A/N: Spoilers abound in this one for Max Payne 2 (and 3, sorta) that deals with the question: Why is Mona not there anymore? Yeah, she died in MP2, BUT if you played it on its highest difficulty setting, she would live. So now the question becomes, whatever happened to her between Max Payne 2 and 3? Here's my take on that, hopefully canon compatible. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Max Payne belongs to Remedy and Rockstar Entertainment. I am not making any money of this fic, nor do I intend to. Title of fic has been borrowed *read: stolen* from the band God Is an Astronaut.
"Max... hey Max, you there?" The loud knocking wasn't going to go away by itself, forcing my body to wake up. My eyes flew open and I found myself face-down in a puddle of my own vomit. Not the best place to be, by any stretch of the imagination.
"I'm coming," I grumbled as I stood up and checked the mirror in the shithole that I had lovingly dubbed my apartment. Satisfied that I had swiped away most of the regurgitated contents of my stomach, I made my way to the door, clutching everything I could, just so I wouldn't fall over again. It was hard enough getting up the first time. I opened it, and was greeted by someone I figured I wouldn't be seeing until later. Much later, after I had the time to not look like a homeless bum who robbed a liquor store.
"Jesus, you look like shit, Max."
"And hello to you too, Mona." She was dressed to the nines, her hair combed back and tied together in a ponytail. Tight black jeans, with black boots and a black shirt, her red leather jacket finishing the ensemble. She was holding a small clutch that matched the color of her jacket. A dash of red lipstick finished the look she was going for, dangerous and inviting, while standing in stark contrast with the way I looked. Dishevelled, a white wife-beater and some jeans. Oh yeah, and some of my stomach's contents plastered over my face.
"What the hell happened?" she asked as she pushed her way into my apartment. "Did you forget we were supposed to go out today? Celebrate being alive and all that?" It had been a couple of months since Vlad had shot her in Woden's mansion.
"That was today?" I asked. Where had the time gone? I had reverted to the pity-party that was my life, and embraced it in full. Usually that meant grabbing the nearest liquor and drinking myself into a stupor. Today, I'd gone out of my way to buy a good whiskey. Mona was right. I had to celebrate being alive. And what better way of doing that, than to feel sorry for myself? The ultimate act of self-consciousness.
She rolled her eyes. "No, I'm dressed up like this because I like the way the fabric clings to me like a second skin. Of course it was today."
"Sorry, sorry," I said and I started grabbing newspapers and magazines, making a futile attempt at cleaning up to save face with her. "Just, let me clean up a bit and I'll be ready soon enough."
"Don't bother," she said and she gently grabbed the stack of crap that I had gathered and put it on the coffee table. She guided me to the sofa and sat me down, staring over me. "You're lucky you're great in the sack, Max. I don't just do this for everyone." She gave me a saucy smirk. "Besides, you're drunk. You'll end up making an ass out of yourself. And that's the last thing we need."
"Ah crap, Mona, just, I promise I won't make a fool out of myself. You're right, we have to celebrate surviving. And it's no use if I'm going to mope around and think about Michelle. Let's go." I stood up, and wobbled on my feet, the entire world spinning. The floor looked inviting, but the idea that the sofa might be a better spot managed to penetrate through my haze and I crashed down on it once more. The darkness was alluring and I found myself nodding off once more.
When I came to, I was cocooned by warmth. I looked around and found Mona lying next to me. We were clammed up together in my bed. Mona apparently didn't care that it was only supposed to hold one person. I didn't know what she had done, but my breath didn't reek of death anymore. My face had been scrubbed clean. She had played nurse for me. She was an angel. I fell asleep again, and I wasn't plagued by the nightmare that had gotten to me so many times.
The frustrating beep of the alarm, as it cut through my apartment, roused me and my bed mate. She looked good, I had to admit. She wouldn't ever be Michelle, but maybe just having her companionship was good enough for me. It was more than I deserved anyway. I swung my legs over the bed and stood up, walking through my apartment. Mona had cleaned up, but left the whiskey out on the coffee table facing the TV. I grabbed it and took a swig, feeling the amber liquid burn a path down my throat. I welcomed it.
I continued to stumble to the bathroom and opened up the medicine cabinet. I grabbed two painkillers and washed them down with another swig of whiskey. When I came back into the living room, Mona had sat herself on the couch and she cast a disapproving glance towards me. "Really, Max?" she asked.
"I'm celebrating that I'm still alive," I growled at her. And I was, in a fucked up way. Because what was the point in being alive if all we got from it was misery? Besides, we'd all be dead one way or another. So why not be drunk out of my fucking mind? At least then I'd still get some enjoyment out of life. See? I was celebrating.
"Yeah, you're doing a fine job. Wrecking your liver, popping painkillers like a fucking junkie. You keep going like this, you won't even reach your mid-life crisis."
"Who needs one if you can't share it with someone?"
