The Rise of Taj
disclaimer: no ownage
Chapter III: Confessions and Funerals
Alec was standing a block away from Jam Pony with Taj leaning against his chest, her head nuzzled into the crock of his neck, sleeping peacefully, unaware her life was going to be changed forever. Alec had a problem. He had a daughter and he had a job. He couldn't- wouldn't leave his daughter alone, couldn't quit without loosing the sector pass and he knew limited parental figures. Okay, so he knew no parental figures, he knew people. Unfortunately, Logan was out of the question (no way in hell he was going to leave his kid with someone like Logan for a number of reasons). Josh, despite how much Alec loved the guy, had dexterity issues. The guy could barely hold a pain brush, no way was he going to look after Taj (Joshua had been disappointed to know that he could only see his 'Littlest Fella' when Alec was around). OC and Max had work same as he did as did Sketchy (no way in hell was he even considering Sketch though), and so that left no one.
Well…almost no one.
"Get a grip, 494," muttered Alec, glaring at the Jam Pony sign hanging outside the door. "You've taken out an entire army with a grin and a piece of bubble gum. Survived Psy-Ops and reindecoration and Max. This is a piece of freaking cake."
Taking a breath, Alec made his way into Jam Pony, catching OC's eye over by the lockers. She shook her head in understanding. Already people were starting to look at him funny, and Alec (who was nervous already), shifted Taj on her shoulder, ready to just bail and find a new job.
"Hey, Alec!" Alec grimaced as Sketchy walked up behind him, clapping him on the back. He felt his friend stop and move around until he was standing on his other side, staring at the baby Alec was holding.
"Ah, dude? What up with the kid?" Alec was saved from answering by Original Cindy, who walked up with her hands on her hips.
"Sketch, don't you have sumthan you need to be doin'? Like yo job?"
"Ah, hello? Alec with a baby? I think that takes precedence over Normal any day," said Sketchy, missing Alec's eye roll. He turned back to the better, more attractive man holding the small child and grinned. "So, you steal it or something?"
OC smacked him upside the head, while Alec just gaped at him. Seriously? Did he look like the type of guy to steal someone's kid?
"Fool, get outta here before OC has ta lay the smack down on your ass."
Sketchy grumbled something about his head already feelin' it and moved away. OC glared after him before turning back to Alec, her eyes softening at the sight of Taj.
"What's she doin' here, Alec?"
"I can't leave her anywhere," said Alec softly, turning his head to look down at his girl. "I want to keep an eye on her and Normal…well, I'm his Golden Boy. I'm pretty sure he'd take a bullet for me."
"You thought this through, sugar?" asked OC gently. "People 'll ask questions that you wont wanna answer. Normal included."
Alec shook his head. "It's the only way."
OC opened her mouth to try and veto his idea again when - speak of the devil - Normal bipped up to them. OC excused herself rather quickly, but stayed near by, keeping an eye on Alec and Normal. Taj gurgled in her sleep and settled further into Alec's shoulder. Normal jumped at the movement and stared, his mouth preparing to bip but going slack at the sight of his golden boy with a baby in his arms.
"Hey, Normal," said Alec happily, giving his boss his best, most dazzling smile, catching the Ordinary off guard. "I got a favor to ask. See, thing is, I need someone to watch my kid-"
Normal's sputtering cut him off. "Your kid?!"
Alec closed his eyes and sighed as every Jam Pony employee stopped what they were pretending to do to stare openly at them. Quickly trying to hide his grimace with another grin, Alec prattled on. "Yeah, I was wondering if you might be able to watch her-"
"That's your kid?" asked Normal, pointing at Taj. Alec frowned at him.
"Yeah," he said again, trying to keep the conversation on track without punching his boss in the teeth. "So anyways, what I was saying was maybe you could watch her while I'm off on my runs-"
"Your kid." said Normal once again, but looking far less shell shocked. "And you need me to watch her? Why?"
"Because if you don't then I'll have to quit," said Alec, raising one shoulder in nonchalance. Normal only heard the words, his eyebrows shooting up into his hairline and then furrowing just as quickly, shaking his head.
"She's got a mother, doesn't she-"
"Normal, just take the kid and shut ya mouth," snapped OC, finally butting into their conversation. She'd seen the unconcealed pain flash across Alec's face and stepped in before Normal could catch on. Normal frowned at her and slowly nodded.
"You're one of my best messengers," said Normal, puffing out his chest slightly. "Can't loose a solid guy like you. But I am not watching anyone else's kids!" he said loudly, glancing over at his reprobates. "You hear that? So if any of you worthless bags of human flesh have any spawns running around-"
"They got it, Normal," said OC, raising an eyebrow. Alec shot Normal another megawatt smile and handing his sleeping child over to the Ordinary.
