Spoilers: Mentions of events from "Exposure," "Dawg Day Afternoon," "She Ain't Heavy," "Love Among The Ruins," and major spoilers for "Freak Nation."

Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel, and I don't own Normal either…but can I have Alec? Please? *puppy-dog eyes*

A/N: I took part in the Help_Haiti auction on Live Journal, and my friend Shay won the bid for a one-shot from me. :) Unfortunately, as soon as she won the bid, my poor computer came down with a nasty virus, and it took me a month to get everything straightened out again. Shay was incredibly patient though, and praise God, the fic is finished!

She asked for a piece about Normal's thoughts after Freak Nation, and it turned out to be a really fun challenge. It takes place between the transgenics leaving Jam Pony and Normal's interview with that reporter at the end of Freak Nation, when he says, "Monsters? No. No more than you and me."

I hope that you enjoy it, Shay, and that it lives up to your expectations! :)

A/N2: God is amazing and I praise Him for His mercy.


Picking Up The Pieces

Regan Ronald had never planned to spend his life in the dead-end job that was Jam Pony. When he'd first bought the place, he'd thought that it would be just another business he could improve, expand, and then sell for a nice profit.

The Pulse had changed all that.

He'd always been a little paranoid, never really liked computers much, so he hadn't gotten hit quite as hard as a lot of other people had. But in an instant, every single investor he'd had lined up had been wiped out.

Jam Pony had gone from a stop along the road to his last resort.

It paid the rent, put food on the table, and guaranteed that he needed an endless supply of antacids.

But it was better than nothing, and it was his.

Or, what was left of it anyway.

Normal sighed as his gaze swept over the destruction.

Glass littered the floor. Lockers were smashed. Bullet holes marked the walls. The TV was a total loss. And somewhere along the line, his filing cabinets had been ransacked.

Normal frowned.

When had that happened?

The people who'd come after them…whoever they were…the one's who'd wanted to kill everybody in the building, transgenics and humans alike, they didn't strike him as the type to stop and smell the paperwork.

Maybe it had been the police. They'd combed the place for hours. He didn't know what they'd been looking for, what they'd expected to find. It wasn't like it was a mystery where Max and Alec and the others had gone. If they'd somehow missed the constant news reports, all they had to do was follow the trail of anti-transgenic protesters all the way to Terminal City.

A day ago, he would have been out there with them…the protesters.

Now?

Normal sighed again and ran a weary hand over his face. Now, he didn't know what to think.

When he'd first seen a transgenic on television, the one the sector cops had stopped at that check point, he'd seen a monster. A freak of science - nature didn't really apply - that shouldn't exist. When he'd learned that there were transgenics out there who looked just like regular people, he'd thought of mutant wolves in sheep's clothing, Frankenstein creations that were even more dangerous, even more unnatural than the ones who looked like something out of those pre-pulse science fiction movies.

They weren't human, and they'd been designed to kill, right? Who knew what they'd do now that they were running loose in Seattle. And if they looked just like everybody else, you'd never see them coming, never suspect what they were until it was too late.

He'd been right about that last part, at least.

Transgenic central, right here under your nose, Normal thought with a touch of bitterness.

Max, well…Missy-Miss had always rubbed him the wrong way. She looked like she'd stepped off a runway somewhere, sure, but she had an attitude problem a mile wide, and a temper to boot.

Her first year at Jam Pony, she'd broken someone's wrist.

The other ladies - he used the term loosely - of Jam Pony had immediately jumped to Max's defense, informing him that the employee - he used that term loosely too - in question had been harassing her. The guy had reluctantly admitted to it, and agreed not to press charges or sue, much to Normal's relief.

Still, Max was such a tiny, little thing - he might have even used the word petite, if it hadn't sounded so feminine - and he'd wanted to know how she'd been able to pull something like that off, so he'd asked her about it.

"I took karate as a kid," she'd answered with a straight face.

Karate. Right.

But, at the time, he'd had no reason to question the explanation, so he'd let it go.

He hadn't really started to put the pieces together until some of the idiots who worked for him had thought it would be funny to stamp a barcode on the back of another idiot's neck. Normal had done what any responsible supporter of the second amendment would do and grabbed his gun.

Max had disarmed him in a second flat.

That was when the evidence had finally started to add up. A bad attitude. Violent tendencies. Authority issues. Unexplained disappearances.

He'd been this close to turning her in.

Alec had talked him out of it.

Alec. His Golden Boy. His cage fighting idol.

A transgenic.

Normal shook his head.

He'd never suspected Alec. Ever. He'd admired him. (Yes, the bums in his employ would find that hilarious, but it was true.) Alec was what Normal himself had always wished he could be. A man's man. Popular without even trying. Always in control. Always confident. Sought after by the ladies.

A guy like that didn't have any reason to lie.

So, when that friend of Alec's - Biggs, Normal remembered - had turned out to be a transgenic, and Alec had looked Normal right in the eye and sworn that he didn't know anything about it, Normal had believed him.

Maybe that was why the truth stung so much.

"My Golden Boy's a mutant."

"We prefer 'genetically empowered.'"

