Disclaimer: [Insert standard disclaimer here.]
A/N: I've been out of the game for a while now due to a hectic summer schedule (it's pretty much impossible to write while on vacation)... So I thought I'd ease back in with a simple one-part piece rather than leaping into one of my many unfinished projects. At least, that's what I'd intended. Instead, I found it a lot harder to write than I'd originally thought. And after all that effort expelled, feedback would be greatly appreciated. Additional note/warning: it's a little strange, maybe even confusing. It just popped into my head and wouldn't let me go 'til I finished it.
It was their "spot" now. Kind of like their song or the anniversary they could never have. Something they shared with no one but each other.
He wondered if anyone else ever came up here. Probably not. He would have noticed anything - even the smallest of signs - to indicate there'd been any visitors besides the two of them. It was the type of thing he'd been trained to notice… that might have meant death if he'd overlooked it.
Of course, it'd been a while since they'd been here together. Much too long. He wasn't sure whose fault that was. He wasn't sure it was anyone's fault.
But he came now, tonight, knowing she was already here. Knowing that she was angry, that she had a tendency to lash out when she was angry. At everyone… anyone… even at him. Most of all, at him.
He was going to have to be careful. Then again, he always was.
Noiselessly, he climbed down the sloped edge of the metal surface, shoes gripping easily. Just as quietly, he sat down beside her. She didn't flinch. Didn't even look over, though she would have seen him in her peripheral vision, known of his arrival even before that.
That was the thing about their kind. In true stillness, in pure silence, no matter how quietly one moved, not even a transgenic could sneak up another transgenic without detection. Maybe it was all that animal DNA. Maybe it brought the beast that lay dormant in all - human and transgenic alike - closer to the surface. And the beast always knew when it'd suddenly gone from predator to prey.
Not that she was at all in danger from him now. But still, instincts are instincts, and they weren't so civilized that hey could shut the beast up entirely. Besides, the beast did its part. And a well-kept beast can have its usefulness.
She sat with her knees to her chest, but back straight, spine stiff. Pure tension in her pose. Angry, just as he'd thought, but she seemed to relax just a little with his arrival.
He stretched out his legs before him, arms loose, hands resting in his lap. It was almost an exact reenactment of the first time they were up here together. Many years ago, but not nearly as many as it sometimes seemed. Only years, not a lifetime.
She must have seen the parallel as well; she spoke first.
"You remember that day after I told you about Ben? The first time we were up here together?"
He nodded, knowing she'd see from the corner of her eye. "You're not going to tell me that love sucks, again, are you?"
Her lips curved up just slightly, and with what could loosely be described as a snort, she glanced down. "No point in voicing common knowledge."
After a pause, she said, "Did you ever imagine we'd end up where we are today?"
He shrugged, hoping she'd take that as answer enough. Truth was he'd had an inkling of what the future held for them, even if she hadn't. Maybe he knew her better than she'd known herself. Maybe he was just a pessimist. Either way, he wasn't too surprised by how things had turned out.
They lapsed into silence. He joined her in gazing out at the city below them, and managed to abide by the silence for a while. But then she emitted a noise that could be interrupted as a half-smothered sigh, the kind that might have escaped without knowledge, and then repressed upon realization.
"What's wrong?" Once upon a time, he wouldn't have bothered to ask. Wouldn't have expected a straightforward response, not from her. Not for him.
"Nothing." Still didn't now. Expect the straightforward response, that is. But he bothered. That said something, didn't it? And eventually… usually… he'd get that response. Just had to work at it.
"Can't be nothing," he said. "You're up here, aren't you?"
"I came here to - " she began.
"Think. Right, I got that part."
He glanced over. She suddenly sounded tired, weary. Her head was tilted downward and her back wasn't quite as rigid as it had been before.
"What is it?" he tried again.
He took it as a good sign when she didn't answer "nothing" this time around. Well, she didn't answer. Period. But he wasn't so easily discouraged, not after all these years. He could read her like a book. Maybe more like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, than Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat or something of the sort. But a book nonetheless.
"Everything should be perfect now. Familiars gone, White dead, transgenic-human peace treaty signed…" He gestured expansively. "What more does Max's heart desire?"
Sighing, she said, "Logan and I had a fight."
Ah, of course. Didn't this have standard Max-Logan angst written all over it?
She sighed again. She seemed to be developing a habit right before his... ears. "He wants to have a family."
Logan Cale, family man? It wasn't that difficult a picture to conjure. One boy, one girl, probably. Prep school uniforms, Sunday picnics. Reading the newspaper as the entire family sat around the breakfast table each morning. Maybe even a fluffy little dog yapping at their feet. Princess or, god forbid… Fluffy.
It was the kind of life he was bred for.
"I don't think it's a good time." Her brown eyes shot in his direction as if anticipating his reaction. As if. Why would she care what he thought? The decision had nothing at all to do with him. "I want to wait."
He paused thoughtfully, bringing one hand up to his knee, brushing off a bit of dirt he'd suddenly discovered. "What'd he say?"
"What he's said every other time this conversation has come up." There was a mocking tone to her voice as she spoke, "That he understands why I might be afraid, but that it's time to confront that fear. That I can't let this rule our lives for forever, and eventually we have to try again."
"And what'd you say?"
"I told him it had nothing to do with that. That I just wasn't ready to have a family yet. I told him I wanted to wait." She shook her head angrily. "Then he said he couldn't understand how I'm 'not ready' now, but I was ready back then, six years ago." Her voice had been rising with each successive word until she paused, taking a deep breath. He didn't say anything.