"Is that what this is all about? Max, I get it, you miss her. But Jesus, that's no reason to shut me out."
"Have you ever lost someone close to you?" It was a stupid question. Her sister who I found lying in the hotel. A grim reminder that you didn't mess with the mob. She arched an eyebrow at me and that was that. "So how did you deal with it?"
"I did my job."
"You were an assassin."
"Exactly," she said and she winked at me. I shrugged and sat down next to her, placing the bottle of whiskey back on the table where I had found it.
"Why'd you clean up for me?"
"Isn't that what girlfriends do?"
"So we've reached that part in our relationship already?"
She shrugged. "We've had sex. More than once. That rules out a one-night stand. Unless you would consider us fuck-buddies, and I will actually shoot you if you do, I'd consider us in a relationship, yes."
I laughed. It sounded raspy and more like a coughing fit, but she recognized it for what it was and smiled back. "Works for me."
She sobered. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"There's not much to say. I lived the American Dream and some fucked up crack junkies took it away from me. Oh yeah, and then you tried to kill me. Thanks for that."
"I saved you as well," she said, affronted. "More than once actually."
"I believe I thanked you for that already."
She laughed again. "That you did. So, considering that you sort of stood me up last night, you want to do something today?"
"We could catch a movie or something."
"Sounds lovely," she said and she rolled her eyes for good measure. "I was being sarcastic, in case you hadn't noticed."
"I noticed. Doesn't mean I care though."
"Such a romantic."
We got up and got dressed, before heading out of my apartment which looked like the den of a bunch of junks. I couldn't say I truly missed my house and the white picket fence. I only had it for a little while after all. It was easier for me to think of the quaint little shithole as home.
We strolled through the streets of New York, the smog making it impossible to enjoy the fresh air. Mona had once again clambered in the ridiculously tight outfit that she had appeared in last night, and seemed content with me. I was content with her as well. It was enough.
"What do you even do for a living, nowadays?" I asked as we rounded a corner and passed a coffee place. I had gotten used to the ridiculous amount of pedestrians that were milling around us, and swerved past some guy in a suit that was too busy yammering through his phone to pay proper attention.
"I could ask the same thing to you. And where are we even going?"
"I'm collecting benefit checks, living on Uncle Sam's dime. Life is going great for me. And we're going to Central Park for some breakfast. Your turn."
"I'm in-between gigs at the moment. There's not really much use for a has-been assassin. And I'm not sure if me putting my former occupation on there, would look that great on my résumé."
We passed through the gates that led to Central Park. The day was overcast, not suited for a picnic, but still warm enough that we could get away with a quick breakfast. Joggers strode past us, but it seemed like Mona was content with ignoring everything but me. We found a small café that could be called a restaurant if you peered at it through your eyelashes, and got breakfast. I decided to stick with the tried and true, and got a breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash balls and a cup of coffee. Black.
Mona chose to indulge a sweet-tooth I didn't know she had and ordered the pancakes. When the waiter went to place our orders, she arched an eyebrow at me once more. "Quite the hearty breakfast, Max. Somehow, I figured you more as a cereal kind of guy."
"Gotta lay a good foundation for the whiskey," I said. "What kind of an example to the New York citizen would I set if I ran around drinking on an empty stomach?" I leaned in and whispered, "I used to be a cop, you know?"
"Yeah, I remember that," she laughed. "But you seemed to be doing a fine job in your apartment yesterday."
"One time digression. It happens."
She smirked at me, and I felt like I was being sucked in the Twilight-zone again. On one moment she could be scolding me for it, other times she'd be playful about it. Michelle wasn't like this. Michelle always said what was on her mind. She'd tell me if she didn't like when I worked late. She would tell me she wanted me to spend more time at home to spend more time with our coming baby daughter. And she was dead. And Mona had almost died as well. It seemed like everyone close to me would end up kicking it sooner rather than later. I am become Death indeed. A modern day version of Hindu scripture stuck in the body of a middle aged man with a penchant for painkillers, guns and liquor. Gandhi would've been so proud.
I picked up a newspaper that had been discarded by the previous patrons and skimmed the headlines. "Find anything interesting?" Mona asked.
"Damn mayor got re-elected. How did that even happen?"
"Come on, Max. Are you suddenly going to pretend you're ignorant?" She was right. I was well aware of the corruption that spread through the mayor's office like a cancer that couldn't be cut out. No one knew how it happened, but mayor Jonathan Henry would always get re-elected. It didn't matter how much the opposition was leading.
"I spent my entire adult life trying to stop shit like this," I snarled and smacked the paper on the table. "And this dick still manages to push through. If only I could prove his connections to anything illegal, he'd be gone so fast it'd make his head spin. And maybe I'd shoot him in it, just for good measure."
"You're not a cop anymore, Max. Let it go."
