Max waited outside Rachel Berrisford's room in silence, her knees pulled up to her chest. She had untied Alec from the chair an hour ago, and he had rushed out of the room without even a second glance at her, leaving Max to follow curiously.

And she hated what she had seen. She had never imagined that Alec, of all people, could look that vulnerable. Hunched over the bed of the dying girl, tears running down his face, sobs that he was trying to hold back causing his body to tremble. It was a sight that Max didn't think that she would ever be able to forget.

She had left the room silently just as he had been pressing the silver locket into the girl's limp hand. It felt too invasive to stay in the room with them. Alec needed the time alone to say goodbye. Max could still hear him though, through the wall. She could hear every sob and curse and plead that he uttered because of her X5 hearing, but the breaks from the pleading that brought silence were almost worse.

When Alec came out, he would need someone there for him, she was sure of it. So Max was content to sit staring at the wall, listening to Alec pour out his heart in the next room, until he was ready.

She closed her eyes, remembering the shock that she had felt when she'd heard Alec playing the piano, though she had covered her surprise well. Then, when they had all tramped downstairs to see him hunched over the piano, so focused and desperate, so engrossed in the music that he hadn't even heard them coming down.

Max hadn't understood the pain and angst in his eyes when he had whirled around, but now she was starting to piece the pieces together. She wasn't sure that she wanted to know the whole story though – if it had made Alec so broken. The locket had been another puzzle piece, the piece of silver jewellery that Alec had produced, and been so protective over. The locket that had been in the painting.

There were a few things about the situation that she didn't fully understand, but it was easy enough the guess the rest.

All she could think about was the look that had been in Alec's eyes just as she had burst through the door, the gun pointed at him by Robert Berrisford. His eyes were a picture of self-hatred and grief, blood dribbling down his chin. The bonds holding him to the chair weren't strong enough to keep an X5 down, and Max knew that he could have freed himself whenever he wanted.

But he hadn't wanted to. Alec had stared right into the barrel of the gun, and begged the man in front of him to kill him. His eyes were filled with tears, and there was a look of weariness on his face that Max had never seen on him.

Everything that she had thought she knew about Alec had been wrong.

Who was this guy then? This X5 who had been so fully under Manticore's control, but yet so defiant at the same time. And when you couldn't forget—They had ways of making you not care. Max knew that she had been lucky to get out when she had, knew that Alec must have had it bad for almost all of his life, and that this new life that he was living now must be so alien to him.

You don't understand. You can't understand – You weren't there. You think life was tough when we were ten?

She was so used to living out in the world with the humans, because she had been doing it for most of her life, that Max had never really taken the time to check how Alec was adjusting to his new lifestyle. He just seemed to fit in so smoothly to the post-Pulse world, like a fish that's been put back into the water, that she hadn't even thought to make sure that he was really okay.

He was just Alec. Always alright, always annoying. Max hadn't really even tried to see past the surface of his cocky and confident facade, and just assumed that Alec was Alec, and that was that.

Joshua was the one who had pushed her to look past Alec's barriers, the mutant being the first one that Max knew of who had taken a second look at Alec, and seen more than Alec had intended him to see. And since Joshua had explained his painting of Alec to her, Max had been shocked to see how much deeper Alec seemed to be.

Sure, she knew that he could suck up his whinging and shut his mouth when they were on a mission, but Max hadn't considered Alec as a guy that she could fully trust. She trusted him to back her up on missions, but there was always that slight hint of apprehension when they were right in the middle of things. Because, honestly, who knew that Alec could actually be completely sincere?

"I'm so sorry, Rachel, I failed you. I love you, I've loved you since the moment that I saw you on that first day, but I just didn't know it... I didn't know how much I loved you, and I didn't know how to love. Please forgive me, please forgive me. I'm so sorry, Rachel."

Alec kept talking inside the bedroom, his voice cracking every few words, and breaking Max's heart along with it. She wished that she could run into the room, and gather Alec into a hug, and make everything better.

But she couldn't.

Because Alec was grieving and broken, and Alec. There was no way that he would let her. Though, she had never seen him like this before, so Max was at a loss as to what to do. She considered for a split second calling Logan, but knew that he wouldn't understand. Logan couldn't understand, because he wasn't an X5, and he didn't know Alec well enough. No one really did.

Alec came out of the room ten minutes later, after saying the most heartfelt and gut wrenching goodbyes that Max had ever heard. She stood up when she heard him approaching the door, and was waiting for him when he came out into the hall.

Tears were drying on his face, and still rolling down his cheeks, and he didn't move to wipe them away. His hair was tousled, the blood wiped off his chin, and his body trembling slightly. Max noticed that he clenched his fists when he saw her, to stop them from shaking in front of her. Alec's eyes were shining with unshed tears, and more vulnerable and open than Max had ever seen him.

All his barriers were down.

He seemed surprised that she was still there, but he looked too distraught to care. "Alec... I..." Max started to say, and then found herself at a loss of what to say. What could she say, after seeing and hearing all of that? "I am so, so sorry."

For a moment, she thought that he was going to respond like most other people would have, and let her comfort him. But then Alec seemed to remember himself, and he stiffened, his back tensing up and his eyes becoming empty of emotion. He took a step away from her, and stared into the expensive carpet at their feet.

