Title: Making the Call
Series: The Trouble with Clones
Summary: When Max burned down Manticore, she made the call to set the Transgenics free. When she destroyed the rendezvous signal, she made the call to scatter them into the wind. And, when she saved Alec from getting his head blown up, she made the call to accept him into her life. Now, she has to make the call to save him from himself.
Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine, obviously, and I’ll try to keep up with which fandom is which. BtVS/AtS is easy – Joss Whedon’s of course. Dark Angel – James Cameron. Supernatural – Eric Kripke.
As always, thank you to MaraLiz and Rorylondra for your lovely beta assistance!
Timeframe: Post-Season 7 BtVS; S1 DA; Post-SPN
Max fiddled with the business card that she pulled out from behind the mirror in the bathroom she shared with Original Cindy. The truth was that she had the numbers memorized, but it felt good to have tangible proof of the phone numbers in front of her. She had only spoken with Faith once since Sam and Dean had shown up and they took Ben with them. She had been understandably surprised when Dean walked in looking like an older version of Ben and she wasn’t sure if the three of them would be able to help him at all, but about a month after they disappeared into the night, she called Faith to check on Ben. He hadn’t killed anymore, so that was a good thing, but she didn’t know if he was okay. Faith was honest with her, told her that Ben was having difficulty letting go of his delusions, but that they weren’t giving up on him.
Before she could call again, the whole Manticore fiasco had happened. Ever since she burned the place down, she seemed to be reacting instead of acting, so she hadn’t had time to think about contacting them again, but now she had another reason to do so.
Just a few hours earlier, she had told Alec that she never wanted to see him again because he had cost her the cure to the virus that was keeping her and Logan apart. But, the truth was that it hadn’t been all Alec’s fault. If she hadn’t been so wrapped up in her issues with Manticore and the virus, she would have contacted Faith about Alec earlier and then maybe he wouldn’t have even still been there. That was why she took down Manticore, to give all of the Transgenics—Alec included—a chance at a life. But, there was also the thought in the back of her mind that Ben might not be stable and Alec already harbored so much anger toward him for the six months he had to spend in Psy-Ops to make sure that Ben’s psychosis wasn’t genetic. She had been to Psy-Ops and she definitely did not envy Alec in that aspect. She did, however, grudgingly respect the fact that he had managed to come out of his time there relatively whole in comparison to most of the others.
Plus, he had the chance to kill both her and Josh and chose not to, at the risk to his own life. She knew that wasn’t something that they taught at Manticore. She couldn’t even blame him for his part in infecting Logan. She knew what the consequences would have been if he had either refused or failed in the mission.
She hadn’t told Alec about the Winchesters, or about Ben being alive. This was partly because she just wasn’t sure whether Alec would hate Ben enough to actually kill him for what happened in the past. Her fear was equal parts fear for Ben’s life and also fear that Alec would regret his action one day and wouldn’t be able to take it back. Okay, if she was being honest with herself, the scale was more tipped in fearing for Ben than for Alec, but wasn’t it natural to want to protect her sibling? Wasn’t that why she allowed them to take him in the first place? They could help him when she couldn’t.
But, now she couldn’t know whether they would be able to protect Ben from Alec if the need arose and that is what had ultimately stayed her hand every time she thought about calling before. She was running out of options, though, and it wouldn’t be too long before she ran out of excuses. She had seen how the Winchesters reacted to seeing Ben. Dean had taken one look at him, issued him orders in a tone that even she would have obeyed, and cut him loose from the chair. The entire time they had been waiting for them, she had watched as Ben planned his escape, but the moment Dean touched the side of his head and issued the order to stay with him, Max saw the fight leave him and acceptance take hold in his green eyes.
It was the fear in Alec’s eyes just before the doctor removed the bomb at the base of his brain that had finally pushed her to take the chance, to put Ben’s life on the line in the hope that it would give Alec his chance to live. With one last deep breath, she dialed Faith’s number and waited for the older woman to pick up.“Max,”
Faith answered. “It’s good to hear from you. We were getting worried that something had happened. You looking for an update on Ben? He’s getting better, but it’s slow going. He doesn’t wake up screaming anymore, but sometimes he doesn’t know where he is when he first wakes up. Doesn’t really help that we move around so much, so we’ve been holed up at an old hunting cabin in Vermont for the last few weeks. It seems to be better for him.”
She was glad that Ben was holding his own, but that wasn’t the point of the call. “Thanks for telling me about Ben, but there’s something else.”“What’s up?”
Faith asked. “You need help? I can get some people there in a day or so. We’d come ourselves, but…”
“No, Ben needs you,” Max agreed. “It’s not me. I’m okay. I mean, things are pretty whack, but I’m dealing.”“Then, what’s the sitch?”