When she continued, she was much quieter. "I reminded him that last time was…" she grimaced, "an accident. That we hadn't planned it or anything. That accepting it then and wanting to try again now are two completely different things." Her eyes rose in his direction and he met them. "That's all I told him."
He nodded. That's all he'd expected. That's all he should have expected. Any more, and he was asking to be disappointed.
He had thought she was finished, but she surprised him a bit when she went on. "Then, somehow, he brought you up." Eyes narrowing, he watched her. "The same old stuff, about how we're too close, we spend too much time together. I told him he was being ridiculous. He has nothing to worry about." She rubbed a hand over her face. "He's just so damn… frustrating."
"It's me who he doesn't trust."
"Well nothing would happen between us if I didn't let it," she argued.
He shrugged. "Maybe he's afraid I'd take advantage of you. In a moment of weakness."
"There's no such thing as a 'moment' of weakness," she said, shaking her head. "Weaknesses never last for just a moment."
He said nothing and fought the bitter laugh that threatened to escape. He'd never heard truer words leave her lips. If a weakness lasted for only a moment… that would just make life too easy, wouldn't it.
"Besides," she said, "he's a little late on that front, isn't he. If he wanted to worry, he should have done it years ago."
It wasn't a topic on which he liked to dwell, so he didn't respond.
After a while, he asked, "So what now?"
She was standing suddenly and walking up the slope of the tower. He knew she wasn't leaving, not just yet. Too much energy, emotional charge that needed to be expelled; she couldn't sit still. She paused when she reached the halfway point.
"Well, I'm not bringing an innocent child into this world just to appease Logan. That's no reason to have a baby."
He had his back to her, but he knew she was pacing. His head tilted forward and he gazed at his hands, still resting in his lap. "Then what are you going to do?" This was no small point of disagreement, and they both knew it. And the fact that it kept coming up… she couldn't keep putting the issue off. She couldn't keep stringing Logan along. She knew it, but he doubted she was prepared to face the consequences.
He felt the stillness behind him; she had stopped. A small sigh escaped her lips. "I don't know," she said softly. "I don't know."
Half turning so he could see her, he stretched his palms flat on the metal surface to support his weight. There was a tired slope to her shoulders and her head appeared to hang heavily with the burden of indecision.
"You've been through a lot together," he said in a quiet voice, "Done a lot together."
She nodded. "We're the poster couple for transgenic-human relations." Her voice was only slightly bitter, mostly weary, and a little sad.
"The public is still wary of us. If you and Logan split up…" he left the statement incomplete, knowing she could finish the thought herself. Knowing that she'd already considered that through herself. Knowing all she needed was a reminder, a little nudge in the direction of the choice she was already going to make.
She let out a brief laugh; it wasn't a pleasant sound. "You know, when we escaped from Manticore, we did so because we thought on the outside we would be free. We could live for ourselves. But in the entire time that I've been out here, I've never once been able to live for myself. For the first eleven years, I was constantly on the run, always looking over my shoulder, never being able to do what I really wanted because I had to consider what that meant in terms of compromising my position. Then the siege began, and it was time to take over Terminal City, lead the transgenics. Once the treaty was signed, I figured it was all finally over. Well, not over, over… but at least I could step back and enjoy myself for once."
She shook her head and laughed again. "But it didn't happen that way, did it? The treaty may have been signed, but the transgenics still needed a leader, a figurehead… and that figurehead happened to be me. Of course, with Logan by my side, I was the perfect choice."
He watched her quietly, not interrupting. She needed this. She didn't need the truth, didn't want it, and if she could live without it, he could live with that. Let her believe that she was the one making the sacrifice. In some strange way, she'd always seemed to enjoy being the martyr.
'You married him, Max… you didn't have to.'
He pushed the thought back from where it'd come.
She turned and headed up the remaining slope of the building, back toward the stairs that would lead her down to the street. But before she slipped inside the gaping hole that had once housed an almost shatter-resistant window, she paused. Her dark hair flapped around her face as a cool breeze hit them both.
The years had done little to her appearance, and looking at her he could almost forget how much time had passed since their paths had first crossed. Almost, except when he looked at himself… looked at what he had become. No, maybe it didn't show on the outside, but it was painfully clear inside.
"Sometimes I wonder," she said softly, "if I hadn't lost that child, whether things might have turned out differently. Whether it would have given me the courage to do what I've wanted to do all these years. Would it have been reason enough to abandon 'the cause' in exchange for my own happiness?"
She was quiet a moment and she caught his eyes with her own dark gaze. "I don't consider you a moment of weakness, Alec." Then, without another word, she turned and ducked through the window, disappearing from view.
For a while he remained as he was, staring after her. He tossed the question she'd asked around in his head. He even momentarily entertained the possibility that the answer could have been 'yes'.
Eventually, his gaze returned to the cityscape.
No, he already knew the answer. It was deep down within him, where all undeniable but difficult truths tend to rest, merely awaiting his acceptance. He knew it wouldn't have made a difference. She would never have left Logan, no matter how many reasons, no matter what the incentive.
And he acknowledged the guilt that tugged at him when he realized a part of him was relieved… glad even… that the child had not survived. That her injuries had been too severe for the three-month fetus to endure and the pregnancy had been aborted.
Because it was bad enough that the woman he loved had married another man - that she chose to remain with that man when whatever affection she'd once held for him had long since dwindled away.
But had his son or daughter lived to call Logan Cale 'dad'… that would have been just salt on the wound.