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This story immediately follows the events of "Freak Nation."
Yes, I had to do my own version of how things might have gone in S3. Not surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with some of the other fanfic writers who have already given their take on this storyline. I had no preconceived notion about how the characters would act on the page when I started. However, just like other authors have written, Logan's presence is trouble in more ways than one (although he means well) and Max still doesn't appreciate Alec. Plus, there are all the logistic problems of maintaining a long term siege in Terminal City. Oh well, guess I'll just have to see how it all turns out, because when I begin a story like this I never know in what direction the characters will take me. -- author's note
The Days After
She was back with Logan.
Not a good thing, Alec thought as he watched the couple talking together in front of the computer monitors on the other side of the cavernous warehouse. But not completely a bad thing either he amended. Maybe Max really needed Logan right now. She'd been leaning on the guy way too long to go cold turkey on the relationship. But trouble was going to come of it, and not necessarily the kind Max was worried about.
She and Logan could use prophylactic devices, keep their distance, be careful, and maybe ... just maybe Logan wouldn't die from the virus any time soon. But the toll that kind of constant vigilance would take on Max wasn't what she needed right now -- not when she'd just declared herself the leader of a nation. Hell, she'd been crumbling under the worries while a mere Jam Pony bike messenger. Now, she was a queen with a lot of very frightened subjects to pacify -- subjects who were not going to take kindly to their monarch being in love with an ordinary.
But hey, at least I'm off the hook, Alec thought cynically. The woman he could all too easily love no longer had to pretend she loved him. Max had told Logan last night that it had all been an act, that the two of them had never been a couple, would never be more than friends.
Now when Logan looked at him there wasn't that weirdness in his eyes. And the guy was maybe even actually glad he'd helped the Manticore brat out yesterday instead of playing the hero just because it was what Max would have wanted him to do.
Helped him out. Hell, Alec thought. Admit it. Logan probably saved my life. And if the roles had been reversed, he wasn't at all sure he'd have been so generous. Logan could have let that Familiar chick crack him on the head. He'd been holding his own until then, but his left arm had grown numb, hanging painfully and uselessly by his side, the wound far worse than he'd been letting on. Even now, a day later, he felt faint just trying to move it. He'd lost a lot of blood too. She probably would have bashed his skull in or broken his neck. And then where would that have left Max?
Alec couldn't help wondering about that. Would Max have cared very much if he hadn't made it out, if his body had been left behind with Cece's? Oh, she'd have cried and been depressed about losing more of her family, but would she have really cared for long? Would Logan's renewed presence in her life have been enough to let her quickly put her memories of "Alec the Pain in the Ass" behind her, relegated with Ben to the "gone but not forgotten", "gee it was nice knowin' you" dustbin of her mind.
She hadn't spoken to him since yesterday. Not a word. Hadn't asked how he was, or where he was. Just her and Logan in the computer center for the past 18 hours surrounded by an increasingly frightened hoard of freaks.
She obviously didn't need him. Question was, did he need her? Why was he staying anyway?
Alec knew the answer. Because he didn't have anyplace else to go. Not unless he wanted to live out the rest of his life in loneliness. Been there done that, he remembered, thinking back to his first days of freedom from Manticore and all the bad choices he'd made before teaming up with Max and her friends. He'd been bred to be part of a squad, a pack, a family. And he'd already found out the hard way that he didn't function well outside his tribe ... didn't function well without -- Max.
Oh crap, Alec thought. Double crap.
"Hey, dude. How's the arm?"
On one level, Alec had been aware of Sketchy's approach, but it took the other man's words to shake him out of his morbid train of thought.
"It's healin' good," he lied, carefully putting on his trademark cocky, all-is-right-with-the-world smile. "Hey," he said, deliberately flexing the sore limb and hiding the fact the effort brought tears to his eyes. "I'm Marvelous Monty Cora. Remember? A little bullet wound is nothin'."
"Nothin' to a transgenic maybe," Sketchy said, shaking his head in admiration. "Man, the way you dudes fought yesterday. I'll never forget it. You guys were unbelievable."
"Well believe it, my man," Alec said, the smile still in place as he carefully tucked his arm against his chest again. "We transgenics kick ass."
"Good thing too," Sketchy said. "Looks like you guys are gonna have a lot more asses to kick before all of this is over." He glanced meaningfully out toward the perimeter of Terminal City where National Guard tanks and troops were lined up a hundred feet deep. "Ya think Max is gonna be able to talk us out of this?"
"I don't know, Sketch," Alec said, relieved he could drop the false bravado now that they were discussing something other than his physical person. "I don't know what's gonna happen, and I doubt Max does either. But I do know she'll try her best to keep everyone in here safe."
Sketchy was looking worried. "About that," he said. "Uh, Alec. Do you think it's true? That there's all kinds of biological and chemical contamination here. That humans ... I mean real people ... I mean, you know. That we could get sick when you guys don't?"