"You're good, right Regan?" Normal shifted Taj in his arms, waving off Alec's question.
"Of course I am, I have four younger siblings, all of them have children. I could do this in my sleep," Normal frowned suddenly, looking up at Alec. "Does she have a name?"
"Yeah, it's Taj."
"Interesting name," mumbled Normal. Alec ignored him, like he had Logan and OC when they'd asked.
"Thanks, Regan. Really appreciate this," said Alec, putting as much relief in his voice as he could and brushing past Normal to his locker, ignoring the stares he was getting.
OC joined him moments later, leaning against the row of lockers behind him, watching him pull his bag out of his locker before shutting it again, bracing his hands against the ugly orange metal.
OC was interrupted by the annoyingly cheerful tone of Alec's phone. OC's narrowed as Alec pulled it out and held it to his ear.
"Go for Alec." OC listened to a one sided conversation of Alec's 'hmms' before she was shocked right out of her skin with a, "Thanks, Logan, be right over."
"What the hell was that?"
"Logan. I gotta go."
"Where?" asked OC, reaching out to grab Alec before he made a run for it. He looked at her, his face blank and his eyes dead.
"I have to go bury my sister."
Max had gotten Logan's page before she left for work. A perfect excuse to avoid Normal and Alec, she happily jumped on her baby and made her way to Fogal Towers. She was surprised, however, when she opened the door to Logan's apartment and ran straight into Alec.
Holding a dead body.
"Jesus!" hissed Max, dodging out of his way before she touched the corpse, gross. Alec narrowed his eyes at her, but she didn't really notice, 'cause she was more annoyed with what he was doing here, and what he'd done and why there was a dead body in Logan's apartment to begin with.
"Max, good, you're here," said Logan briskly, ignoring the way Max was staring at Alec with disgust and how Alec's eyes had darkened slightly. "I was hoping you would be able to help us bury Polly-"
Max's face twisting in confusion stopped Logan from continuing. "Polly?"
"Alec's breeding partner," said Logan slowly. Max's eyes snapped to Alec, her eyes going wide.
Logan blinked at her.
"You didn't know?"
"He didn't mention it."
"Can we get this over with?" interrupted Alec before Logan could start on about White and exposure and all kinds of shit he didn't want to deal with. Max turned to him suddenly, her eyes wide and confused and made him a little nervous because he wasn't exactly sure what he did this time.
"Where's your kid, Alec?" he swallowed the sigh that was threatening an ass kicking.
"Normal's watching her."
"Ya left your kid with Normal?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to watch her?" it was a low blow, but he took it anyways. Never say he couldn't fight dirty. It shut Max up and she turned her gaze elsewhere, like the dead body in his arms. Her eyes softened and any hurt or anger or uneasiness she was feeling was smothered by the need to make him feel better. He acted like he was always alright, but she knew what it was like to loose a sister.
She reached out and touched his shoulder, catching his eyes and offering him a small, half smile. His postures relaxed slightly, not noticeable to Logan, but Max saw it and felt a little better about herself. See? This is Max not being a complete bitch. Logan cleared his throat and the little moment of pleasant non-bitchiness was extinguished.
"We should get going," said Logan, his voice too loud and too sharp for the situation. Alec nodded anyways though and as Max held the door open for him to go through first, Logan grabbed her arm, right at her elbow. The contact had her breaking away from him, taking a few steps back and sending him a look that clearly asked if he was suicidal.
"What the hell, Logan?!" He looked shocked at her tone of voice and frowned at her.
"Nothing," he brushed past her, ignoring the way she flinched away from him as he did. Max's eyes narrowed after him. What the hell was his problem?
The car ride was tense and quiet. Alec sitting in the back seat with the dead body, Max and Logan sitting in the front. Max had her arms folded over her chest, staring out the windshield wondering why the hell she had to tag along for this. But then she remembered the change in Alec last night after she'd insulted his unit, more specifically when she'd insulted Polly. She knew what it was like to loose a sibling, she couldn't imaging what Alec had to be going through after loosing the mother of his child too.
"Did you tell Max about White?" Max looked over at Logan, her eyes narrowing. Alec's sister was dead and he wanted to talk about White?
"Can't we save shop talk for later, Logan?" Logan sighed in that way that kind of pissed her off. Like she was a child who wouldn't understand.
"Max, it's important."
"And it can't wait?"
