Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Dark Angel. Nothing.

Warnings: meh...mild language? sexual tension? Max/Alec

Who He Is

Chapter 1: Unfolding

Max sat at a round table at Crash. She was wearing a simple dark red t-shirt that fit tightly against her form, and had heeled black boots pulled over her tight black pants. She never really wasted much time getting ready for a night at Crash, and her black jacket was slung loosely over the back of the tall chair-stool she was seated at.

The bass from the music vibrated around her, mixing in with the rythm of her heartbeat. Part of her wanted to gag from all the smoke that surrounded the air around her but part of her yearned for it, accepting it as a part of the bar that she had grown accomstimed to. Being at Crash without smoke and loud music would be like waking up one day to find out that someone had chopped off your left hand while you slept. You could live without it - assuming you were right handed - but it was hard to accept and made things seem emptier.

Original Cindy was waiting at the bar to get their pitcher refilled. Max could almost swear she could see her best friends dark curls bouncing with the tune of the music. Her shoulders and upper back was exposed as her silky black shirt was only being held up by a choker that was fasttened around her elegant neck and attached to the front of her shirt. She had on low rise blue jeans that flared out at the bottom, letting her black high heels peek out underneth.

Sketchy was beside her, in his usual baggy jeans and zipped up hoodie, engaging her in a conversation that she was clearly uninterested in. Seeing her other friend from Jam Pony, Max let her eyes take a quick sweep to see who else had paid the small friendly bar a visit tonight.

Normal was off by himself, still in his clothes he'd worn at work and twirling a glass of who knows what around in his hand, probably flavored rum, while he was deep in thought. However, she didn't want to spend a second wondering what had him so lost within himself, knowing that she wouldn't like whatever it was. Kendra, her former roomate that had left her to sleep with a married corrupt cop was off by the stairs with the before-mentioned corrupt cop and Max felt a slight pang of sadness that she wasn't even acknowlaged by someone she used to be so close to before moving on throughout the rest of the crowded room. Other co-workers from Jam Pony were scattered here and there. And at a corner of the bar, Logan sat with Asha.

Max let her gaze rest on them for awhile. Logan Cale. A man that she had once thought she'd loved. A man that she'd once thought loved her back. But it had been over a year since Manticore infected her with this damned virius. And mere months since they'd given up the search for the cure.

Logan was the first person on the outside to know Max for who she really was - a transgenic. And Max was the first person to know that Logan was Eyes Only. That fact alone made them immediatly, if not grudgingly, bond so close together. It made them feel like they could only trust each other. And eventually...tricked them into thinking they were in love.

Love. But really it had all been just an act of desperation. Desperate for acceptance for who they were and the lives they lead. Desperate for an open relationship with no secrets. Desperate for contact.

That desperation had only gotten worse when their option for contact had been ripped away from them before their relationship even had a chance to build. It lead to sleepless nights on the computer, tracking down wild goose chances, crushed hopes and eventually shattered dreams of what they'd once wanted.

The tense dinners became fewer and fewer before neither of them could stand being in the same room together, knowing that they couldn't touch. They both knew deep down that they couldn't go on living like this. The virius hadn't killed their relationship, it had only forced them to see what was never truly there in the first place.

They toke the optimistic road. Remaining friends and trying to find real happiness with others instead of clinging to something that couldn't be and never was. Asha was slowly slipping more and more into Logans life and Max felt jealously and relief all at the same time. Jealousy that she could touch Logan without killing him, yet relief for that same reason. Asha seemed to be the only other person besides Max that was willing to risk everything for Logan and she could see in the blonde girl's eyes how she longed to be in his heart. She just hoped Logan wouldn't be too absorbed in his Eyes Only duty to let her in.

At least one of them had a chance at moving on. Max gratefully accepted a glass of cold beer as Original Cindy returned, muttering about lousey service and how they were lucky that they kept giving this dump such good buisness. OC had a way of knowing exactly what Max was thinking most of the time and snapped her fingers infront of her home girl's face, bringing her back from her thoughts about the pair of blondes seated at the bar.

"Gurl, I know yo ain't off lost in la la land again about yo wrecked love life."

Max feined a hurt expression as OC gave her an apologetic half shrug. "Oh ouch OC. Way to be harsh." She let the moment roll off with a soft laugh. Original Cindy was her best friend, through thick and thin. The other girl always told her the truth how she saw it, her honest opinion about everything and anything, even if the truth hurt. Even if her opinion was harsh.

