Not The Usual Pretty Face
by pari106

pari106@hotmail.com ; http://www.geocities.com/pari106/damain.html ; Disclaimer: DA
is not mine; Rating: PG so far. Timeframe: sometime after "Hello, Goodbye", in an AU
where the characters went on with life-as-usual, and the events of SAH, LATR, and FN
didn't go down. Yet :P Summary: OC gives Asha some much-needed advice.



A/N: Please, pretty please review? I got, like, two reviews for the last chapter of
AECOC. Two reviews for the epilogue of CCC. If the review function isn't working,
then e-mail me with feedback! Just letting me know I'm writing for more than three
people here!

(And to those of you who have been sending feedback – thank you from the bottom of
my largely feedback-deprived heart! :)

A/A/N: Oh…and, yeah, this was kind of written in the same vein as "Favors". But it's
different. And I might even continue it sometime. If it gets reviewed (hintHINT).
Um…okay. I'll stop now :p



Not The Usual Pretty Face
by pari106



Music loud as usual…a pitcher of beer on the table and a clean glass… Asha took stock
of her surroundings.

Logan absent…as usual.

Other than that, it was a nice Saturday night at Crash. And despite the lack of company,
Asha supposed she was having as good a time as she ever did. Well… Despite the lack
of certain company. It's not like she was totally alone. And she liked hanging out with
OC, and even Sketchy. As for Max… Asha's blue eyes strayed to where the brown-eyed
"everybody's darling" in question was playing a game of pool with some friend of hers
from work. Perhaps "like" was too strong a word for what she felt in Max's company.
Not that she didn't like the woman. Max was…cool. She'd helped Logan out, and had
even helped Asha herself out a couple of times. And she really was nice, all other things
considered. But when considering the current situation…

Asha took her eyes away from the pool table and back to her beer, shaking her head.
Why the hell did she have to start thinking about that again? It was none of her business.
Except that she'd like to make it her business. And she was here to relax, right? Not
think about Max.

Original Cindy had been turned around in her seat, flirting with some shorty at the next
table. Until said shorty's shorty showed up, giving OC an evil eye and dragging her
honey off to the dance floor. Then Original turned back around with a sigh, and Asha
had to smile. Apparently she wasn't the only one occasionally unlucky in love.

'Occasionally? Asha, you've a got a track record with bad and/or nonexistent
relationships worse than your police profile,' she thought. Which was saying a lot, really.

Then she saw Original Cindy's eyes shift over her shoulder and light with recognition.
And Asha somehow knew that the other half of her latest *non-relationship* had entered
the scene, even before she heard Cindy's "Hey, Logan."

"Hey, Cindy…Asha," came the expected response.

Then Logan sat down at the table, all blue eyes and rugged good looks and that low,
throaty voice of his that always made Asha's hands shake.

She kept them wrapped around her beer glass now. And nodded at Logan's greeting.

"Where is everybody?" Logan asked.

"Sketchy's out prowlin'," OC told him, with a roll of the eyes at poor Sketch's expense.
"Alec ain't showed up yet…And Max…" Good. Logan actually managed not to flinch
at the mention of the two names, so close together. "…is over there playin' pool with
CeCe."

"Ah."

Awkwardness. That's what sat in the air, more palpable than the stench of alcohol or the
sound of the music blaring from every speaker in the club.

"Oh…and I'm sorry, Asha. That I couldn't make it here earlier like we planned. I was
waiting for a call from a contact that didn't come in when it should have. Then Sebastian
paged me about that thing I had him looking into…"

Asha waved the excuses away. "It's alright."

"No, really. I am sorry."

Asha gave him a weak smile. "Really, Logan. I understand."

Finally Logan smiled back. "Thanks."

It wasn't the most dignified interaction Asha had ever had with Logan. But what was
new? The day she'd realized how she felt about the man, seemed to have been the day
she'd lost all dignity. Asha always told herself that she was gonna stand up for herself,
whenever Logan stood her up for work, or brushed her off for Max. But she always lost
her nerve when the time came to do some standing. Whenever Logan smiled, she turned
to mush.

And unattractive mush at that, apparently.

