Series: The Trouble with Clones
Summary: Alec knows Max is hiding something from him and, whatever it is, it’s about him. He decides he’s on a need to know basis.
Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine, obviously, and I’ll try to keep up with which fandom is which for this series. BtVS/AtS is easy—Joss Whedon’s of course. Dark Angel—James Cameron; Supernatural—Eric Kripke.
Note: This particular story in the series really doesn't have any interaction with any BtVS, but does have a few references. Still, I didn't think it was enough to call it an actual crossover as a stand-alone story, so I called it a non-BtVS crossover since it is 99% DA with just a bit of SPN/DA mixed in. This was needed to set up the next story in the series.
As always, thank you to MaraLiz and Rorylondra for your lovely beta assistance!
Timeframe: Post-Season 7 BtVS; S1 DA; Post-SPN
Alec pumped the pedals on his stolen bicycle as hard as he could and still appear fully human, once more wishing that he might have an opportunity to stretch his Transgenic muscles every once in a while. Sometimes he just felt stifled, having to keep up the pretense constantly. Even if he did occasionally run into a Transgenic that he recognized, who might want to spar with him, these days he never knew if something was a trap.
Part of what he had said to Max back in Manticore was true. It was easier—in a way—on the inside. He knew what to expect. If he followed orders, he was praised. If he disobeyed, he was punished. If he failed, he was punished. If they wanted to hurt him, they would. As taxing as it could be emotionally, it also lifted a burden from him. Surrendering to their will released him from having to make the hard decisions, like who lived and who died. He could only decide whether he lived or died. So far, he had always chosen to live, even if it was at the last possible moment to save his life. Even after Rachel, when Psy-Ops had him and he didn’t think he would survive it again, he finally managed to fall into line enough that they dropped him into his cell to put himself back together, piece by piece. He knew he had been close to being considered a lost cause then and had even briefly wondered which of his brethren would benefit from his ‘spare parts.’
Now, outside of Manticore, in Post-Pulse Seattle, the world was grimy and the smell of people’s desperation permeated every breath he took. He tried to pretend that he didn’t care—that it didn’t matter to him if he saw a little girl dressed in a tattered jacket digging in a dumpster for food—that he had his own problems. But, he knew it was a losing battle. Without Manticore, he felt simultaneously independent and helpless. He had no illusions about Manticore, but he knew they weren’t all assassinations and espionage. The skills they taught him had proved useful in a number of benevolent missions as well, but without their resources, he had no means to do even that for the people struggling around him. So, he pretended—he smirked, joked, slacked off and generally annoyed Max to distract himself from his own feelings of worthlessness.
It had all come to a head just a few weeks ago when he had almost let Rachel’s father kill him in retribution for his actions that resulted in his daughter being left in a coma. Max had saved him and she must have seen the regret in his eyes because, for the first time in a long while, she was kind to him. That little bit of kindness was almost his undoing. He knew he could easily get completely sucked into Max’s do-gooder routine. It felt good when he was able to use his skills to do good in the world, but too often it was meaningless and the degradation simply set up shop a few blocks over and then he was back to feeling useless and insignificant. It was easier to pretend he could drink himself into oblivion—that he could forget who and what he was while he enjoyed the company of a pretty woman, even when he had to constantly keep himself in check so he wouldn’t hurt her during intercourse.
That thought brought him back to the present and he realized that he had just passed the turnoff, so he circled the block and came up the other way to deliver the package in his bag. Once again, he thought about the most important reason for getting the job at Jam Pony: the sector pass that allowed him into this neighborhood. Sector Four just happened to have the best cell reception in Seattle and Alec knew he would only have one chance to find out as much as he could about whatever Max was hiding from him. Ever since he had confided in her about Rachel, he would see her watching him and then look at her phone with a contemplative look. Once, he even saw her pull up the contacts list, but then she shook her head and snapped the phone shut before she looked up at Alec with indecision written on her face.