“I have something to tell you and I should have called you sooner, but so much happened so quickly and I just couldn’t,” Max told her.“Okay, so tell me now and we’ll deal with the fallout,”
“Remember I told you how Manticore burned and a whole bunch of Transgenics and Transhumans are running around?” Max asked.“Yeah, we’ve spread the word in the hunting community so that we don’t off any non-hostiles,”
Faith confirmed. “From what I’ve heard, a few other hunters have run across a stray Transgenic here or there. Couple of them have signed on for hunting. I think some of them are in Cleveland now, too. There’s a school there that can handle their special needs.”
“You think?” Max asked. It made Max nervous to not know what happened to the other Manticore escapees, but there was only so much she could do. She had to hope that burning Manticore down was the right thing to do, that more of the soldiers had survived and would continue to survive than had died. She felt a tear slip down her cheek and wiped it away quickly. It was too much; it was all just too much for her to handle alone.
Faith sighed, “Yeah, I’ve been a little busy last few weeks. Right about the time Manticore burned, Ben freaked the fuck out, said he was being followed. Turned out he was right. Took us nearly a week to spot him, but once we did, we caught him pretty easily. Pretty sure you’ll recognize the name Lydecker.”
“Shit! Is Ben okay?” Max asked, suddenly very worried for her brother.“Yeah, he’s okay…well, okayish anyway,”
Faith replied. “Spooked him though. Took Dean knocking Lydecker unconscious before Ben calmed down. He wanted to kill him, but we needed to get as much info as possible from the fucker, so I took Ben with me and Sam and Dean stayed with Lydecker. I never saw the man again, but the boys came back with a lot of information, mostly medical info and specs on the different series. I’m sure it’s not everything, but it’s a start. Sam wrote it all down for you and sent it to the drop location. I would have called, but Ben was still in a bad way and I honestly have no idea what happened to Lydecker. Sam & Dean won’t say, except that I don’t need to worry about him coming after Ben again.”
“You think…?” Max left the question open ended.“I’m not crazy enough to ask, but I believe them,”
Faith told her. “I really don’t need to know more than that. And, you really don’t want to.”
Max let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. She wasn’t sure how she felt about Lydecker potentially being dead. On one hand, he had made her life a living hell, but on the other hand, he had been feeding Logan information that had helped, at least a little bit. Truthfully, she never could quite figure him out, but he was the least of her concerns now, so she set it aside to deal with later, like half past never. She breathed out, “Okay.”“So, what’s the issue? There a problem with one of the Transgenics?”
“Kind of. It was touch and go for a few hours, but he’s okay now,” Max told her. As much as Alec annoyed her and as much as she was still angry that the cure had to be put off because of him, she was still in shock as to just how close that bomb had come to going off while still in his head. It was close—too close.“You wouldn’t be calling me if the problem was solved though, would you?”
Max forced herself to look in the mirror as she gathered her courage to tell Faith about Alec. She wasn’t sure exactly how much guilt she carried around for having kept the information about him a secret and how it almost got him killed.
“The thing is, he’s Ben’s twin,” Max finally blurted out. She heard Faith gasp and male voices in the background asking what was wrong and then Faith shushing them and saying she would be right back. Then a door closed and there was silence on the other end of the line.“Are you sure?”
Faith finally asked.
“Yeah, Ben’s designation is 493. His twin is 494. I, uh, named him Alec,” Max told her.“You named him?”
“Yeah, when I was back in Manticore, before it blew up,” Max explained, suddenly even more nervous.“Why did you name him?”
The scene flew through Max’s mind and she couldn’t help but feel bittersweet about it. She hated that he didn’t have an identity—wasn’t allowed one—but she could respect that he had managed to set himself apart, even while he was treated as nothing more than property. His deals with the guards, his subterfuge, his survival skills, including his sharp wit. Even she had to admit that they were all impressive and were probably what gave him the ability to survive in the real world, without orders from command. But, she still felt sad that he had gone through so much of his life without knowing what it was to really be human, to even have a name, something so basic that it was the first thing that parents did for their children. It was part of creating a family, part of the ritual of claiming someone as family.
“It’s kind of a long story, but things were really different after we escaped,” Max said. “The kids left behind…well, it was a lot worse for them.”“Let me guess: the twins got the worst of it,”
She had seen first-hand how much tighter security was when during her second stay at Manticore and the other kids there had hated her for being one of the ‘09ers. They called her a traitor, and in their eyes, she could see why they felt that way. She just didn’t feel guilty enough to regret having left. That was all in the past and she couldn’t do anything about it, but she could at least prepare the Winchesters for the reality that they would be dealing with.