"I'm sorry, Max, but I just— I just can't right now." Then he jumped over the balcony, landing on his feet in the foyer, before looking back up at her. "Thanks," He said so quietly that she almost couldn't hear it, and then he ran.

Max watched him go, knowing that she wouldn't be able to follow him even if she tried. Alec was a Manticore soldier, one of the best, and she had no doubt that he bested her in both strength and speed.

She then walked slowly down the stairs, trying to wrap her mind around the events of that afternoon. It was just too hard to process all at once, so she headed home, without even thinking about calling Logan to let him know what had happened. When she got home, Max took a long hot bath, and tried to forget how desperate and broken that Alec had sounded when he was pleading with Rachel to forgive him.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

The next day, Max headed into Jam Pony with a desolate expression, feeling deflated and almost hungover. She couldn't even imagine how Alec was feeling.

But when she searched for him only to find him missing, and even went as far to ask Normal where the X5 was, she was disappointed to hear that he had called in sick. Just as Max was making up her mind to ditch work that day, and go make sure that Alec was okay, Normal ushered her onto a bike, pressing a bag of packages into her arms, and practically threw her out the door.

Because they were already understaffed, she had no choice but to deliver the packages, thinking anxiously of Alec the whole time. When she had finally finished her run, she cycled straight to Alec's apartment, and ran up the stairs.

"Alec? Alec, are you there?" She said softly as she knocked on the door.

There was no answer, so Max pressed her ear to the door, and strained to hear any sounds inside. Just as she was about to turn away and look for him in Crash, she heard the telltale sound of a bottle being picked up, and someone drinking out of it. "Alec? Alec, I know you're in there. Open the door right now before I kick it down."

It was a low blow, because they both knew that Max could and would kick down the door if she needed. Then there came the sound of someone staggering across the room, and then the door was opening and Max didn't know what to do.

Alec looked terrible.

His appearance made Max stifle a gasp, and take a step backwards. He was shirtless, dressed in only a ragged pair of jeans with a suspicious red stain on them that Max suspected was blood, and barefoot. His eyes were bloodshot, full of unspoken pain and a tired kind of anger. It was obvious that he had been drinking, if the bottle in his hand and the smell of his breath was anything to go by, and Max was pretty sure that he hadn't slept since she had seen him over fifteen hours ago.

He raised an eyebrow at her, and took another swig from the bottle.

"Alec… I… Are you okay?" Max said helplessly, watching the transgenic as he seemed to crumble before her eyes.

Alec seemed to consider her question, and Max pretended not to notice the tears that welled up in eyes, "Max, I— I can't do this right now. Don't come back here." Then the door was slammed in her face, and she didn't know what to do anymore. So she just went home, and tried to figure out why she hadn't tried to see the deeper side to Alec before yesterday.

Max went back to Alec's apartment the next day after another day when he'd called in sick, and hesitated in front of the door, before deciding not to knock again. Instead, she just left the bread, milk, and the few other basic foods that one should probably have in their house (every time she had been inside his apartment before, she had only seen alcohol) outside the door before leaving quietly.

When she went back the next day, the food was gone.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

The next time that Max saw Alec, she was relieved to see that he was looking like his normal self. He was dressed in clean clothes, he wasn't drunk (at least she didn't think), and he didn't look like he was about to fall apart. Max made her way over to Alec, eyeing him carefully to make sure that he really was okay.

She'd heard the news about Rachel Berrisford's death, and had no idea how he had reacted to it. Probably not well, judging by the fact that her funeral was three days ago, and Max hadn't seen or heard anything from Alec in over a week.

"Listen… If you ever want to talk…"

"About what?" He replied with a light tone, trying to pretend that he didn't know what she was talking about.

Max hesitated for a moment, and then decided to let it go. If Alec wanted to pretend that the last few days had never happened, who was she to deny him that? "About anything."

"Now why would I want to do that?" He asked, looking her straight in the eyes. No gimmicks, no lies.

"You're alright?" Max had to ask, even if she had a feeling that she knew what the answer was going to be.

Alec smiled, and looked completely sincere as he said, "I'm always alright." Then he brushed past her, heading out the doors of Crash into the world, swinging his arms back and forth in a seemingly carefree manner.

She looked at his retreating form, and sighed. Alec was back, and all his old barriers and defences along with him.

I'm always alright.

O.o.O.o.O.o.O.o.O.o.O.o.

So that was my first attempt at a Dark Angel fic! I always want more after I watch the Berrisford Agenda, so I finally decided to write a one-shot that continues on from where we see Max watching Alec and Rachel :) I hope that it was okay! I'm sorry for any mistakes or typos that I may have made, I don't have a beta for this story, so apologies if you guys spot any mistakes! Sorry also if Alec seems a bit OOC, just I think that he's still conflicted about Manticore, and this is just my interpretation of his pain.

I really want to write some more stories for Dark Angel, so I would ready appreciate some feedback on this one-shot, you know so I know where to improve on my writing of the characters, and maybe any suggestions that you guys would like to see as Dark Angel fics in the future…?

Review…?

Thanks for reading,

ArmedWithMyComputer x