Title: Two Steps Back
Fandom: Dark Angel
Pairing/Characters: Max/Alec, Alec/FCs
Summary: Max heaps a lot of abuse on Alec, and there's one reason he takes it: he wants it.
Note: Thanks to bogwitch for a beta that went above and beyond.
He's leaning against the column, looking over the group of ordinaries and transgenics – both of them equally freaked out – as Dalton bandages his shoulder. The siege at Jam Pony has just resulted in the death of that cute blonde, Cece. Max is in full-on control and command mode, charging here and there, ordering everyone around like she's the mama cat and her kittens have been very, very bad. Alec's kind of surprised she even stops and notices him.
His blood seeps red and bright through the gauze. "What's that?" she demands, an edge of irritation in her voice.
Alec can't resist the dry response. "It's a hole in my body made by a bullet."
"Been there, done that," she snaps, moving on with a dismissive flip of her silky hair. Her disregard burns, although it's not unexpected. She's always testing him, always sizing him up, judging, and finding him wanting. I don't need this, he thinks.
Yeah, right. Except for all the ways that he does.
He swallows. He wishes it didn't matter, wishes it so much sometimes … but the truth is that her approval, her trust, her presence is like air and water and food to him. It's not easy; she's fickle and demanding and always gives so little back.
She requires more, the whisper in his head tells him. You can give it. You're strong enough.
He knows it's true. He can give more. More loyalty. More sacrifice. More blood. Just … how much is too much? Is there a limit?
Dalton ties off the bandage. Alec squeezes a fist in his injured arm, feels the blood thrum hot and alive within the wound, within his body. His vessel, given to her to knock over whenever she pleases.
Stop. Rewind. Play.
Max has just broken him out of jail in typical Max fashion. Which meant that it involved riding a pole off a building, risking electrocution as they brought down the overhead lines, and dodging a hail of bullets as they sped away on a motorcycle. They're safe now, though, and alone in Max's apartment.
She's just told him that she broke up with Logan and it's something Alec's been a party to, even if by proxy.
We're a danger to them, Max.
She seems less pissed off at him for the first time in, well, ever, so he pushes it. "Listen, since we're already knee-deep in painful subjects . . . tell me about him. About Ben."
And instead of telling him to get bent, like he half expects, she actually starts talking. "When we were kids, back at Manticore, he always wanted answers for everything. You know? Why we were there, what was outside. So he would make up these fantastic stories to explain things. Somehow it made us feel...loved. Like we weren't all alone."
"Sounds like a nice kid," Alec comments, working on keeping his voice neutral. "What went wrong?"
"After we escaped, it was like there were too many things in this world he didn't have answers for. I don't know. He just...lost it."
Something flickers in her eyes, but she turns her back on him, reaches for a couple of coffee mugs, her back stiff.
"Hey, you okay?" Alec asks.
"I'm fine," she lies, voice husky. Then, instead of continuing to fiddle with the coffee, she just sits down, clearly not fine. Alec rounds the island counter to stand next to her.
"Max, what is it?"
"We were in the woods. He was hurt. Manticore was closing in on us. He didn't want to go back there."
"Reindoctrination. Or worse."
"I killed him. He asked me to, so I did." Her voice breaks and a tear slips down her cheek. "And then I ran. I saved myself. And I just left his body there for them to take away."
It hurts to see her like this. He steps close and slips an arm around her shoulders. He presses his lips to the top of her head. "Max, I'm sorry."
He holds her there while she shakes silently, and he thinks, I'm sorry, Max. I'm sorry. He shouldn't have brought Ben up. He shouldn't have put her through this. He didn't know the circumstances of Ben's death, true, but he hadn't been entirely truthful, making her believe that he knew nothing about his twin.
Because the truth is that he had known Ben.
Stop. Rewind. Play.
The smell of burning is still in his nostrils when he meets her in a gas station north of Manticore. Long blond hair, pretty face, curves in all the right places. She's thumbing through an issue of Mademoiselle idly, hip cocked, chewing bubble gum slowly, tongue pinkened by the plastic texture of the gum. He knows he's staring – can't seem to help himself.
She sees him, of course. Her eyes widen with surprise, then pleasure, and those pink full lips quirk in welcome. He smiles at her, raises his eyebrows and approaches. She gives a little laugh and doesn't look away.
Ten minutes later they are standing outside the store, heads bent together, murmuring love talk to one another between kisses. Her mouth is soft and wet. Her hair smells like peaches and her skin like vanilla. And suddenly he wants to devour her, to eat up every last delicious inch of her. He backs her against the wall, kisses her and kisses her until she's moaning, clutching at him. He slides his hand under her t-shirt, crawls his fingers over soft skin and up to the warm yielding mounds of her breasts.