Alec shrugged, then immediately wished he hadn't. "Don't know that either, Sketch. I suppose if I were you I'd be lookin' for a way out. But the cops, not to mention White, know you, OC, and Logan helped us escape. If you go out there they're gonna interrogate you until you wished you were dead, then lock you in a cell and throw away the key." Alec thought a moment. "Which, I've got to admit is probably a lot better treatment than the rest of us in here would get. Us, they'd just shoot on sight."
Sketchy looked glum. "That's what OC said." He looked back over his shoulder. "She's not too worried though. In fact, I think she's kinda enjoyin' herself, helping out that X5 with her baby. Who'd have thought OC would be the maternal type."
"Go figure," Alec said. But he wasn't really listening to Sketchy any more. Joshua was making his way toward him, pushing through a crowd of X5's who'd been hanging around the edge of things, waiting for orders of some kind that so far hadn't been forthcoming.
"Alec!" his big friend called. "Max sent me to find you."
About friggin' time, Alec thought, still miffed that she'd ignored him for so long, but at the same time ridiculously glad she'd finally remembered his existence.
"How's your arm?" Joshua asked. Alec couldn't help but be touched by the genuine concern in his friend's voice. It was Joshua who'd dressed his wound late last night with a field med kit.
"Give me a couple of days," Alec said, not feeling the need to keep up his brave act anymore. He looked at Joshua. "You did a good job patchin' me up. I appreciate it."
"Glad I could help," Joshua said, putting a big hand on Alec's good shoulder as they approached the steps leading up to where Max and Logan waited on the balcony.
Max didn't look very happy. In fact, she looked downright pissed. What did I do now?" Alec thought, taking a deep breath and preparing himself for one of her sarcastic onslaughts. Maybe I didn't bleed enough for her.
"How's the arm?" Logan asked.
"For the third time this morning already, it's all right," Alec said, exasperated because the one person he'd hoped would inquire about his health apparently didn't care. I'm all right." He glanced at Max. She looked awful. There were dark circles under her eyes and her hair hung in dull ratty strands. On the other hand, he doubted he looked much better.
"Glad to hear it," Max said, her lips compressing into a thin line as she finally noticed him. "But then you're Manticore. We heal fast."
"We're all Manticore in here, Max." Alec said. He looked at Logan. "Well, not quite all."
"What do you mean by that, Alec?" Logan asked quietly.
"Nothing." Alec cursed himself for the slip of his tongue. But the other transgenics around them had grown silent and were watching ... listening. The damage was done. He'd just picked the scab off the wound.
Max noticed, and her eyes narrowed. "This is a mistake," she said. "I thought maybe I could count on you for some help. But I should have known better. Go on. Get out of here. Go back to ... whatever you want to do."
"You can count on me, Max," Alec said quickly. "You counted on me yesterday, didn't you? And didn't I come through? Fought with you? Won with you? And I'm still here, Max. Still with you."
Her eyes softened. "I need someone I can trust," she said quietly. "Someone the others will trust."
Alec looked around the balcony. Mole was watching them, as were Joshua, and several others. "I'll do my best," Alec said, knowing it would be a mistake to make false promises.
Max turned to address Mole. "You and the others say you don't think Logan and I will make good decisions. Will you trust Alec? If he thinks it's all right will you do what I say?"
Good grief, she's making me some kind of go-between Alec thought, not certain if he liked this development.
"We trust Alec more than you," Mole said. "But he's still X5. Not like us."
"Alec and you then?" Max said, a touch of desperation creeping into her voice.
Mole thought about her words a minute as he rigorously chomped on his cigar. "All right," he finally said. "We'll try it that way for awhile. But the first time anything goes wrong, my people will decide how to do things our own way."
"Sounds like you've got your chance, Max," Logan said.
Max nodded. Then looked at Alec. "I need to talk to you -- alone."
"No secrets," Mole growled.
"It's personal," Max shot back.
Mole's eyes widened a bit, then he grinned. "Oh," he said. "That." He glanced from Logan to Alec. "'Bout time you picked a mate."
"Hey!" Logan said, almost in unison with Alec. "She's not--"
But Mole had turned away and was going down the steps, in a hurry to leave them some privacy.
Alec looked apologetically at Logan. "Logan, I swear I didn't tell him--"
"I know. He's just jumping to conclusions. Figures Max and you are still ... not that you ever were."
"Not that we ever were," Alec muttered under his breath.
Max was just looking embarrassed.
"This is so awkward," Alec said to her as they headed across the bay to a smaller set of rooms. "Everyone thinks we're ... or that we should be ..."
"Shut up," she said. She paused at the entrance to one of the abandoned offices. "Logan, I need to talk to Alec alone."