So, Alec decided to make the decision for her. An hour ago, when Normal was handing out packages for afternoon delivery, he had swiped her cell phone and replaced it with an identical one so she would be less likely to suspect hers was missing. Now, the moment of truth had arrived and he was nervous. For all he knew, she had Colonel Lydecker on speed dial and was just trying to decide whether to turn him over to the man or not. He wasn’t sure he could survive Lydecker’s head games a second time.
But not knowing was only fueling his imagination, so he quickly delivered the package and then leaned his bicycle against the side of a building and pulled out the cell phone. The first thing he expected to find was Logan’s number, but that was strangely missing. Instead, there were four other numbers entered. None of them were identified by a complete name, but there were three different ones listed as ICE #1, ICE #2, & ICE #3 and then one just listed as ‘F.’ The first ‘In Case of Emergency’ contact led to a message service for a doctor’s office. He hung up without leaving a message. The second ICE contact was a voicemail for someone who only identified themselves as the ‘Cleveland Police Department, Special Investigations Department.’ He sure as hell didn’t want to talk to the police, so he quickly hung up and hoped they wouldn’t trace the call. The third ICE contact was for a library, also in Cleveland. Apparently, the library has a strange sense of humor,
he thought as he listened to the auto-attendant message. Most libraries were no longer functioning, so he imagined that this library was probably in pretty high demand and they might have to weed out the people who weren’t seriously interested in their services, but really, he couldn’t think of any library that would start their selections with “To report an upcoming Apocalypse, press 1. If this is in regards to an ongoing Apocalypse, press 2.”
He hung up at that point and moved on to the last contact.Who—or what—the hell is ‘F’?
he wondered as he hit the button to connect the call. At first, he thought it was going to go to voicemail as well, but finally someone picked up. There was a bit of fumbling and then a male’s voice came on the line.“Max, I promise, we are on our way,”
he said. He sounded rushed, and a little anxious as he spoke. “We’re moving as fast as we can, but we have to stop sometimes and it was either listen to Faith take snipes at Sam for the next two states or lock them in a motel room and let her screw them both into a coma. How’s he holding up? Do I need to get a bucket of cold water?”
Alec didn’t say anything. He didn’t know who these people were, but he could sense the undercurrent of tension and exhaustion in the man’s voice. His voice was strangely familiar, almost like his own when he had been absolutely pushed to his physical limit, but like the man sounded like he had been at that limit for much longer than Alec ever had. It seemed that the man was willing to speak without too much of his input, so he waited to see if he would continue. Unfortunately, he was out of luck.“Max?”
the man asked.
“Not Max,” Alec replied.“Oh, shit!”
the man replied then the line disconnected abruptly.
He tried calling the number back, but it just went to voicemail. He listened to the message: “Faith—leave a message or don’t. It’s your ass.”
Taking her at her word, he didn’t leave a message.
He now had a few answers, but even more questions. While he had a couple of names, Faith and Sam, there was at least one other person and he didn’t know who any of these people actually were and whether they were a threat to him or not. He did know that it was taking them time to get there, which wasn’t so strange with the Pulse, but wasn’t necessarily normal, if they were on the up and up. But, there could be any number of reasons why they had to move slowly, up to and including that they were actually some remnant of Manticore and had to stay under the radar. His reasonable mind told him that it was highly unlikely that Max would have anything to do with the place she had blown up, but his carefully honed instincts would not allow him to completely dismiss the possibility without concrete facts to the contrary. And, who was the ‘he’ the man referred to? Was it Logan? But, as long as Max and Logan didn’t touch, Logan was okay. It could be Joshua, but he had no basis to prove that it was and it seemed unlikely, considering how much Max tried to shelter the first Transgenic from the harsh reality of the world. Sketchy, then? Even more unlikely, he reasoned. He supposed it could be Zach, but why would they be asking about how Zach was when Max wasn’t really keeping in contact with the family she had found for him?