Normal's elbow twinged with the memory, and he rubbed at it, grimacing a little.

Alec had taken that gun one-handed. He'd been shot, bleeding - "Bullets will do that to you," - and he'd still gotten that gun away from him like it was nothing.

Normal had watched, afterwards, as that blond kid had dug the bullet out of Alec's shoulder. Alec had been looking straight ahead, his expression stoic. He hadn't even twitched.

He'd looked every bit the soldier then, the dangerous, highly-trained, genetically-engineered soldier the public had been warned about. And why not? He didn't have to keep up pretenses anymore.

But Normal had also watched the dog-man flinch every time the reporters on TV brought up that blind woman who'd been killed in the sewers. He'd watched Max check on Alec when she didn't think anybody was looking. And he'd watched that transgenic woman laying on the couch, crying out in pain, squeezing Cindy's hand.

That transgenic who'd been in labor, the one he'd helped…Normal didn't even know her name.

The relief and gratitude on her face had been genuine, though. Her smile had been too, when she'd held her little girl for the first time. A little girl without claws, fur, green skin or scales. Just an innocent, baby girl with two arms, two legs, ten fingers and ten toes, and a healthy set of lungs.

She hadn't gotten to choose who her parents were. She hadn't asked to be brought into the world.

And the others hadn't either, had they?

Normal sighed again.

He could debate this all night, but he'd still have a business to run in the morning. It was the one constant in his life: people would always need their packages. Pushing past the exhaustion he felt, Normal walked over to the utility closet, ignored the bullet holes now decorating the door, and pulled out the broom.


An hour later, he'd picked up the paperwork scattered around the dispatch desk, put his files back in the filing cabinets - he'd reorganize them tomorrow - and restacked the packages that were still salvageable. They'd probably wind up being late, but they'd be delivered if he had anything to say about it.

He paused when he saw the bloodstains on the table.

He knew they'd carried her back here, the one who'd been shot and killed. CeeCee, her application had said. The police must have taken her body.

Normal swallowed hard and silently wiped up the mess.

Sweeping was next. He started at the front where Missy-Miss had made her dramatic entrance. With a mental note to pick up a few sheets of plywood in the morning, he swept some glass shards into a nearby trashcan and looked up.

Alec was standing right in front of him.

"Jumpin' George Dubya!" Normal yelped. "Don't do that!"

Alec's lips quirked.

"Sorry," he said easily. "Didn't mean to startle you."

He didn't sound very apologetic, though, Normal thought, willing his frantic heart not to beat out of his chest.

He glanced furtively at Alec, suddenly wary. The reprimand had come naturally - an ingrained reflex, you could say - but on the heels of adrenaline came the memory of the past twenty-four hours. Normal took an unconscious step back. If Alec noticed, he didn't react.

"How did you get in here?" Normal asked, hoping his voice sounded steady.

"Wasn't hard. No offense, but Jam Pony's not exactly Fort Knox."

"What about the, um, barricade around Terminal City?"

Alec shrugged one shoulder, but he didn't offer an explanation this time. Normal wasn't sure he wanted to know.

An uncomfortable silence descended.

Alec was just standing there, his hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans, the usual humor missing from his eyes. Normal's gaze fell on the blood still marking the sleeve of Alec's jacket.

He cleared his throat uneasily. "How's your arm?"

"I've had worse. It'll heal soon, anyway. One of the perks of being genetically empowered."

Normal nodded, not really sure what to say to that.

The silence stretched again.

"So, uh, what are you doing here?" he asked at last.

"Max wanted me to check up on you."

Normal blinked. "Missy-Miss? Why would she want that?"

"We did sort of drag you into the middle of a battle. Thought it couldn't hurt to make sure you were still in one piece…even if we can't say the same for this place." Alec grimaced as he looked around. "Sorry about the mess."

Normal shrugged. "Not your fault," he said, a little surprised that he really meant it. "I'm not sure what I'll tell the insurance company, but I'll figure something out."

The silence fell once more, though it wasn't quite as uncomfortable this time.

"Well," Alec said finally, "I hate to break-in and run, but I better get going. See ya around, Normal."

He turned to leave, but Normal found himself speaking again before Alec had taken more than a step.

"Alec?"

He paused. "Yeah?"

"The…the woman who had a baby, what's her name?"

"Gem."

"Has she named the little one yet?"

"Yeah. She named her Eve."

"Is she doing alright? E-Eve, I mean."

Alec smiled. "She's fine. Gem is too."

Normal sighed in relief. "Good. That's good."

He glanced away for a moment, his grip tightening a little on the broom he still held.

When he looked back, Alec was gone.

Normal stayed frozen for a solid minute, just listening to the silence. Then he shook his head and started sweeping again, the broom's bristles scraping over the concrete as he worked. He stopped when something on the floor caught his eye. It was a flyer.

Coalition For A Transgenic-Free Seattle.

Normal stared at it for a long time.

Then he reached down, picked it up, and threw it away.

Fin


A/N: I hope you enjoyed it! Please let me know what you think!

Take care and God bless!

Ani-maniac494 :)