“Alec won’t talk about it, but yeah, I think so,” Max said softly.“You said he was in trouble? Is he hurt?”
“No, he’s okay for now. He was in trouble, but I helped him.”
The guilt came flooding back as she remembered how reluctant she was to help him and how she made him feel ashamed to even need her help in the first place. She really couldn’t blame him for trying to save his own life. He had barely gotten a chance to live in the free world and was under a death sentence. Of course, it would have helped if he wasn’t shining a spotlight on himself and practically declaring himself a Transgenic every night as he stepped into the ring, but it’s not like she had made any attempt to help him get acclimated to Ordinary society. Shaking her head to clear it, Max re-focused on what she could do for him now. She needed to get him out of this life so that he could survive and maybe be able to come back stronger, knowing who he was and what it meant to have a real family.“Okay, I’ll see how travel-ready Ben is and we’ll be there as soon as we can. I’ll call you back with an ETA. It may take a few weeks, depending on how Ben is,”
Faith told her. “Will you do your best to look after him until we can get there?”
“I’ll try, but we kind of had a fight and I was pretty pissed off at him and I told him I never wanted to see him again,” Max noted with chagrin.“Well, untell him,”
Faith responded. “Look, just keep him in town for as long as you can and if you can’t, try to get a way to contact him.”
“Okay,” Max agreed. She wasn’t exactly sure how she would do it, but she would do as Faith asked. It was the least she could do after what they were doing for Ben. She was about to hang up when Faith caught her attention again.“Hey, what was the fight about?”
“Doesn’t really matter,” Max replied, and in that moment, it really didn’t matter. She would probably forget her benevolence the next moment she saw Alec—he could infuriate her like few others could—but for right now, she just knew that he was her responsibility, at least until she could turn that responsibility over to Faith and the Winchesters. They had done right by Ben and she had to trust that they would do right by Alec as well. She realized that Faith was still on the line, and told her, “Remember I told you about that guy, Agent White?”“Yeah, the fuck who killed a bunch of little kids,”
Faith interjected. “We see him, we’re shooting to kill.”
“Can’t disagree with you right about now,” Max told her.
Faith must have heard the defeat in her voice because the older woman’s voice changed to something more sympathetic, “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, you’ll get where you need to go.”
“Thanks, Faith,” Max told her. “I’ll wait for your call.”“Roger that,”
Faith told her and hung up.
Faith snapped her cell phone shut with a sigh and leaned against a tree she had been walking past. This just wasn’t good. It took all three of them to keep Ben calm sometimes, although she seemed to have the magic touch when the other two had failed. They all had their different ways of handling him. Sam would talk to him until Ben fell asleep. He could talk about anything and sometimes he would read to Ben, from John’s journal or from a book that he had picked up somewhere. The sound of his voice seemed to soothe Ben when he couldn’t sleep at night. Dean could somehow order
clarity back into Ben’s mind. Even when Ben wasn’t mentally present—had retreated into his own mind—he responded to Dean’s orders to eat, drink, clean himself and sleep without saying a word. And, when Ben was running through the woods, hunting something only he could see, Faith was the only one that ran as fast as him and could best him in battle. When Faith had him immobilized, she could break through his psychosis until he remembered where he was and who he was with and that they weren’t going to let anyone hurt him. The fight would leave him and he would cry and she would let him—for as long as he needed to—while she stroked his hair and told him lies about how everything was okay.
They took him to a psychiatrist, but Dean wouldn’t take him back there after Ben spent the following three days screaming his throat hoarse. He didn’t even sleep; he just screamed. Faith didn’t really think the psychiatrist was going to be able to help him anyway. She knew from experience that the only way that therapy could help was if you could be completely honest with your therapist. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist from the prison Faith had been in was killed in the riots that followed the Pulse and Faith didn’t know any other psychiatrists that knew anything about the supernatural. It was too risky to bring in an outsider. The only good thing that the Pulse had done was wipe out her murder rap and the outstanding warrants for the boys’ arrests, but since then, they had certainly racked up plenty of other felonies that had them staying a few steps ahead of the law. They wouldn’t be able to help Ben at all from a prison cell.
Now, there was another twin who sounded like he needed their help as well. Max didn’t make it seem too urgent, but she knew the moment she told Sam and Dean, they would be trying to figure out a way to get to him. Dean would never sacrifice one child for the other. He considered Ben to be his son and she knew Alec would also get the ‘Daddy Dean Winchester’ treatment, whether he wanted it or not. But, she could also read between Max’s lines to realize that there was a good possibility that Alec would hold a grudge against Ben for the difficulties he faced in Manticore after Ben’s unit broke out. Alec was one of the twins and they were treated worse than the rest.