Because Logan hadn't been sitting there all of five minutes, they'd barely spoken to one
another, yet it was obvious that his mind wasn't there, at their table. On their non-
conversation. It was on Max, and his eyes were aimed at the pool table.

What happened to the days when they could talk for hours? When they could sit there,
and Asha could feel like they were the only two people in the building?

When had the realization that those days were gone stopped making Asha cry? When
had she started wanting to sigh, and roll her eyes, instead?

"Why don't you go over there?" Asha finally asked, unable to watch Logan pretending
not to watch Max any longer.

It had become sickeningly silent at the table, and Asha glanced at OC through the corner
of her eyes. Just to see if the other woman noticed how uncomfortable the silence was, at
least for Asha. She did a double take when she realized that OC was, in fact, watching
her.

"Hmm?" Logan asked, turning back to the table. Asha raised her eyebrows and motioned
in Max's direction.

"To play a game of pool," she clarified. 'You know you want to,' she thought, feeling
frustrated at both Logan *and* Max. The transgenic was throwing the same sort of looks
at their table that Logan had been sending to hers.

Pathetic.

"Uh…I don't think…"

"Come on. What's the big deal? You two aren't together anymore, but that doesn't
mean you can't be in the same room at the same time."

At least it shouldn't, though Asha assumed that was why Max had done what she'd done.
Cheated on Logan, with Alec. Or…at least, she'd told him that she had cheated on him
with Alec. If you could consider it cheating, since they weren't really *together*
together at the time. Which Logan, of course, did, whether he wanted to say so or not.
He and Max had barely spoken in all the time that had passed since *the* "confession".
Fear kept Max away, Asha knew that much. And pride had kept Logan away; pride and
hurt. The strain of having to avoid Max was starting to wear on him, though. And Asha
knew that despite everything, despite the fact that Logan probably, really didn't even
want to go over to Max at this point (considering the odds of the encounter being a good
one), it wouldn't take much convincing to get him to do so.

There was doubt in Logan's eyes, all the same, when Original said: "Yeah. Why don't
you go over and say hello to Max? Bet my boo'd be happy to see you." Asha had never
seen the woman's face so blank. Apparently "happy" was an understatement, just like
Asha had expected.

And when had Asha stopped secretly resenting Original Cindy's determination to keep
Max and Logan together? Now she only felt relieved. Well…maybe not *only*.

"I don't know, I…"

OC reached over and grabbed the still untouched glass Logan had carried to the table
with him. She shoved it into his hands.

"I'll keep your seat for 'ya," she promised.

Yep. Little to no convincing at all.

Logan looked at Asha. "Well, if you're sure it's…"

Asha nodded. Her cheeks hurt from smiling. "It's fine," she lied. "Go." Logan smiled
back.

"Well…okay." Logan gestured at them with his glass. "See you guys later, then?"

"Later," OC replied. Asha waved and Logan walked away.

Then Asha couldn't take it any longer. She turned back from watching Logan walk
away, to find OC watching her *again*. What was up with her tonight?

Asha shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

"What?" she asked, her voice harsher than usual, tainted by frustration at herself and the
situation.

Original Cindy just smiled, and shook her head. Then her expression sobered.

"Asha…you know I like you, right?" Then Cindy realized how that sounded, and
rephrased her words. "I mean, we're cool, right?"

Asha was a little surprised at the question. Now what?

She nodded. "Yeah. Sure."

Original nodded back. "Right. Which is why I'm saying this…only out of the goodness
of my heart." Asha gave her an odd look. "Okay," she said slowly.

Then OC laid it on her. "You ain't neva gonna get a man," she said, picking up her beer.

Asha's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. "What?"

"Did you see yourself just then?" Original asked. She was shaking her head. "Girl, if
you were layin' on the floor just now, you'd have wheelchair marks all over you." Then
OC blinked. "Or something like that." As Logan wasn't in the wheel chair that night.

"Are you saying I'm a doormat?" 'Oh, don't sound so incredulous, Asha,' she thought to
herself. 'You were just thinking the same thing.' But to have someone else point it out
to her… "That's so not true," Asha lied.

"Asha, this is the third night in a row that Logan's ditched you."

Asha shrugged. "He had to work."