The last option was himself. An unsettled feeling sunk into his chest and he wondered if Max had betrayed him after all—to White, to Manticore, or hell, to any of the people he had betrayed under Manticore’s orders. He wondered if he would have to flee and if he would have anything more than the clothes on his back this time. It was times like this where a chain of command would’ve been beneficial. If he had a superior officer to bring his intel to, his C.O. would tell him how to respond. But, he was on his own and he had to decide whether he could trust Max and the secrets she was clearly keeping from him. Except for Normal, all of the people he knew and mostly trusted were Max’s friends first and would be loyal to her over him, so he couldn’t talk it out with any of them.
There were some Transgenics that were beginning to live in Terminal City, but he was pretty sure they would be more paranoid than even he was at the moment. He wasn’t sure he could count on them for an unbiased opinion, but he kind of doubted it. Plus, if what Max was keeping from him wasn’t something insidious, he wouldn’t want her to be hurt because he
trusted the wrong person and he had no doubt that the Transgenics and Transhumans would do what they needed to in order to protect themselves.This is ridiculous,
he berated himself. How many times has Max hauled my sorry ass out of the fire? She says she hates me, but she’s always there when I need her. She can’t really be planning to betray me, can she? Guess I won’t know until I ask her myself. I might not sign up for suicide missions, but hell if I am going to punk out on confronting Max when I know she is keeping something from me. She claims she keeps things on a ‘need to know’ basis. Well, I damn well need to know!
Having resolved to confront Max as soon as possible, Alec quickly tucked the phone back into his jacket and retrieved his bicycle, pedaling as quickly as ‘humanly’ possible back to Jam Pony to clock out for the day.
The evening did not turn out anywhere near the way Alec thought it would. All he wanted was to get a drink before heading over to see Max, but no, instead, he spent the evening in a jail cell. He didn’t even find out until Max had helped him escape that Joshua was able to save Logan. He truly felt bad that in the midst of his impending lethal injection he had forgotten about Max’s frantic call that Logan needed a Transgenic blood transfusion.
Max had waved off his concern as fake, but Alec didn’t have so many friends in this world that he could—or would—turn any of them away. Besides, even though Logan sometimes reverted to preaching morals, he was at least trying to help the people from Manticore. Alec could count the number of people willing to do that on one hand. Hell, sometimes, he could count the number of people lining up to help them on one finger. And, Logan had resources that he didn’t. Plus, most days, Logan didn’t even hold their initial meeting against him.
He couldn’t go back to his apartment that night and Max took pity on him, letting him crash at her place. The thing with the teeth still got to him. He knew Max knew more than she was telling him, but he didn’t push too hard once he realized she was going to tell him.
She was making them coffee when she finally spoke, “It was Ben.”Ben?
Alec searched his mind and remembered that was what she had called him the first time she saw him. 493, he realized. At least that explained why they thought he did it. Genetically, they were identical. He shuddered, suddenly understanding exactly how much trouble he would have been in if Max hadn’t come to get him. Ben was long gone and he looked just like him. He couldn’t exactly use Manticore as his alibi for when the crimes were committed and any forensic evidence they had would lead right back to him as well.
Part of him wanted to be furious, but as he looked at Max and saw the sadness that permeated her normally lithe frame, he forced himself to let it go and be the friend she needed him to be. When he spoke, he did so softly, gently, “Max, you have to know that’s not normal.”
“I know,” she replied. He could hear the tears in her voice as she told him, “I couldn’t help him. He was too far gone to listen to me.”
Alec read between the lines and realized that Max must have had to kill the man she thought of as her brother. He couldn’t imagine being forced to kill Biggs or CeCe, the two Transgenics in his unit that he had been closest to, but even they didn’t call themselves family. Max looked at her unit as her true family and it must have hurt her tremendously to have to kill one of them, even if he was a danger no conventional jail or psychiatric hospital could contain. He walked over and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close and pressing a kiss to the top of her head.