Yea, so Max had a wrecked love life. Since her and Logan had reluctuntly given up, she'd had a few one night stands, but nothing that clicked. After being with Logan and wanting so badly to be in love, and experiencing the pain of the realization that she wasn't, she wasn't going to settle for second best again. She wanted that heart-pounding, dizzy, weak in the knees, typical romance that the dramas on tv swore existed and she wasn't going to stay with anyone who didn't give it to her. And so far, none of these guys had given her so much of a flutter of anything above between her legs.

Sometimes her thoughts strayed back to Zach, who was probably happily living a lie, thinking it had always been his life. She remembered how passionate he had always been when it came to her and her heart - no - his heart, twisted as she remembered that it was indeed his heart that beat inside of her. He had literally given everything for her, his life both mentally and physically, and she'd given him nothing in return. She was too busy playing make-believe happily-ever-after with Logan in a story that didn't have an ending.

But she couldn't bring herself to look him up. She'd only be doing it out of pity, maybe emotionally saditic curiousity, and in the end she'd only hurt him again. But worse, this time she would ruin his life for a third time if she opened him back up to his former memories again. That was a pain that she refused to put him through. Again.

The crack of pool balls behind her had both her and Original Cindy glancing to the open space in the back of the bar where the owner had managed to find room to squeeze a rickity pool table in. Sketchy had apparently moved his energetic conversation to Alec, who was busy pretending to focus on the game ahand. Max knew he didn't need to focus to sink those balls wherever he wanted them and it was all for show to try and not raise his opponent's suspicion that he was being hustled.

She let her eyes roam over him, silently thanking him for wearing a turtleneck to hide his barcode even though he always complained about how sufficated they made him feel around his throat. He had the grey sleeves pushed up to his elbows as he leaned forward across the table, lining up his next shot. His dark green eyes flickered up and met hers across the room, and he allowed himself a cocky smirk and a wink before shoving forward the pool stick and sinking the ball perfectly into the corner pocket.

Max rolled her own dark brown eyes and re-filled her and Original Cindy's glasses as her friend shook her own head, letting the curls bounce around her slender face.

"Boo, ya know he only does it to urk you."

"Yea, yea I know." Max admitted. "I just wish he wasn't so damn good at it." She smiled and OC returned the smile, laughing alittle.

"That's cause he tries so hard ta get ta you. You know he likes seeing you all flustered and knowing he's got yo full attention." Original Cindy leveled Max with a knowing look and they both laughed a little.

"Sure OC, he's got my attention. And my hatred." She made a face and toke another sip of her beer as Original Cindy glanced over at the pool table.

"Ya know what they say boo, Hatred is a strong emotion. Maybe he likes that you feel such strong emotions for him."

Max over-exaderated a sigh. "Your missing the point. I have a strong emotion. To choke. His life. Out of him." She emphasized her words and placed her palm down on the table with each period, the other resting loosely around her glass that was quickly emptying again.

Hatred is a strong emotion. Something about that quote struck a familiar chord with Max and for some reason it bothered her that she couldn't place where she had heard it from before.

"What's that quote from?" She asked off-handedly.

Original Cindy just shrugged. "Dunno. Just remember it."

"Huh...me too..." Max trailed off,searching memory lane and letting her fingers absentmindedly tap against the worn and chipped table top.

She did feel strongly for Alec. Maybe hatred was an over-exaderation, but there was no particular emotion she could ever put her finger on when she was around the fellow transgenic. Strong annoyance when he wouldn't shut his mouth. Strong happiness when he made her laugh with one of his smart assed remarks. Strong panic when he was in trouble. Strong desbeilf that one single person could get into so much trouble in the first place. Strong worry when she didn't know where he was because he was probably getting into more trouble. Just strong emotions all around, all the time. And it was why she always felt such a pull to him, even when he was being stubborn or obnoxious, because he made her feel. When she was around him, she didn't feel empty, she felt full of life, full of emotions. And he was the reason for them all.

She silently wished that she felt strong affection for him, but she knew that it was only the lonely part of her wanting that. The lonely part that whispered to her everytime she followed a random guy home that maybe this guy was it, the one. The lonely part that was always disapointed at the end of the night.

