Summary: Tragedy strikes Terminal City, leaving Alec and Max with no one to fall back on but each other.
Disclaimer: Max and Alec aren't mine. Just borrowing.
So I was working on a sequel to Loose the Hounds (Honest!) when someone made the point that I had failed to deal with White appropriately in an earlier story. It's quite true. I was being a weenie. White's part of canon and I feel like I'm messing where I shouldn't when he needs to be offed. That and he's just never been part of the show I enjoyed. But, of course, once it was pointed out, my feverish little brain started working on this without me. I'll get back to the sequel eventually. (Honest!)
"Alec, will you hurry up?"
"I know you're in a lousy mood, Max, but could you tone down the 'let's-abuse-Alec' thing for two seconds? My ears are tired."
"Quit talking. Walk faster."
"I'm walking at exactly the same speed you are, Max."
"Are we?" Alec asked in mock-astonishment. "Cause I didn't pick up on that the last four hundred times you told me."
"Then why aren't you moving faster?"
"If I move any faster, I'll be blurring and that tends to tip off the natives about the whole transgenic thing," he answered through clenched teeth.
"We were supposed to be there two hours ago!"
"Max," he said in complete exasperation, "we had an emergency. Logan'll understand."
"That doesn't change the fact that we should have been there a long time ago!"
Max knew she was being unreasonable, but she was running on automatic right now. She was pissed at the entire world, needed to vent, and Alec just so happened to be the guy who was around. Granted, he somehow always seemed to be around these days, and granted she always seemed to be pissed at something or other.
It was one of the reasons she was happy she was going to see Logan. He patiently bore her ranting or tried to logically and calmly sort through whatever was bothering her. Even if Logan was going to tell them about some impending disaster, she could still enjoy the few minutes of relative peace and calm that Logan could provide away from TC. After the past few weeks, she was starting to think stress was her middle name and disaster was somehow tattooed on her forehead.
"Max, are you even listening to me?"
"Why do I even bother?" Alec huffed. "You drag me along because your boyfriend, and don't get me started on that again, has something that simply cannot wait, after hours of fighting an entire mountain of sewage, and let me tell you something, you so owe me a set of clothes, because I'll never be able to wear those again, and then you yell at me, and to top it all off, you don't even listen to me!"
"When you have something useful to say, I'll listen to you," Max groused.
"Something useful?" Alec said, and Max nearly groaned. Alec had that playful lilt in his voice that did not bode well for her sanity.
"You know… useful. Something that almost never comes out of your mouth."
"One," Alec said, and although she wasn't looking at him she could hear the grin, "I use my mouth for all kinds of useful things, not that you would appreciate it. Or maybe you would. You still can't touch Logan even though you two are back together again, which is just insane, by the way. You guys should see yourselves together. There's awkward and then there's you two. You have the chemistry of... Mole and... ok, pretty much everybody." Max shot a glare in his direction and Alec cleared his throat. "Where was I? Two! I say lots of useful things. All the time as a matter of fact. Not two hours ago, I yelled 'Get out of the way!' As I recall, that kept you out of the sewage while I ended up covered in it."
Max rolled her eyes, trying not to smile. The sight of Alec covered in muck had been the highlight of the whole, literally, crappy day. The sewer line break had just been the latest in a long line of small, but very obnoxious disasters. This many transgenics suddenly moving into a relatively small area and trying to make it livable had resulted in more headaches than Max would have thought possible. In the middle of it all, Logan had called and asked her to come to Joshua's old house as soon as possible. Max had assured him she would be there as soon as she could after they got the current disaster cleared up.
She was looking forward to seeing him anyway. During the Jam Pony incident, they'd come too close to losing everything and it had made her realize how stupid she was to keep pushing him away. They could all die at any moment and she was wasting what little time she might have left refusing to let Logan share in it. They'd never even had a real try at being together and if she was going to die, she didn't want to go regretting that she'd never really given them a chance.
Once she'd told him that she'd made up her affair with Alec, things had been easier between them, not great, but better. Logan hadn't appreciated the lies, and he was still giving Alec the evil eye if he saw him anywhere near her, which was virtually all the time these days, but they were working through it. Sort of. In their own awkward, we're-ignoring-the-problem, sort of way.
On one hand, it was still painful, since they couldn't touch, but on the other, it was good just being able to tell the truth. Not having to pretend she and Alec were more than friends helped to ease some of the tension that constantly crept up and threatened to overwhelm her. And being around Logan was good for her. It was soothing being around someone who wasn't as royally screwed up as all of Manticore's people seemed to be. Sometimes she looked around TC and thought she was in charge of a zoo. Other times she thought it was closer to an insane asylum.