“I’m sorry, Max,” he whispered. “I wish it could be different. I wish there had been a way to help him.”
She looked up at him with unshed tears in her eyes, “But, you hated him. You had to go to Psy-Ops twice because of him.”
“Yeah, I did hate him,” Alec admitted. “You know what it was like there. It was sheer torture and there was no escape from it. But, I was strong enough to survive it. And, I could again—if I had to. I don’t know if 493—I mean, Ben—could.”
He noticed that she looked more tortured than she had just a few minutes ago, but there was a spark of hope in her eyes, too, and he didn’t know why that was. Still, he knew her first instinct was always to contradict anything that he said, so he was prepared for her argument.
“Alec, Ben…” Max began, but Alec cut her off.
“Maxie, some things are worse than death,” he told her softly, running his hand through her hair in a comforting gesture. He wasn’t sure which one of them he was trying to comfort. Either way, the action soothed the feline in him more than words alone could and he hoped it was the same way for her.
Something he said or did must have rang genuine to Max because, in a rare show of vulnerability, she turned toward him and instead of pushing him away, her arms circled his waist and her nose nuzzled against his chest, breathing in what he knew would be a familiar, yet not familiar scent. The floodgates broke then and the coffee was forgotten as he held her shaking body for what seemed like hours. He wasn’t entirely sure whether she appreciated his whispered platitudes that she had done the right thing and that Ben was hopefully in a better place—that Ben would never have to suffer like he did. Strangely enough, he found himself meaning everything he said. It wasn’t just lip service and, in a way, it seemed strangely cathartic to hold Max as she cried for the brother she couldn’t help. It allowed him to admit that he needed to mourn for the twin he would never know—to acknowledge the ache inside of him that wondered what it would have been like to have that kind of connection to someone.
When Max finally hiccupped against his chest and fell silent, Alec looked down to find her eyes closed and her breath coming in regular intervals. Part of him was astonished that she trusted him enough to fall asleep in his arms, even though there had been nothing romantic about the evening, but he figured that the emotional turmoil the entire situation with him, Ben, Logan and whatever else she carried on her shoulders had finally worn down even Max’s shark DNA.
He had to admit that she had taken care of him after the thing with Rachel Berrisford, so he figured the least he could do was return the favor. So, without disturbing the woman in his arms, he shut off the stove and maneuvered them so he could lift her in his arms. Carrying her across the room, Alec let his nose tell him which bed was hers. He deposited her on the mattress and gently pried her boots off, trying not to wake her. He wasn’t crazy enough to try to get anything else off of her, even if she would have been more comfortable, so instead, he wrapped her in the thin blanket and smiled as she immediately curled into a ball on one side of the bed.
The telephone in Alec’s pocket seemed to weigh too much all of a sudden and he needed to get rid of it before Max realized that he had switched it. Quickly, he moved over to her bag and, as silently as Manticore had taught him, he changed out the fake phone for the original, tucking the fake back into his jacket. He still planned to confront her about her secrets, but decided it could wait until another day, when they both weren’t emotionally strung out.
Max started to shift around on the bed, her hands searching for something. He knew what she was looking for and, for once, was honored to be the one she turned to. He toed off his own boots and removed his jacket before climbing onto the bed with her and letting her find her way to his body. She burrowed into him, once again sniffing at his chest before wrapping her arm around his waist and sighing in her sleep. There was nothing sexual about their embrace, but there was trust and comfort and even, in a strange way, love as he let her mold herself to his side. Alec knew he would probably have Hell to pay in the morning, but for now, he had certainly caused her enough grief that he could stand to help ease her some of it. And, if her scent relaxed him into his own slumber, Alec would never admit that he needed the comfort only another Transgenic could provide as well.#
P.S. Thank you all for your patience for the last few weeks. Real life should slow down a bit now, so hopefully, I will have time to write more.