A brief flicker of suspicion crossed Logan's eyes, then was gone. "You can fill me in later," he said. "I'll go get some food. Provided I can find any."
Max smiled at Logan then -- in a way Alec knew she'd never smile at him, a tiny sparkle appearing at last in her eyes. God, what he'd give to have that effect on her. But of course when she turned back to him all she did was scowl.
Once inside she closed the door and asked, "Do you know how many people we have in Terminal City?"
Alec shrugged with his right shoulder. "No. But I imagine Mole does."
"Three hundred fifty-seven," Max said. "The vast majority of them either transhuman or the lower X series. They can't poke a finger out of here without being spotted."
"Neither can the X5's and above, Max," Alec said slowly. "Remember Biggs? The thermal scan? We're all penned."
"I was afraid you'd say that." She sat down on a rusty stool, the weariness back in her eyes. Alec wanted to put his arms around her, comfort her, but he knew that would be a mistake ... not unless she came to him first.
"You got some kinda plan?" he asked.
Max sighed. "We've got electric and water because the utilities can't shut us down without turning off half the city. We're tapped directly into the main lines below and our people are making sure those lines stay in place." She looked up at him. "Food and ammunition is another thing."
"We're good in the ammo department," Alec said. "It's not like we've had a major shootout -- yet."
"We'll need more," she said. "And the food situation ..."
"Is not good," Alec agreed. "I've had nothin' but crackers and coke since we holed up here. There are a few supplies stored away, but everyone who's got them is hoardin'. Can't blame 'em either."
"Alec, we could be here for months. They can't just storm the place or bomb us. They'd take too many casualties, not to mention we're in the middle of Seattle. Our perimeters are pretty much sealed, and they're also afraid of the bio and chemical hazards here. Anyone coming in would need a safe suit and those things are cumbersome, not to mention expensive. I can't see an army invading any time soon."
"They'll try to starve us out," Alec said, the military tactician in him assessing the situation.
"Which means we've got to find a way to get supplies in without them knowing. Eventually, when they see how determined we are and that we're not starving to death, maybe they'll finally negotiate."
"A long haul," Alec said.
She slumped more in her seat and he stepped closer, at last laying a hand on her shoulder. "Max," he said gently. "We'll figure something out. We always do."
"We do make a pretty good team sometimes," she admitted with a wane smile. She looked up at him, her eyes ... he couldn't quite read what was in her eyes. "Alec, I'm glad you're okay. I couldn't let myself think about it during the fight, or last night, or this morning. But, hey ... I'm really glad you're okay."
Alec realized she was probably telling him this because she knew he wanted to hear it. She was manipulating him because she really did need his help. But he didn't care. It somehow validated his existence when Max said things like that to him.
He blinked. He hadn't meant to get lost in thought like that.
"What do you think? Can you get the X5s, 6s and 7s together and form teams to venture out for supplies? I know the X's respect you ... listen to you. Especially the younger ones."
"I was a unit leader at Manticore," Alec said slowly, at the same time wondering how on Earth Max expected him to get men out of Terminal City.
"You were an officer?"
Max nodded her head, a fleeting look of respect for him in her eyes. "Funny. I never knew that."
"You never asked."
"Don't be. I lost the rank after ..." He didn't finish the sentence -- saw from her expression that he didn't need to.
"That doesn't matter," she said softly. "You're still a natural leader, even moreso than your X5 sequence allows. I've seen you in action too many times. When you can't get people to do what you say, you somehow manage to talk them into it anyway."
He couldn't help it. He smiled. Compliments from Max were rare. And that was a compliment, in a back-handed sort of way.
"Some of the X5's in here don't think I'm much of a leader," he said. "A few of them know I was busted down in rank and they're gonna hold that against me. They won't take kindly if I try to issue any orders."
"You'll have my authority to back you up."
"Might not be enough, Max. That bunch down on Oak Street are really bent out of shape over the ordinaries after what happened to Biggs. And they think you're too close to one of the enemy."
"Logan's done nothing but help us," Max snapped.
Alec backed up a step, holding his hands in the air. "I know. You're preachin' to the choir here, Max. I'm just sayin' they're pretty independent."
"Look, if you can't handle it--"
"I didn't say I couldn't handle it. I'm just sayin' it won't be easy. And we better have a good plan for going on these food forays of yours. Primarily a way in and out. The cops and National Guard might not know exactly what some of us look like, but you can be sure White's given them my picture as well as yours. He had to have recognized me yesterday, even if he didn't realize I was still alive before. And then there are the thermal scans. They can spot any of us that way."
Max was looking defeated again, and Alec felt like a bully.
But then she looked up, the determination back. "You're right," she said. "It's going to be hard. But we're Manticore. We can figure it out."
He grabbed her arm as she swept by him headed for the door. "Max, what about you and Logan?"
"None of your business," she said, her eyes going cold again.
He let her go.