Disclaimer: I don't own either Asha or Alec. However, everything about her family and background, I made up -- hence I suppose I do own those.
I could be your something
You could be mine too
And we could laugh together,
Pretending love's for fools.
I used to tell my dad I wanted to be a lawyer. First time I said that, it took five years off his life, right then and there. A lawyer, he'd exclaimed. What the hell for? Being a cop for twenty-five years, he'd grown a bit apprehensive about the other profession during his time on the job. Lawyers and rats, he'd always said, were the two things that had not only survived the Pulse, but come out in forces larger and stronger than ever before.
Of course, I didn't mean it, that thing about being a lawyer; I just wanted a reaction, and I got one. You know, teenagers and their need to reject all things representative of their parents.
But I wonder, would freedom fighter have sounded any better to him? Would he have been proud that his little girl chose to follow in his footsteps through, perhaps, the only way possible in today's broken world?
Or would he have smacked me upside the head and demanded to know what the hell I was doing wasting my life away like this—and when would I settle down, meet some guy, get married and make him a grandfather? And then I would have pointed out that between my brother, Scott, and Jeanine, my sister, he was already a grandfather five times over. And then he would have glared at me and said something about not being smart with him, which I would have returned with some offhand remark about how, with him, it was pretty much impossible not to come off looking smart. He would have muttered something about insolent children and how he should have just joined the priesthood like he'd original intended, all the while trying to hide his grin behind his morning paper.
You know, I miss him sometimes—a lot. Even though it's been nearly ten years, it can still ache pretty bad. And the five grandkids, he never got to meet them. He made it to Scott's wedding, but not Jeannie's; and he never made it around to pestering me about when to expect mine. But I wouldn't have known what to tell him anyway.
It's been a long day and I'm tired. Exposing government corruption really is a fulltime occupation, and then some. Actually, these days I could say, with little to no exaggeration, that government is synonymous with corruption. If you gathered all those leaders who are prone to bend and break the rules that have placed them in power, the rules they are there to protect, and took them from their positions, there'd be no one left to run this broken country. So you have to pick your battles carefully, let the majority slide, the relatively harmless stuff—but when lives are put at risk and the innocent sacrificed for sinister or capital gain, step in and make noise.
But like I said, it's been a long day and I'm tired. If circumstances were as normal, I'd be heading home for a nice, long, hot shower, then off to the range for some real relaxing. Yeah, not many people know that I find target practice "relaxing"—it's not something I go around telling everyone. Makes them look at me kind of strange, you know? And considering the whole covert aspect of running the S1W, there aren't many people to whom I could explain why I have this involvement with guns in the first place. There's Logan, but the guy's in love with a woman who won't even touch weapons, and she created and trained to be a cold-blooded killer. Guns were part of her training, her daily life. Me, I'm just someone who picked up a strange hobby.
Anyway, circumstances aren't normal, not today. I had a little conversation earlier today that's left me with a number of unanswered questions. Unasked too, but that's what I'm going to do—go ask them.
Dad always said when life's stampeding by, and you're caught underfoot, don't expect some random kind soul to stop and offer you a helping hand. You have to bring yourself back up to your feet, and fight for your place in the madness. Mom used to say that sometimes you just have to know when to back off. You can figure out for yourself who used to win most of the arguments at my house.
Well, I figure I've done enough backing off—maybe even too much—and it's about time I took dad's advice.
I find him there, at the bar, just like I expected. He's alone, which I wasn't so sure he'd be, but I'm relieved. Only a little, though, because that means he's drowning himself in liquor instead. Well, not drowning, maybe. It's just difficult sometimes, to keep in mind that plethora of differences that set him so far apart from me. What I might consider enough to drown in might be to him only a puddle.
He's a scotch man. Hmm… so was dad.
But Alec drinks to achieve numbness, to cut himself off from all those troubling emotions that threaten to cave that carefully constructed shell of indifference. Dad was never more in touch with his feelings than when he drank. The difference between transgenic and human, or just one man and another? Knowing Alec, he'd probably pick the former. It's the safer answer.
As I walk toward him, I mentally rehearse some pleasant, nonchalant greeting. But then I recall our last encounter—not so different from this one, actually, except then I was first there, and he arrived afterward. Of course, I don't forget how that ended either.
Screw the pleasantries.
I take the vacant seat next to him, no pretense of wanting anything but to speak to him. "So, you and Max, huh?" No small talk either.
His eyes are a little murkier than usual, like they were that last time, and there's the barest flicker of something that passes through them at my words. But I can't read it—what with the fact that he's still faced forward and all. Oh, who am I kidding? The guy could be looking right at me, two feet away, and I still couldn't a read thing.
Eyes are the windows to the soul, they say. If that's true, Alec's soul needs a major washing.
He takes a shot. "Yeah, well, with a fine specimen of man like this, you couldn't expect me to stay on the market for long." Grinning a little, he puts his glass back down on the counter and faces me. "You had your chance, Asha, now move on."
If I believed him, that might have been embarrassing. Hell, it would have been damn embarrassing.
