yes. She had sort of forgotten about those people in Canada, the ones who wanted to give her a puppy and find friends for her and let her live in their house without knowing what she could do. She had killed men tonight. It didn't really bother her. Well. It bothered her a little bit, but that would pass. They were bad, very bad, and they were going to hurt Alec and they were going to hurt her. She had acted in self-defense. But these people wouldn't really understand that, and they wouldn't even know about it. Logan wasn't going to tell them what she could do.
Slipping out of the chair, Quip picked up her bowl and spoon and went to the sink. She wasn't ashamed of herself. How could she be ashamed when she could outrun a bullet and break a grown man's neck and pick out a certain target's breathing pattern in a crowded room? She liked the way she was made, even if she was just a prototype.
And if she went to Canada, she wouldn't be able to go to Joshua's every day. Quip liked going to Joshua's house and looking at the old things there; she liked sneaking around the basement and poking around in stuff she didn't know the name for. She liked reading the stories and poems in the dusty books, and she liked when Joshua made mac and cheese. Quip put her dishes in the sink and then climbed up on the counter so she could wash them with water. If she went to Canada, she might never see Joshua again, or at least not unless she was a lot older and could track him down.
"What do you want to do with her, Alec?" she heard Max ask. Quip ran hot water over the bowl and watched the last scrapes of ice cream melt off and drip into the sink. "What exactly is your plan, if she doesn't leave? Are you going to raise her?"
"Is it that terrible of an idea?" he replied. She rubbed a washcloth absently over the bowl as she focused on what was being said in the office. "She takes care of herself most of the time—"
"Oh, so if she couldn't do that, you wouldn't want her?" Max sounded very angry, but Quip didn't understand why. Quip prided herself on being independent and doing things on her own. She had been without supervision for months now, and she believed that she had proved herself to be a good self-regulating agent. She had been clothed, fed and sheltered most of the time, and she made due when she wasn't. She didn't need someone hovering over her all the time.
"That's not what I'm saying, Max," Alec said, "She's going to feel out of place with those people. She doesn't like being coddled. She isn't used to hugs and kisses and stuff like that."
"But she could get used to it," Max replied, "It's learned behavior. She'll like it when she learns it's good and normal."
"Quip's not normal." Alec laughed, but it didn't sound like he found anything particularly funny. "No matter how much you try to turn her into some kind of dress-wearing, lollipop-licking, ponytailed little girl, that's not going to be her."
"That isn't fair to her," Max said, "You just don't want to give her up because you think you have some sort of claim on her."
"Personally, I think I do," Alec responded, "But besides that, it doesn't matter if it's fair or not. It's life, and I think she understands that more than you do. Try to put her into that house with those people, and she's going to go nuts one day. She won't want to keep that secret forever."
"Might as well give her the chance," Max said.
"Just because that's what you wanted when you were little doesn't mean it's her one wish, too, Max."
"I should smack you—"
"She's not really old enough to comprehend the life changes," Logan said quietly.
"That so?" Alec asked, "Why don't you ask her? It's her future. You won't even have to catch her up to the discussion. She's probably been listening this whole time. X8 ears and everything, you remember."
There was a silent pause, enough time for Quip to turn off the water, slip down off the counter, and hurry back to her seat at the counter. She picked up a small bottle and started turning it over and over, watching the dark liquid inside fill the empty spaces as she turned it.
"Quip?" It was Max, still sounding annoyed but also apprehensive. Maybe if she stayed quiet, they would think that Alec was wrong and she hadn't been listening. But part of her wanted them to know. She wanted them to know that she could hear them talking about her when she couldn't talk back, and she didn't really like it. After a moment, she pushed away from the counter and padded down the hall, her socks scuffling on the wooden floors. The door opened just as her hand touched the doorknob.
Logan was sitting at the computer desk while Max leaned on the wall beside him. Alec was the one holding the door, a self-satisfied look on his face. Quip noticed the glances that Logan and Max exchanged as she stepped into the room, staying close to Alec. He seemed to be on her side in this, or at least that's what she thought. Not going to Canada seemed like the best option.