Briefly, she wondered if she could slip away for a day or two and check on him without Sam and Dean figuring out what was going on, but then she realized that it just wasn’t possible. Neither Sam nor Dean could keep up with Ben if he took off in the middle of the night and he might accidentally hurt someone in his psychotic haze. They did have some tranquilizers, but they made Ben throw up for several hours after he came to, so they used them very sparingly.
She heard Sam coming up from behind her long before he came up beside her and leaned against her tree. He didn’t speak, so she didn’t either as he tugged her into his shoulder and rested his chin on top of her head. She drew on his strength and sighed out her stress.
“How long before Ben will be okay to change locations?” she asked.
“A week? Maybe ten days,” Sam guessed, reaching out to catch a leaf that had fallen from the branch above their heads and was floating to the ground. “Why? Do we have a timetable? Is there a hunt?”
“No hunt, but ‘yes’ to the timetable,” Faith told him, turning in his embrace to face him. She took a deep breath and knew she had to tell him. “Ben has a brother—a twin.”
“Crap,” Sam replied instantly then backtracked, “I mean, that’s okay. We’ll figure this out. We just have to get to him and see how bad he is…”
Faith cut him off, “Max says he’s not psychotic, but apparently he manages to get into trouble. I think that’s less of a Manticore thing and more of a Winchester thing though.”
“Ha-ha,” Sam mock-glared at her. “You know Dean is going to want to go to him right away.”
“I know,” Faith nodded. “But, that just may not be possible. Ben is still fragile. You know he doesn’t do well when we move around too quickly. It’s going to be difficult to cross the country with him. Just finding remote places to stay where he won’t be able to hurt anyone if he goes hunting at night is a challenge. And, we need all three of us to take care of him.”
“He’s getting better, though,” Sam commented. “The last few times I’ve talked to him, he’s actually been responding to me, as in a real conversation.”
“I know and that’s good,” Faith agreed. “But, there is an added complication: Alec was in Manticore until it burned down and was all but butt-fucked by them for everything that Ben did, back in ’09 and probably again when they found out about his little killing spree last year. He may be harboring a bit of anger.”
“Yeah, that is definitely a possibility,” Sam commented, running a hand down his face. His exhaustion showed on his face and she decided that she was taking his watch that night so he could get some sleep.
“I’m supposed to call Max back to let her know when we think we’ll get there. I don’t know what to tell her,” Faith admitted.
“You said that this kid—Alec—is stable, right?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, that’s what Max said, more or less,” Faith confirmed.
“Well, we know that Ben isn’t and we’ll just have to take as long as it takes to get him there without destroying what sanity he has managed to get back. I know it sounds cold, but we’re just going to have to trust that Alec can hold himself together until we can get there.”
Faith sighed and nodded, “I wish we had a hunter that we could send to get him, but we don’t. Bobby’s gone, Jo & Ellen are gone, basically everyone is gone. I could send a Slayer to check up on him, but I don’t know how his senses will react to her. Ben always knows when I am near. He says he can feel me differently than you two. Same problem with sending a Witch. You saw Ben’s reaction to Willow. Definitely not something we want to repeat. He has animal DNA that probably thinks Willow is unnatural and he reacted violently to protect himself. A Watcher could never get close enough.”
Sam tugged her hand to get her to start walking toward the cabin. She glanced at the sun setting in the sky and she knew that Dean would have had Ben take his shower already and it was her turn to put dinner on the table. Some days that meant hunting for food, but tonight it just meant cooking up a pot of spaghetti and some store-stolen sauce. If the bread wasn’t moldy, she would cut some of that up as well. She couldn’t wait until tomorrow night. It was Sam’s turn to cook then and he always did a good job of it, even if she often had to be the one to kill whatever he cooked. She would go out early the next morning and see if the traps had been more fruitful and, if not, maybe she would be able to catch a deer or something. As a last resort, she would even try fishing, but she didn’t really like to sit that still for that long. Surprisingly, if she did go fishing, she could take Ben with her. He would sit for hours in silence and watch the lines if the fish weren’t biting and if they were biting, he would have the net ready for her when she reeled the sucker in.
“I guess we’ll just have to hope that even though this kid seems to have inherited Dean’s ability to get into trouble that he also inherited my brother’s ability to get out of it as well,” Sam said. “One thing, though.”
“What’s that?” Faith asked.“You
get to tell Dean,” Sam told her with a grin.
“Chickenshit,” Faith baited him, but it just made Sam smile wider.#