Going from just looking out for herself and occasionally helping out a few friends, to being in charge of dozens of people, all looking to her for guidance was more than she'd ever signed up for. Logan couldn't stay in TC because of the toxins, and therefore working things out was an even longer, drawn-out process, but the upside to being separated was the renewed hope she would find a cure. She had a bigger pool of transgenics to pull from now. Maybe one of them would know someone or could point her in the right direction. It wasn't much, but that hope was keeping her going.
Max tried not to be annoyed that Alec was coming along this time. Logan would be upset that Alec was there and thus would be all business. Alec, for his part, would no doubt obliviously suck up all the air talking the whole time she and Logan were together, but it couldn't be helped. Logan had said this was official transgenic business and it had sounded urgent.
Which meant they needed to hurry. They were already past late.
"You're still talking," Max said. "Hurry up."
Alec sighed. "Max, will you lighten up? He's probably gonna tell us about something oh-so-important that one of our people already figured out two days ago. We've got a couple of hackers that make Logan look like a 6 yr old with a calculator, and not one of those fancy calculators either."
Max just gritted her teeth, refusing to admit that Alec could easily be right. The last couple of tidbits that Logan had passed along had been old news. Max hadn't told Logan though. He was a good man who was trying to help them. She'd simply gotten him in contact with their own hackers so that they could coordinate instead of compete for new info.
Newly reminded how much she was looking forward to seeing Logan, Max sped up just a little, noting that Alec matched her automatically. She also noted that he'd stopped talking at last. He must have realized that she'd reached the limits of her patience.
A few minutes later, they finally reached Joshua's old house and stopped at the bottom of the front steps. For a second, Max looked around, afraid that maybe they'd made a mistake and gone to the wrong house.
The door was half-open, nearly torn off its hinges. Max started forward to just barge in, but Alec kept her back with a firm grip on her arm. Before she even realized what was happening, Alec was in front of her inching forward with a gun in his hand, raised and pointed toward the entrance.
Alec moved like she'd rarely seen. He moved like a soldier, gun at the ready, eyes watching like a hawk, searching for hidden dangers. He made no sound, a picture of lithe transgenic grace as he eased up the front steps and then inside. At some point Alec must have mentally catalogued points in the floor that would give away his position. If she hadn't been looking at him, she wouldn't have known he was there as he moved over the worn wooden floorboards that would have made noise had anyone else been walking over them.
Max followed behind him as Alec swept the main room before heading for the other rooms to clear the house and ensure they were alone. Max knew they were. The house felt empty. She allowed Alec to make sure, nevertheless. They couldn't be too careful.
She heard Alec's voice coming from the next room. It didn't sound right though. Alec was the poster-boy for bravado. This… he sounded… hesitant.
Max followed the sound of his voice and walked into the old kitchen. Alec was standing near the door, his back to the wall, so that when she walked in she was right beside him.
The first thing she noticed was that the room was a wreck. The table was in pieces. All of the other furniture was overturned. Logan must've had papers stacked on the table, because they were strewn everywhere along with whatever dishes had been out.
One particular place on the floor, she couldn't quite figure out what it was. Maybe Logan had been doing laundry. It looked like a heap of dirty clothes in the corner.
As her eyes studied the lump of clothing, it seemed to shift and move as her eyes fought to make something recognizable of what she was seeing. It just didn't make sense, that lump of clothes. The room smelled like blood. That didn't make sense either. There was nothing in the room that should make it smell like blood.
"Max," Alec said, his voice strained, "Max, I'm so sorry."
She turned toward him, feeling like she was moving underwater, and saw that he too was studying the odd pile of clothing in the corner. She turned back toward the corner and her vision seemed to swim, her brain refusing to make sense of what she was seeing.
Max forced her feet to move forward, closer to the thing in the corner. Blood stained the floor around it, but still the shapes refused to coalesce into a recognizable form.
She knelt on the ground beside it, not caring that she was kneeling in a pool of blood, barely noting that it was still slightly warm, but definitely cooling to room temperature.
Alec sank to his knees beside her. She saw that one of his hands was smeared with blood. He must have tried to feel for a pulse. There wouldn't be one though. Not with this amount of damage. A human couldn't sustain this kind of injury and live.
"We were late," Max whispered.
"Max…" Alec said worriedly. But Max couldn't look at him. All she could see was the man in front of her, lying in a pool of his own blood, battered nearly beyond recognition.
Well. Umm… If y'all are too ticked to read the rest, I won't bother, so… let me know, I guess.