shallowness: Five panels featuring pictures of different female characters based on my interests at the time. (White flowers on blue)
[personal profile] shallowness
Title: Christmas Deliveries
Fandom: Dark Angel
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Alec, Joshua, Mole, Lydecker.
Genre: General, friendship, drama, angst.
Word count: 2,426.
First posted: February 2005 (very seasonal!)
Summary: Alec delivers something for Mole and then to Joshua.

Notes: Spoilers for the books, takes place immediately following 'After the Dark.' Partially written in response to a challenge by FridayAngel. It evolved a little. Slowly. Thanks too to FridayAngel for betaing, all idiocies are mine.

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine and I don't profit from writing this.


CHRISTMAS DELIVERIES: SHALLOWNESS


TERMINAL CITY, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
DECEMBER 25. 2021. 3.04PM



Alec was trying to appreciate the irony of what he was about to offer to do - play prison guard on Christmas day. But he figured that as the one who'd got a catnap on the way back home – and the X-5 wouldn't call himself well-rested - enough that he could handle Lydecker. So he owed it to say to Mole that he'd keep their guest company,

"You can go check up his own special suite's all set and Josh can go get some shut-eye."

Joshua, still at the driving seat gave a little relieved sigh, noticeable if you knew what to look for.

"Yes sir," Mole drawled, but he got out of the truck nonetheless and Alec didn't care about the attitude. Mole was probably relieved to leave them for dust, he'd called ahead with orders to have a cell set up for Deck, but Mole wouldn't trust what had been done until he'd tested the bars personally. Alec took his time to get off his ass and out of the truck and very politely opened the door for his cuffed charge.

"Let's go. You know the drill, no sudden movements, no attempts to run, because I will catch you and you know I know what I'm doing." Alec didn't believe that their travelling companion’s stiffness was faked. It was partly the journey, mainly the number the Familiars had done upon him. Physically, he was going to have to stick to his promise to come peaceable-like.

Deck still had the same cold face and narrow eyes of a few years ago. Once he was standing on what was basically a concrete ramp leading down to the parking lot, the colonel took his chance to stretch his legs. Alec let him, knowing that cops, sector or metro, would’ve herded him on, and they called the trannies inhuman. Deck wasn't subtle about multi-tasking, taking the chance for some surveillance, though all he was seeing was a passageway and Alec realized that they were going to have to make very sure that he couldn't sneak any unwanted peeks at what his kids had been doing.

"Wait up, Josh!" he called, and the transhuman rolled down the window. "Can you see if there are any sacks, anything like that, in the back of the truck?"

He got a puzzled grunt.

"Standard procedure to both disorientate a prisoner and ensure operational security," Lydecker murmured. Alec noted – like he was probably meant to, he knew showing off when he saw it - that the old man was keeping right up to speed. Damn, they'd have to lock him down. Mole had better have planned a tight procedure. And Joshua really needed his sleep.

But the Big Fella was still good for finding and fetching, well, a plaid blanket, which he waved at Alec, who nodded. Yeah, it would do.

"Whoever owned these wheels must have loved picnics," Alec commented, as Joshua came around to Alec and the prisoner's side. "They probably won't know what to do with themselves over the weekend."

"Have to make do with boob tube. Like you," Josh said, handing him the blanket.

Instead of responding, Alec threw Lydecker a glance, although he hadn't really let him out of his peripheral vision.

"I don't think we'll be able to hook you up with cable in your new accommodation, but maybe you could pretend you were on picnics. Out in the woods, maybe?"

Not a flinch. Alec made another mental note, no challenging Lydecker to a game of poker for a while. Like such a game would ever happen, anyway.
But then, they hadn't planned to have a cell at Terminal City. Over the last few months, they'd found other ways to deal with their problems. This was transgenic central, and they lived by their rules, not Manticore's nor the ordinaries. Enforced them their way, too. Still, they had plenty of experience to draw on to provide what old Donald deserved at short notice. And no, it wouldn't include cable.

Alec turned to look again at Joshua, to ask him to park the truck and just go sleep, already, but Joshua was focused on Lydecker, and had stepped forward to stare down at him. His height and the anger in his eyes ought to have made Lydecker look shrunken, but it didn't.