She pulls back, whispers, "Let's get a room, baby."
He fucks her hard and fast against the motel bed until she arches her neck and cries out as she comes. Spasming around his dick, her cunt sets off his own orgasm, a white hot blaze of sheer sensation, so abrupt and intense that it almost hurts. As his dick softens he keeps thrusting, making her clutch at him, writhing and coming again, and this time her arms and legs relax as though all her strength has suddenly left her. She laughs at that, low and throaty and he slows until he's half on, half off her. He's feeling boneless and tired and safe, just for the moment, and she runs her fingertips up and down his spine, coos and kisses him and he lays there soaking it up. He loves to be touched, worshipped, cared about.
Eventually, though, reality begins to creep back under his skin. He's on the run, in danger. He flips the TV on, lays on his stomach on the bed watching the news as she continues to fuss over him.
Then he hears the shots fired that ultimately lead him to Max. Max, always it is Max.
Stop. Rewind. Rewind. Rewind. Play.
He and Ben had spent three months in one another's company back at Manticore when they were seven years old. It was some sort of fucked up summer project to do with the differences between twins; Alec remembered blood tests and psych evals and electrodes attached to his skull (itchy).
He remembered Ben as a serious, thoughtful boy. He'd been clever—perhaps a little more so than everyone else, though they'd all been engineered to be intelligent. He was a storyteller, like Max said, but he hadn't seemed particularly unbalanced back then.
Alec reviews his memories of his twin, sorting one by one through them until he comes to one of some significance …
He and Ben were stacking blocks and knocking them down again, laughing and shoving one another in what Alec had thought was friendly competition. Then Ben stopped laughing and had started shoving him harder.
"Hey!" Alec protested. "What's your problem?"
Ben's eyes had narrowed and his voice dropped to a whisper. They both knew that the scientists bugged them to hear their conversations. "She doesn't like it when I lose. She wants me to win. To be the best."
"Who?" Alec had asked, at first not understanding.
Ben's eyes – the same eyes as Alec's – grew enormous. "The lady who watches over us. The one who cared for us when we were small."
Looking in Ben's eyes, Alec had a sudden flash of memory: a sweet-voiced woman holding him when he'd been afraid, putting him down to sleep at night, kissing his skinned knees when he fell. He remembered the faint smell of perfume and the way her large, soft breasts had pillowed him.
"It's hard to remember," Alec had said, his forehead suddenly hurting like a spike had been driven into it.
"See! It's them," Ben hissed, casting a resentful glance at the window through which the scientists stared at them. "They drove the first lady away. But they won't keep me from the Blue Lady. She's watching over me right now. One day she'll come to me. I know it."
Alec wonders if Ben ever found his lady.
When Alec thinks about her, he can't actually remember her face. Instead, he remembers her presence, the tall pale form topped with dark hair, her sweet lilting voice, her softness, the way she held him and rocked him, murmuring little snatches of nonsense into his ear. He remembers how she smelled of flour and vanilla and good things. The way she made him feel that he had her full attention.
He must have been very small. Maybe three, four years old. She was the first one, the one that Ben spoke of. She must have been one of the nannies employed by Manticore. It would be just like the government to have a spec somewhere that said genetically engineered super soldiers needed 4.8 hours of human contact per day to grow up emotionally sound. Or whatever. The fact that he remembered his nanny wasn't what was important.
What was important was that she was the first.
Stop. Fast forward. Play.
Renfro glances up from the desk when her guard opens the door and Alec enters the room and salutes. She raises an eyebrow the barest bit, enough for him to surmise that she likes what she sees. He is used to Normals finding him attractive, and she is most definitely Normal.
She nods at the guard to leave, then gets up from her desk, comes around it to perch on the corner, just watching him while he stands there, chest puffed out, hand smartly at his brow. She's wearing a light blue tailored suit, all crisp angles and long lines. It shows off her well-formed legs nicely, as do her expensive high heels. Her hair is neatly styled and her makeup meticulously applied. She radiates cool efficiency and it makes him uncomfortable.
"Well, look at you, every inch the perfect soldier. But I know your secret, 494. I know what a bad, bad boy you've been."
Soldiers are not supposed to let anything rattle their composure when they stand at command, but this? This is definitely rattling him. He swallows, just manages to keep his eyes straight ahead.
"I know the games you play here, the scams you run. Selling andy and other black market goods to the guards and other soldiers. Tsk, tsk, 494." Her soft, teasing tone makes his blood run cold. "You know, protocol insists that I send you to reindoctrination for such a pattern of unauthorized activities." She pauses, cocking her head at him. "Come closer."