She didn't want Alec to end up being another disapointment at the end of the night. It would ruin their friendship and without Alec, she'd be back to her empty, un-feeling existance. So that part remained quiet and she kept him at a friendly arms length at all times. Sometimes it was hard, his personality was so contagious you just felt drawn to it like a moth to the flame. But she refused to get close enough to be burned. She'd just flutter around, enjoying his light and warmth in her dark night sky instead.

Speaking of light and warmth, Max could feel his pressence approaching before she heard his footsteps, smelled his familiar scent of gasoline and dust that came from riding his green Suzuki GXR and his apartment that he never bothered to clean.

"Hey boy. How much you steal from those peeps tanight?" OC asked him, leaning over a bit to make room for him to lean in between her and Max.

"Steal?" He furrowed his eyebrows. "Cindy, i'm offended. I don't steal, I simply out perform their talents and, well, it's not my fault if they're cocky enough to put money down."

Original Cindy pointed a finger at him, her long nails painted a dangerous shade of red. "First off pretty boy, it's ORIGINAL Cindy. Ain't nothin but the fresh and real right here." She motioned a hand down, showing herself off as the one and only. "And second, don't be tryin to peddle your bullshit over here. Original Cindy knows yo game."

She reached over and bumped fists with Max, who looked at Alec with mock seriousness. At least pool hustling was semi-legit. Much better than robbing little old ladies of their televisions anyways. "So how much?"

Alec grinned. "$300. Not bad for a night."

"And what are you going to do with $300 anyways? Blow it all on booze and strippers?" Max re-filled her glass with the last of the pitcher and sighed, it was her turn to get the re-fill.

Alec held up his hands in surrender. "Geez, what's with you ladies tonight? I didn't come over here to get insulted." But under both of their gazes he shrugged and admitted. "Not all of it anyways, gotta go get some groceries tomorrow. All I've got at home with my name on it is a cup of ramen. It's no pasta-ala-fancy-french-name like your used to, but it's supposed to taste like chicken."

Max smiled. There it was. That genuine smile that Alec always seemed to be able to coax out of her. That light, stress free, weightless feeling inside of her like she could float. Happiness.

It was short lived, as stress appeared next to Original Cindy, who met her eyes apologetically knowing that their new visiter often caused Max's eyes to cloud over with an array of unpleasent emotions that Original Cindy hated seeing on her home-girl's face.

"Hey girls." Logan approached, standing closer to Original Cindy to make sure of the safe space between him and Max's unintentially lethal skin, his hands stuffed into his jacket pockets. He nodded his head to Alec in a greeting. "Alec."

Something flickered across Logan's eyes that hid behind his glasses and Max was sure that he felt the same way about Alec as she did Asha. Mixed, repressed feelings of jealousy. Maybe it was from back when he had thought Max and Alec were a couple, or maybe he just saw something in them, or the male transgenic himself, that she couldn't see. Or that she just didn't want to see.

Alec nodded back, micking Logans posture by shoving his own hands into his jean pockets, giving both me the apperance of being on the defense.

Max was the one who responded. "What's up Logan?" He gave him a small tight smile, nothing compared to the carefree one Alec had pulled out of hiding only seconds earlier.

"Nothing, ah, well, something." He rocked back and forth a bit on the balls of his feet, looking hesitant, like he usually did when asking a favor of Max these days. As if he no longer felt like he had the right to ask anything of her. "I was talking to Asha," He nodded to the bar, his eyes flickering to the blonde girl he had left sitting here, nursing a bottle of beer, "And a couple of her friends in her...group...got some of their stuff taken while they were out the earlier tonight...we were wondering if you would be willing to help get it back."

Max knew exactly what he meant, and Alec and probably even Original Cindy knew. Some members of S1W had gotten their pictures taken while they were out on a "justice run" for who knows what this time and they needed someone to get in and erase the cameras before the police were able to ID them.

"I can pay you of course..." Logan added, this time looking at Alec, knowing how to spark the other man's attention.

Max however, waved her hand, and covered Alec's mouth with her other before he had a chance to respond. "It's cool Logan. We'll help out."

She didn't want Logan's money, and she wasn't about to let Alec take it either, no matter how much he was going to whine about it later. She hated feeling like she was in debt to Logan. She wanted to change this world for the better as much as he and the S1W did, and helping them seemed like the only way she could do it so she was more than obliged to help anyway she could. And drag Alec along for the ride of course. It never hurt to have a well-trained transgenic watching her back even if she'd never admit she enjoyed his company.