"Logan *always* has to work," Original Cindy insisted. "The boy wouldn't even have
started leaving his house if he hadn't known Max'd kick his cute, little white ass
otherwise.

"Sometimes you gotta stick up for yourself. For your sake *and* Logan's," Cindy
continued.

Asha just shook her head. "I don't really have the right to…"

"Demand a little time from a guy that you're totally crazy about?"

Original made it all sound so simple, but Asha frowned. It wasn't simple. Nothing was
ever simple with Logan.

OC went on: "Now we both know my girl and Logan are meant for one another…" The
words still made Asha want to wince, though not as badly as they might have before. Yet
she couldn't deny them. "And I'm glad you respect that," OC told her. "But Max wasn't
always around to stand in your way. And from what Original Cindy's figured, watching
you two all this time… I don't think this thing you got for Logan is exactly new either."

Asha didn't know what to say. It was true.

"Just tryin' to help a sista out," Original said with a shrug.

Things got really quiet then. Until Asha asked a question she couldn't believe she'd
asked once she had.

"So what do I do?" Asha grimaced. 'That sounded so lame.' But Cindy only smiled,
setting down her glass as if she'd just been waiting to give her advice on the situation.

Which, Asha realized, she probably had. Logan and Max weren't the only ones around,
apparently who were pathetically obvious.

"Be strong, girl," OC told her. "Don't let any man walk over you. It's the only way
you're gonna get you a man for yourself. Maybe not Logan… But there are plenty of
fish in the sea…"

Then Original's eyes strayed over Asha's shoulder for the second time that night, and her
grin widened.

"Plenty of fine, Manticore made fish…if you know what I mean."

Asha was afraid she did. Sure enough, she turned…and there was Alec, walking into the
bar. Wearing a black leather jacket, like usual, over a shirt and a pair of jeans. 'Can't he
ever dress in…well…' To be honest, Asha couldn't think of anything Alec could dress in
to make him look a little less…well…like the way he looked. She wrapped her fingers
more tightly around her glass and took a sip.

"Even Original Cindy be feelin' that boy," OC said, a little more quietly than before. Her
grin was pure mischief. "So I know you are."

But somehow Asha managed to smile, and appear skeptical.

"So I'm supposed to be strong with Alec?" she scoffed. "Tried that once. He totally
blew me off." 'Good, Asha… Don't sound too upset about the incident, or offended…or
mortified past the point of human tolerance…'

Original just shook her head. "Then you weren't strong enough. Yeah, sure, Alec's
gonna try and push a good thing away when he sees it. That's Alec: Grade-A-idiot. But
when it comes right down to it, the only suga' who's ever gonna get under that boy's skin
and stay there, is the one that's more than the usual pretty face. You gotta prove that you
ain't gonna take none of his shit."

Asha tried to shrug the words off, but OC wouldn't let her. She sounded right enough,
and Asha couldn't deny it.

"It's like Logan. What do you think made him fall so hard over Max? Her strength.
Logan likes strong women who can stand on their own two feet. Even if he didn't know
it before my boo came along, he knows it now. He likes a challenge…"

This time Asha's scoff was genuine. And a little bitter. "I'm sorry, I thought that
"challenge" is what's kept him miserable for the last two months."

Original drew herself up, both at Asha's words and the attitude behind them. But she
kept cool.

"Hey, I'm not saying my girl ain't got no issues, 'cause she does. And this shit that's
been going down lately…with the virus and Alec, and all…is pretty whack, for sure. But
even with all of that, the only reason Logan's so miserable is because he loves Max so
much. The same goes with her. And they didn't get that way by letting each other get
away with murder like you been doin'."

Asha sat there, quietly, thinking about what Original Cindy had said.

"Logan and I are only friends," she reminded her then.

"And that's all you're gonna be with anybody, if you don't learn how to ask for more,"
OC told Asha. And her expression softened. "You deserve to be happy, Asha. And you
aren't, are you?"

Asha didn't answer.

"Think about what I said. Okay?" OC asked.

Finally, Asha nodded. Smiling weakly. "Okay."

OC smiled. Asha saw the woman Original had been flirting with earlier return to her
table at the same time that Original did.

"Okay, then," OC said. "My work here is done." Asha laughed as Original Cindy turned
to pick up where she and the latest object of her affections had left off.