"So, you've been listening in?" Logan asked, a slight smile on his face.
She nodded. No point in lying.
"Quip, this is a big decision," Max said, "A really big one, with a lot of consequences down the road."
"I know," she said. She flicked her eyes up at Alec, but he was staring ahead, almost glaring at Max. "You want me to go live with those people."
"It'd be better for you." Max sighed and brushed her long, straight, pretty hair back from her face. Quip hoped that one day she would have long hair like that, even if short hair was easier to look after. "You'd be safer up there, away from the U.S. government, and the Piersons would love you. They'd let you have a real life, one where you don't constantly have to worry about people coming after you." Max looked down at her. "Do you understand that?"
"Yeah," she said, "They sounded nice, on the phone." She glanced over at Logan now. "They won't know I'm an X8."
"No," Logan said, shaking his head, "It's safer for you and for them if they don't know what you are. That way they can safely tell people that you're just a regular adopted kid and not be lying."
Quip shifted her weight from foot to foot and looked up at Alec. What was he thinking? She wished for a split second that she had some Psy-Ops in her so she could tell what he thought about this. Did he want her to go? Not that it really, truly mattered, but if she knew for certain that he wouldn't mind her staying in his pantry and keeping her place, she might be able to use that as an argument.
"You'll have the chance to grow up like any other kid, with a family and everything," Max said, and there was a far-off look in her eyes that Quip didn't know how to interpret.
"Quip." She looked at Alec again. He was pointing a finger at her, at the back of her neck, where her barcode stood out beneath her short hair. "No matter what, you'll never grow out of that." He was entirely serious now. There was no glint of humor in his eyes or a twitch of a smile around his mouth. "Even if those people never figure out what you are, you'll always know, and you'll always feel it." He looked away from her now, turning toward Max. "She won't be able to pretend forever."
Max scowled at him, crossing her arms over her chest. "She can tell them when she's older."
"Oh, so it won't matter if they kick her out of the house?"
Logan sighed loudly, and Quip glanced over to find him looking at her. She didn't want this attention. She didn't mind attention when it was on her terms, but right now, she would prefer if everyone found something else to stare at. "Quip, here's the deal. Seattle isn't safe for you right now. There are people after you, more than just Krenski and his—"
"I know," she interrupted, "There's White."
"How did you—"
She shrugged, not wanting to admit that this wasn't the first time she had eavesdropped on their conversations. Alec huffed and rolled his eyes.
"Canada's not safe for her, either," Alec said, "It isn't like White couldn't cross the border, and oh, hey, there are wolves and Mounties in Canada, both equally intimidating. And moose. Don't forget the giant moose."
He was being sarcastic, Quip could tell. She shuffled her feet together and looked at him. Did Alec want her to stay or did he want her to go? She knew he didn't particularly want her to go or at least he wanted her to have a choice, but did he want her to stay with him? No that she needed to or anything, but it was convenient not having to switch locations every couple days or weeks, and she liked that he got food for her. And it was sort of nice, you know, having someone to watch TV with and someone to teach her to play the piano. Not that any of that really mattered, in the long run of surviving, but…it was sort of…cool…
Logan sighed and steepled his fingers together like that guy in black in the action movie she had watched with Alec a few nights ago. "Quip, I think it'd be better for you in Canada. Do want to at least give it a try?"
Quip glanced at Alec again. Maybe now he would tell her that she could stay in the pantry… But he only wrapped his arms tighter around his chest and looked out the window, a blank look on his face, though his jaw was tight. She didn't really want to go to Canada…but no one wanted her here. Not really. Max and Logan wanted her to go, and Alec wasn't saying anything. Maybe it would be better in Canada.
"Ok," she said quietly, looking at the boring pattern on the floor. Maybe she could go live in the mountains and not even bother with people anymore. People were complicated.