"Thanks." Logan let gratitude fall across his face, giving her a wide smile. "Thanks alot." He looked for a second like he wanted to reach out, hug her, squeeze her shoulder, pat her on the hand, anything, but resigned himself to merely nod and back away and return to Asha at the bar.

Alec gaped at her, his green eyes wide. "What the Hell Max? I coulda used that money!"

Max ignored him, leaning forward and grabbing the beer pitcher from the middle of the table. "My turn for the round." She tilted her head to look at Alec beside her and ruffled his hair. "I'll even get you one, so shut it."

Alec indeed did shut his mouth with the promise of free beer as he dragged an extra stool up to their table to join them as Max got up to make her way through the crowd to the bar. Neither of them saw the way Logan looked at Max as he left, an un-reconizeable look in his eyes.

"Man. I should be eating my ramen right now."

"Shhhhh" Max glared sideways at Alec and shushed him for what seemed like the hundredth time in the past 30 minutes.

Logan and Asha had left Crash after their conversation so that Logan could go home and get the exact corrdinates and information for Max. The establishment that S1W had raided earlier that evening was a rectangular, grey bricked building that bore a horrifying resembelence to Manticore with his barbed wire surrounding the perimeter and dark woods on the outside.

Dark woods that Max was currently crouched in with Alec by her side. The road leading up to the building; that illegally profitted from mass producing food stamps, was long and barren on all sides of it. Anyone looking out a window would have seen them coming from miles away. So Max and Alec had opted for the same path that Asha and her group had taken earlier when they broke in to steal food stamps to give out to the hungry like a band of modern day Robin Hoods. Unfortuntly, that path meant leaving their motorcycles hidden in some bushes at the edge of the forest property, and trekking through the dark woods for the past 30 minutes, occasionally getting snagged on thorn vines that littered the floor or walking through the uncomforble spider web hanging from the branches overhead.

Max pulled the collar of her jacket up higher around her neck, missing the warmth that Crash had provided with it's packed body temperature. The wind seemed to be blowing harder, the darker it got, sending it's icy wind whipping across her face and through her hair. Alec seemed to be on the same mind set as her, wishing he was somewhere warmer still, probably more than her since he didn't even have a jacket on, just the grey turtle neck that he had worn to Crash that night, except he had finally pulled the sleeves down and had his arms crossed tightly across his chest, trying to pull the hems of the sleeves furthur over his frozen fingers,

"If it starts snowing I swear..."

"Shhhhh..." Max wasn't even counting how many times she had shushed him now. It seemed to be the only noise her cold lips could make lately.

"It's because God hates us. And you know why he hates us? He's just jealous that he didn't get to make this fine packaging himself."

Max cracked an involuntary smile and lightly punched Alec in the arm, trying to get him to focus on the mission at hand. Couldn't this guy be serious for two seconds?

"Seriously. SHHH" She shushed more urgently, trying to press the seriousness of the situation into his head. This whole raid had her on edge already, and it was more than just the cold that was making her shiver.

"Fine. Fine. Serious." She heard him reply beside her with a disgruntled tone. He couldn't take this as seriously as she was at the moment. He hadn't escaped that night over 10 years ago. He wasn't having vivid flashbacks of running through snowy woods at dark from a prison looking building like the one currently infront of them, with an exact replica of that forbodding barbed wire fence surrounding the secrets within it's walls.

Or perhaps, since he had spent more time in Manticore, he was having worse flashbacks and was only trying to distract himself the only way he knew how.

Quit being irrational Max, get your head in the game. She shook her head. There was no point in being lost in her memories that brought forth paranoia. Manticore was long gone, blown to smitherins. She had seen it herself, she had forced the actions of it's downfall to happen herself.

Now if only she'd stop seeing the ghost of her childhood torture chamber in the building that loomed infront of her.

She allowed herself to look at Alec, wondering if it's uncanny resemmblence to Manticore was affecting him but he seemed too pre-occupied with trying to make his sleeves longer so he could use them as gloves as well to cover his frozen fingers.

They stealthfully crept forward, at the edge of the woods. They'd have to move fast to get over the fence and to the dark shadows surrounding the building, they couldn't allow themselves to stay in the streetlights that lit up sections of the yard for too long. But then again, if the human S1W group could get in, it should be a piece of cake for two transgenics.

She'd forgotten the first rule of a seige, never assume anything will be easy. Always expect and prepare for the worst.