"No. It can't. White captured Polly after the escape at Manticore. Alec thinks he still might be after her."
Max blinked and swung her head around to look at Alec, who wasn't paying attention at all, just staring out the window absently. She called his name and his eyes snapped onto hers.
"Didn't think to mention White?" Max watch something dark flash in his eyes before he replied in a low voice.
"White killed my sister. What else is there to know?"
"Ya coulda mentioned that he was after her."
"He wanted to experiment on her. He did experiment on her."
"It might be best if we burn the body." Both Max and Alec turned to look at Logan.
"If White finds her he'll send her to a lab to be taken apart. We don't want that, do we?"
Despite how sick it sounded, Max had to agree with him. She knew she never wanted Tinga or Ben to be cut open, especially not by someone who would use it against them. But it was up to Alec. She looked back at him, and saw he was still staring at Logan, his mouth hanging open, completely shell shocked.
"We don't have to," said Max softly, reaching out to touch his shoulder. Logan looked over at her sharply and opened his mouth to say 'Yeah, we do have to, are you crazy? White could kill us all.' but stopped, shutting his mouth and sighing heavily.
"Better than White taking her apart, right?" Alec said softly, and Max couldn't think of anything better to do than to nod.
Logan turned down the road that would take them out of town, pretending to ignore the tension in the car as he drove out of the city and into the forest. Close enough that they didn't actually leave Seattle, but far enough away that they wouldn't be asked too many questions.
Alec was out of the car and fifty feet away before Logan had it in a complete stop, standing in the dark with his hands in his hair. Max zoomed in on him, carefully tracking his movements. Logan cleared his throat loudly. She looked over at him, raising an eyebrow.
He didn't say anything. He didn't say for a while. Finally he just shook his head, his hands sliding off the steering wheel and falling to his thighs. Max turned away from him, opening her door and climbing out fluidly, not pausing to shut the door as she rounded the car and headed for Alec. Behind her she could hear Logan's door opening and slamming shut, followed by another door opening. She tried to turn out the Ordinaries grunts of effort as he collected Polly's body from the car. Max stopped a yard away from Alec, shifting from one foot to the other, opening her mouth to say something, but he beat her to it.
"Tell me it's the right thing to do," he said softly. Max felt her mouth fall closed, swallowing the lump in her throat, wondering when she suddenly became someone he took advice from. He spoke again before she could come up with an answer. "Tell me this is the only way, Max. I need to hear it."
"Alec-" she stopped herself. He didn't want her pity. He didn't want her to say she was sorry. He was a soldier who needed to know that he did everything he could for his fallen comrade, that nothing would have changed the outcome that had inadvertently made him a single parent. "It's what I would do."
He turned around sharply, his eyes finding her in the dark. They flickered green in a very animal like way when the light from the headlights caught them. Max held her breath.
"Guys? Everything okay?" Alec held her gaze for a beat longer before sliding his eyes past her and toward Logan, standing behind them with a lighter in his hand and two fast burning logs he must have gotten from the trunk of his car. Alec tried not to feel sick as thoughts of burning Polly were in Logan's plans all along. Instead of turning green and calling the whole thing off he shrugged.
Logan didn't look completely convinced, his eyes flickering from Alec to Max before holding his gaze on Max's back.
"Max, think you could you give me a hand?" she tried not the make a face and to hide her discomfort before she turned around to face Logan. She gave him a look that clearly said she was doing it out of the goodness of her heart. The smell of rotting flesh tickled her nose, and Max wondered how she hadn't noticed it earlier in the car. Logan let the logs under his arm fall to the ground.
"There's a few more in the trunk of the car."
Max tried to keep her morbid thoughts of 'woe is me' to a minimum as she hefted the last of the logs out of the trunk and made her way back over to Logan, who had already set the two logs he had on fire. Burning flesh was not the most pleasant smell, and it had Logan retching behind Bessie in a matter of minutes.
Alec was still standing in the same spot Max has left him, except he was staring at the fire. She joined him, ignoring the sounds Logan was making. They stood in silence, eventually Logan stopped horking and the smell of burning flesh was less noticeable on the air.
"Alec?" her voice was drowned out by the crackle of fire. His eyebrow quirked, his silent reaction to hearing her. Max shoved her hands into her pants pockets. "You wanna talk about it?"
"No, Max, I don't."
"Are you gonna be alright?"
She knew the answer before she asked the question. She watched him smirk out of the corner of her eye, watched him swing around lazily to look at her. He shrugged nonchalantly, backing away from her and the fire.
He didn't need to say it out loud for her to know he was always alright.