He steps forward, until he's a foot away from her.
"At ease," she says, voice pleasant and gaze considering. She stands up, slender and small, but not intimidated by his greater bulk. "Maybe we can work out a way for you to avoid reindoctrination."
"Ma'am?" he asks.
"There's something I want you to do for me. It involves your little friend 452 and Eyes Only. If you do what I tell you to, I may have to forget what I know about your illegal activities." She smiles, just a little upward bend of her lips, and runs a hand up the fabric of his crotch. He catches his breath, feels himself harden involuntarily inside his cammies. This close, he can smell her perfume – so like a normal woman's. She may be normal, but that doesn't mean she's not dangerous. "Such a pretty boy you are, 494. And you're mine. Every delicious inch of you. Don't you forget that."
He takes a half step backward, tries to keep his voice level. "I won't, ma'am. What would you like me to do?"
She just watches him for a moment longer, expression unreadable. Then she begins, "Our lab has cooked up a very special virus for your friend, and you're going to see that it's delivered …"
He's drawn to them, always. It's like there's a radio transmitter in his head. It's why he went for her as soon as Manticore burned down. It's why he goes to the Blowfish Tavern as soon as he gets to Seattle, why he finds Veronica, waits for her that night after her shift, has a a crisp new $100 that makes her smile. She gives him his own private dance in the front seat of her 90's Cadillac out in the parking lot.
Afterward, he makes his way toward Max. Maybe she'll have pity on him, accept him as a friend, give him a little comfort with her Manticore-born familiarity. But she doesn't offer him any of that. No, she's all jagged edges and sneers and drop an anvil on your head and that puzzles him at the beginning, makes him go his separate way. He always seems to end up in her neck of the woods, though.
So he decides to try harder.
When he'd started the Berrisford assignment, he hadn't been expecting Rachel. But there she was, so sweet and trusting and innocent. He should have left her alone, kept her at arm's length. It would have been so much better for her if he hadn't encouraged her interest in him. It hurts so much to think of her even now that he almost wishes she's still locked away in that part of his brain where Manticore had put her. When he and Max cycle up to the Berrisford's gate and that door in his brain cracks open, he remembers Rachel as clearly as if it had been yesterday. Remembers the soft feel of her skin, her lips, the sound of her voice when she says, "I love you," and the way that made something open inside of him, bringing forth a fierce need he hadn't known he'd had. The fact that he took her precious life away from her … it makes him physically sick to think of it.
He curses himself for the disaster of his memories when he thinks about how Max tried to help him, how she reached out to him but he shut her down, too wrapped up in his own memories, his own pain, to recognize what she offered him.
It's hard to think of those few days even now, those days when he dared think that Rachel might still be alive, then found out she was dying and he was the cause of it. When he'd challenged Berrisford to kill him and the man hadn't … and how disappointing that had been.
Max was there, though. He meant something to her, after all. Maybe not much, but enough for her to save his ass. He remembers afterward, when he gets up from beside his lover's bedside and finds Max still in the house, how she'd taken his hand and had guided him to the back of her bike. She'd driven him home while he was dazed and wrung dry, made sure he got into his apartment, even hugged him goodbye.
What he would give to have her attention like that now.
Stop. Fast forward. Play.
Afterward, when the police have pulled out, the flag has been raised and the Transgenics have scattered to whatever hidey-hole they call their own, he can't sleep. He's commandeered a bunk away from the main command center to lie down, but his head throbs and his wound burns, tight and deep. More importantly, his mind swims with images and flashbacks and memories.
He thinks of how Max always goes up to the Space Needle to clear her mind, how going to a high place might help him as well.
He climbs to the roof of the command center and finds her there in the dark, relaxing in a lounge chair in the middle of a misting rain. He can't help it. He laughs a little.
She turns at the sound, gives the little twist of her lips that passes for a smile, and nods him over. There's an empty lounger next to her. He takes it, reclining with a soft moan, feeling every ache from the long day.
They just sit there looking out at the mist-shrouded city lights for a long moment, feeling the gentle rain collect on jackets and jeans and bead in their hair.
"You did good today, Maxie," he says.
"No, we did good today," she counters. "And … I know I don't say it much … I know I can be a bit of a bitch to you, Alec, but … well, thanks. You know, for everything."
He looks at her profile, draws his breath in to say something, then stops himself, just sits on the swell of emotion in his throat and chest. I can do more, he thinks. Give more.
And chances are he'll have to. But for now it's enough to know that he's chosen well. Because this time, he's certain of it.
She is the one he'd been searching for since he was a boy, the one who will mold him and shape him and make him into more than he's ever thought he could be.