'So's mine,' Asha thought, draining her glass. She must have been drinking more than
she'd realized. Because Original's advice actually made sense. Like always. But now
Asha actually felt like putting it into practice, as she gazed across the room at Alec.

Then his icy blue eyes landed on a attractive woman in an attractively short dress…and
that smile of his – the one that made Asha think she'd never known what it was to really
shake for a man, until she'd met Alec – came out to play.

Asha grimaced. Maybe she actually felt like putting her new knowledge into
practice…some other time. She stood to leave.

And got about two steps before someone stopped in her path.

"Hey, beautiful," came the expected come-on.

Asha did roll her eyes, this time that the urge arose. A tall, muscular guy with dark hair
and eyes was standing in front of her, grinning. His name was Steve – a new member of
the S1W. One that hadn't yet learned what peril could befall his career, by hitting on
Asha when she'd repeatedly expressed her disinterest.

"Hello, Steven," she managed to say somewhat congenially.

It really was too bad. Steve was a nice enough guy; sexy, too. But when the source of
his competition was Logan – the man Asha had put her life on the line for, for the past
two years – and Alec – a soldier with super-human strength *and* super-human good
looks… Well, what were his chances?

"Can I buy you a beer?" he asked.

'Already had one too many,' Asha thought. But instead she said: "Actually, I just want
to go home." Her mind was preoccupied. 'Is Alec walking this way?' It looked like he
was walking her way. 'Why is he walking over here?…Where's Ms. Sexy-in-a-short-
skirt?' Nowhere to be seen. And Alec *was* walking in her direction.

'Oh, no.'

"Can I walk you home, then?" Asha heard Steve ask.

She didn't know where the response came, but it came just the same. Asha winced.
'Great…I'm turning into Dr. Seuss.' She said: "Sure". The surprise on Steve's face
would have made her laugh, if the whole reason that she'd said yes hadn't been Alec-
inspired panic.

"Really?"

This time Asha did laugh. "Really." Or at least he could walk her out of Crash. And
give her an excuse not to let herself look like a fool in front of Alec. Again.

"Um…I'm just gonna go tell my buddy I'm leaving," Steve said.

Asha waved him away with a smile. "Fine. I'll meet you at the door." Then realized
what she'd done. Wasn't this exactly the sort of behavior Original had criticized her for?
Asha felt like sighing. Old habits…

Steve had just walked away, when Asha turned… And realized Alec was no longer
walking in her direction. He was there. In front of her.

'Oh, no, no, no.'

"Hey, Asha," he said, that same smile back on his face, full force.

"Alec," she managed to reply. Somehow. Through a mouth suddenly filled with cotton.

When had she started having this reaction to Alec? She'd always been attracted to him,
she could admit that. But she didn't usually feel the attraction this strong with anyone
but Logan. Was it because she'd finally gotten closure on the whole Logan thing? Was
it because she'd *finally*, finally, realized that it was, in fact, hopeless?

Was it because old habits really did die hard? And since she was, apparently, starting to
get over Logan, what better catastrophe to move onto than an obsession with Alec.

"Leaving already?" Alec asked, raising a glass of Scotch to his lips.

Asha really hadn't needed Alec to call attention to his lips.

"Mm-hmm," she mumbled, trying not to bite her *own* lip.

Alec grinned, and Asha saw the mischief in his eyes even before he said the words he
said next.

"Seizing the day, like always, huh?" he teased, sarcastically. It was a dirty-handed
trick…reminding her of that night they *hadn't* had together. And it would have cut
Asha to the quick. If she hadn't had the conversation she'd had with OC that night. Was
OC right? Was Alec just trying to push her away?

Either way, it gave Asha the courage to smile in Alec's face, and to relish the surprise she
saw there in response. It also gave her the courage to mask whatever else she might have
been feeling at the moment.

Asha saw Steve, through the corner of her eye, waiting for her at the door. She nodded at
him, and noticed – with satisfaction – when *Alec* saw him, too. More surprise, and
something else, as well, flickered through his eyes.

"Always," she said simply. And brushed right by him.

She felt Alec's eyes on her until she'd walked all the way across the room and out the
door.