"Bullshit," I reply calmly. Good thing I don't believe him.
His grin disappears. "What?"
"Bull-shit," I repeat slowly. "You and Max are no more together than me and Logan." Bad example, maybe. Not that there is anything between me and Logan, just that it isn't exactly the world's biggest secret that I'm not entirely opposed to the idea.
"Really?" he drawls, "You and Logan? I suppose a congratulations are in order."
"Shut up, Alec," I snap. Like I said, I'm tired, and when I'm tired I get cranky. I also tend to forget little things like how pissing off a genetically engineered superhuman who also happens to be a trained and accomplished assassin, is not exactly up there on the list of way to ensure you live a long, healthy life.
But right now, I don't care. "Max is crazy about Logan; Logan's crazy about Max. She almost killed him and she's afraid, so I can see why she might jump at the chance to push him away, 'for his own good'." I shake my head, frustrated, irritated, confused. "What I don't understand is why you let yourself get sucked into the middle of this."
When he doesn't reply, I continue, "Is it a part of your whole 'don't get involved with someone who was made in a lab' campaign? You know, spreading the word, getting others on your side…"
"Look, Asha," he begins, but I surprise us both by interrupting.
"No, you look, Alec," I lean forward, a little closer to invading his personal space. "I get it, okay. I get that the last time you let yourself care for somebody, they got hurt; and that, maybe, it was even your fault." His jaw clenches and I know I'm teetering on a precarious edge here, but, hey, my dad's advice gave me some necessary courage. "But," I catch his eye, hold his gaze, "there's something you have to get too: It happens. It happens a lot, and it happens to almost everyone at some point in their lives. But it doesn't mean that they stop caring."
"Yeah, well, in case you haven't noticed, I'm not like most people. The same rules don't apply to me and my kind." He gestures to the bartender, but instead of another refill, he takes the whole bottle this time.
I watch quietly as he takes a shot, then another, and another. I guess, by my silence, he figures I have nothing more to say and that I'll eventually just get bored and leave. I don't.
"This is amusing for you, isn't it; entertainment of a sort?" My voice isn't contemptuous, despite the best of my efforts. It's almost… understanding. "You'd much rather just sit back and watch everyone else, laugh at the rest of the world. Laugh at people like Max and Logan for falling in love; laugh at those of us who fall for the wrong person."
His glass is empty again, but this time he doesn't refill it. "I'm not laughing at you," he says quietly.
"Well you're certainly not laughing with us."
"Maybe I'm not laughing at all."
"So why did you do it?"
For a while, he doesn't say anything, just stares at the little glass in his hand as he rolls it between two fingers. I wonder if he's just going to ignore me, and I wouldn't be surprised, not really. But finally he answers.
"I didn't. It was all Max's little plan, and she didn't inform me of my part in the whole charade 'til afterward." He shrugs.
"But you didn't tell Logan the truth. You must've run into him since then, at least talked to him, and you knew what he thought. Why did you keep going along with it?"
Rolling his eyes, he replies, "Because Max asked me to, alright?" Staring directly at me, he says, "Stop trying to make it into something it isn't."
I ignore the second part. "Because Max asked you to? Max has asked you to do a lot of things in the past; since when do you jump to do her bidding?"
He glares at me. Not an image he appreciates, I suppose. "This isn't about me jumping to do her bidding. She's a friend who asked a favor, and I'm a friend who supplied it."
I admirably avoid appearing smug as I surmise, "In other words—you care. So you can't always be avoiding people getting hurt."
He leans back in his seat, an almost amused expression on his face. "What is this really about, Asha?"
I try not to think about how good it sounds to hear him say my name, the two simple syllables rolling off his tongue. I try not to think about how much I enjoy hearing him say… anything. I don't know why Max is always telling him to shut up. He has such an amazing voice.
Of course I don't tell him that. I don't tell him that I've been rethinking what I said about that night, that I don't think I was ever really being honest with either of us when I told him that I was glad nothing happened. No, I wasn't glad that nothing happened. I was glad we didn't have sex. I was glad I didn't end up just another night's memory for him. But I wasn't glad that nothing happened.
I guess I don't have as good a poker face as his. He nods and glances down at his glass, before looking back up. "Wanna drink?"
I shake my head, "Not my favored form of relaxation."
"Really," he grins, "and what is your favored form of relaxation?"
Smiling slowly in response, I say, "Why don't you come with me and I'll show you?"
A glimmer of interest appears in his eyes, but I know that he knows it isn't what it might sound like. I stand and he follows suit, leaving behind the bottle that's still half full, even though he pays for all of it. I tentatively hook my arm through his, leading him to the door, and it's strange how uncomfortable it isn't.
Just outside the door, he pauses, bringing me to a stop beside him. I look up into his eyes, which are a clearer green now, some of those shadows having disappeared, at least for now.
"I won't make you pasta," he says suddenly.
For a moment I'm stunned as to where that came from, and I stare back at his expression, almost childlike in its blatant honesty. A slow grin uncurls on my lips; then I laugh. Shaking my head, I reply, "Don't worry, that stuff goes straight to my hips."