I was about to respond when the waiter walked up to us, carrying two plates; one filled with pancakes, the other containing my breakfast. I noticed that the kid was young, nineteen at best. He had braces and looked rather geeky in a vest and bowtie. Who the hell wore bowties in the morning in Central Park?
When the waiter had left after dropping the plates in front of us, I shovelled the food in as fast as possible. "You need to go somewhere?" she asked.
"This is how I eat," I said around a mouthful of eggs and took a sip of the bitter brew. I welcomed it as it burned down my esophagus. The jolt of caffeine would help stomach the whiskey better. The day was looking up. A good breakfast, good companionship and good whiskey. The rule of three.
"Not much of a date, is it?" she asked as she took a bite of her pancakes, seemingly amused at my antics.
"I told you we'd go see a movie, didn't I? The day has only just started. This is all part of the Max Payne deluxe package. It starts with getting to nurse me while I roll around in regurgitated noodles, followed by a breakfast and a movie. No walk of shame necessary... well, maybe for me."
"I've got to hand it to you Max," she sighed. "You sure know how to treat a lady."
She finished off her breakfast and I paid the bill, like the gentleman that I was. And as we strolled through the park, I found my thoughts moving on from the depressing and dark abyss that was Michelle and on to some enjoyment. Michelle would've wanted me to move on. She was selfless like that. So I allowed myself to smile. I hadn't smiled since finding out that Mona had survived Vlad's bullet. I didn't have a lot to smile about anyway. Unless I was drunk, in which case a hell of a lot was funny. Most of the time, it was just plain depressing though.
But maybe this was different. Maybe I could finally start moving on from Michelle. I had hoped I would've after taking down Æsir and everyone else responsible for her death, but it wasn't until I found Mona that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel that had been steadily growing more dark every day, my only relief the painkillers and alcohol.
We walked out of the park and crossed the intersection, making our way to the cinema, and I had some form of peace with the whole ordeal. I was bitter and a cynic, but that didn't mean I couldn't start learning to enjoy the simple things in life. But I knew things were wrong, when I felt the distinct feeling of a gun-barrel being pressed to my kidneys.
"Get in the fucking alley," a voice commanded me. I looked over to Mona, who had noticed but couldn't do anything. She shrugged and we were led in an alley. Being mugged in NYC. It was a damn miracle it had taken as long as it had.
"You packing?" I asked as we were led further into the bowels of the city that never slept. Whoever came up with that analogy should've been shot. Not a soul to be found when we needed them.
"Of course not," she said.
"What? Why not?"
"Today was supposed to be a date," she hissed. "Who the fuck brings a gun on a date?"
"Ugh, I know. All I'm saying is, it would've been really helpful, right about now."
"Then why don't you have one?"
"Hey! Shut the fuck up, you two and just keep moving," the mugger—if we could still call him one considering he hadn't made a single attempt on either of our wallets or valuables yet—said and he poked the pistol in my back. "Move it, old man."
A broken shard of glass that lay against the dumpster in front of me reflected the mugger's posture as we walked through the alley. His form had slouched just enough that his reaction time probably wouldn't be fast enough to put a bullet in me or Mona if I acted fast enough. I hated leaving my life up to luck, but I didn't have much more to go on at that point in time. If I didn't act, we'd be screwed. I waited until we were close to the dumpster before jumping up against it, and leaping off, diving towards the guy. My shoulder connected with his midriff and the wheeze I heard told me I had hit pay dirt. The pistol clattered to the ground and I broke into a roll, picking it up. I stood up and Mona eyed me appreciatively.
"Good job, honey."
"Thanks, " I said, before pumping a round in the guy's kneecap. He howled in pain and clutched at his knee, cursing and shouting at me. We had to get the hell out of there. Despite New York generally being a loud town, I doubted that a gunshot wouldn't draw any attention whatsoever. We began running out of the alley, when I almost plowed into a young guy wearing a charcoal suit. He turned and looked at me, seeing the wild look in my eyes that was always there when adrenaline was pumping. Like an animal, ready to deliver the killing blow to its prey. But he didn't back off. Instead, what I saw frightened me. I was supposed to see fear. Fear at the madman wielding a pistol. Instead, I saw fierce determination, and even a smug smile. A smile that would've been right at home on Woden's face.
He lifted his hand, and I missed the glint of the metallic barrel, reflecting the sunlight. Mona didn't though. But her voice was distant. My entire being was focused on this man. I felt time slow down as I was facing the gaping hole that would inevitably prove to be my demise. It was no more than poetic justice that someone who had so often pulled the trigger, would die by a gunshot. It was almost humoristic in its nature. But I didn't laugh. All I could do was wait.
"Good night, Max Payne," he said, and I knew it was over before he had even pulled the trigger. The puff of air broke through the silence that had entombed me, and darkness took over. And I knew that my luck had finally ran out.
I couldn't be happier.
A/N2: If you enjoyed it, please leave a review. They're much appreciated.