The two of them blurred through the gap from the woods to the fence and gracefully jumped the fence, not even brushing near the dangerous barbed wire at the top. They landed with catlike grace on the otherside, and without so much as a glance at each other, darted in unison to the wall, mimiking each other's movements as they pressed themselves against the icy bricks at their backs.

She looked at Alec to motion for him to follow her and was taken aback for a second by what she saw in his eyes before she regained herself, creeping quietly along the shadows with him close behind her.

The playful sparkle she usually saw in his eyes was gone, replaced by his military training as his mission must have finally sunk in now that they were offically in enemy territory and in action. What she saw in his eyes was loyalty and trust in her leadership as her followed her movements, breaking into the same window Asha had broken into earlier and slipping inside the building undetected.

There were few guards inside. Chances were that they hadn't even discovered the stolen food stamps yet, and wouldn't until someone did inventory in the morning. That would be at 6am. It was now 2am, giving them more than enough time to get the job done, get out, and be long gone by then. Alec could go home and have his beloved ramen that he kept muttering about and Max could curl up under her warm covers and just be happy to be not running around in a cold nightmare.

Max and Alec crept down the hallways. He stumbled into her as she stopped abruptly as a guard appeared around the corner but before Max could act or the guard could even realize that someone else was in the hallway, Alec rushed past her, jumping to run along the wall and twist himself in the air to where he landed behind the guard, covering his mouth with one hand and using the other to grab the man's gun and bring the offending metal weapon down on his head like a club, efficiently knocking him out within seconds.

When the man crumpled to the floor, Alec bent down to check for a pulse and gave Max a slight nod before she sped down the hall to reunite with him, barely having time to marvel at Alec's training from the 10 years longer he had spent at Manticore than him. She vaugley wondered if she had stayed that night instead of escaping, if she could defy gravity by running along walls like she was in some D-grade action flick as well.

The security room was around the next corner, and Max found herself grateful at how easy this had been. She kept repeating to herself that of course it was easy, if a couple of humans could pull this off there way no way her or Alec would have a problem. She didn't even need to have had dragged Alec along on this mission, she could have been in and out easy as pie without having to listen to him running his mouth all through the woods.

She couldn't say it hadn't been entertaining though. As much as she willed him to just shut up because they were on a job, his voice was always pleasent company and never boring. Like how some people in the country could fall asleep to the sounds of crickets chirping in the night breeze, Alec's voice put her at ease. That voice that didn't compare to any other sound, deep without being overly husky and light without sounding like a little boy. That voice that was pure Alec.

That voice that was whispering for her to not look for porn on the computer while he stood watch by the door and she hurried to the machines to look for the current cd recording the security cameras for tonight.

She didn't know which one it was so she didn't take any chance and ejected all four cds, stuffing them in her jacket pocket to be disposed of later and zipping it shut for safety. Logan could handle their destruction, all she had to do was get them to him.

She rushed past Alec, pausing at the doorway to confirm the halls were clear and they were both down the hall, out the window and over the fence in record time.

Once they landed on the other side of the fence Alec let out a laugh.

"Whooooo easiest job in a long time." He reached out to playfully push Max on the shoulder as she turned to face him.

Despite herself, Max returned the smile. She couldn't help it, he always brought it out.

"Yea yea, now let's go get these to Logan so you can get your ramen and shut up about it." She turned her back to him, blowing her warm breath on her fingers as the cold air reminded them that it was still here, ignoring the warm heaters that had been inside the building.

Never assume a job is easy.

Both of them satisfyed and assuming the job was now long done with, let their guards down. Neither of them heard the guard as he ran out of the building, spotting them at the edge of the woods on the other side of the fence. Neither of them heard him running forward. He was human, there was no gate at this side of the fence but he didn't need to get to the other side of the wire fence to shoot through the holes at what was on the other side.

The shot rang out, terrifying and sharp as the crack of a whip in the still night air. Max felt something wet splatter against her jacket and her heart stopped, hoping to whatever God existed that it had started snowing. She didn't care if it snowed, she didn't care if the sky opened up and dumped buckets of ice water on her, just please oh please don't let it be...

She caught her breath and quickly turned, her long hair whipping around her in the wind and Alec looked up at her from the spreading red stain on his side. Their eyes locking with identical looks of horror - neither wanting to believe that Alec had just been shot.

End Chapter 1