"So, you're Joshua, Sandeman's first creation," he said formally, as if this were a diplomatic event and getting the title right mattered. He'd seen the files, knew what Joshua was capable of but still wasn't intimidated. Thick hide and all that. "You made all this possible."

Alec watched Josh carefully, knowing that Father was one of Joshua's red buttons - not even Max got away with badmouthing him, and the big guy'd been through enough craziness already these past days. Days that would later make Alec wish that his enhanced memory didn't come along with the surround sound option.

Witness to a controlled staring match, Alec realized he didn't know shit about Joshua's history with Deck. Or where Sandeman fitted into it, and he had to somewhere, they must have co-operated some. There was a lot about the good old days that they hadn't talked about, any of them.

Right now, Alec had to shake himself out of his own view of the man who signed off on his visits to reindoc, to psyops. The guy who'd considered most of the X-5s less interesting than his hand-picked unit, until Max and the rugrats went for an unauthorized journey, and suddenly the spotlight was on the clones. But what about his reaction to the even less human freaks? And remembering Isaac's sewer trophy cabinet, Alec realized he really didn't know shit. Instinct was screaming at him to step in, maybe move Josh away, when the big fella spoke.

"Welcome to Terminal City." There was little inflexion to his words and little warmth. They were all created to endure war and its wounds, but Joshua had no battle-experience. They hadn't needed to baby him, and over the past few days, even Max had got that. Still there was a time for everyone's shift to end, and Alec didn't want to see Joshua hit breaking point. He never paused to wonder since when he'd got so protective of his friend; Joshua and he were part of the same unit by now and that was that. Apparently Lydecker could push him right to the edge. Alec listened to instinct, and went for the icebreaker routing.

"Okay, okay guys," he said, moving between them and competently holding the older man on the arm. "You're off-duty now Josh. Go. Go, crash. I'll catch ya later. Even Maxie's probably catching some zees now." And Alec remembered that yeah, Max would probably be sleeping now, with the virus gone and her and Logan having got the time they wanted.

"Son, you can loosen the grip, I'm here voluntarily," Deck said quietly.
Hearing the tightness in the man's voice and the sound of Joshua revving up the engine to go park and dump the truck in its bay, Alec grinned.

"Sometimes I don't know my own strength, Donald. I can call you that, right? Or do you prefer Donnie?"

3.44pm


"Strangest thing," Mole greeted Alec and Deck, but he wasn't referring to how Lydecker was covered up.

"What?" Alec asked stepping back easily into the patter they had going.

"Would ya believe it? Nobody bitched about me ruining their Christmas, I got plenty of volunteers to guard ole Donald." Mole and Alec exchanged smirks.

"If anything I had to turn a few of 'em down. Too enthusiastic. For some reason Max wants this scumbag in one piece."

"Got to do what the commander wants," Alec said, wishing that Lydecker would react to their taunts, but distantly admiring him for not doing so. Mentally and emotionally he came close to being able to take what he'd dished out. Were they to push him, it would be his physical weakness that would break him.

"Had to compromise. We agreed that if the prisoner steps out of line, they can use judicious force, as learnt chez Manticore. Think that's fair?"

What Alec thought was that they could go into graphic detail about what they wanted to do to Lydecker and let the sincerity ooze from their voices, and the man wouldn't even twitch. All he said was, "Sounds fair to me, Mole."

But Lydecker was smart and up to something, so he wasn't likely to do the funky chicken in case he endangered his plan. Plus he was probably weak after his previous incarceration. Nah, he'd lay low and wait for his chance like a wily old whatsit. Panther?

Alec let it go, knowing he was still tired and didn't want to be the one who gave Deck his chance.

"Prisoner's yours, Stick," he told the lead guard, part-lizard like Mole, and probably trustworthy. Guy didn't even blink as he stepped forward for Lydecker, not taking off the blanket until he'd led him into the cell.

"Like your new digs?" Mole asked. "We tried our darndest to make it as homey as possible."

Lydecker nodded even as his eyes slowly adjusted to the light. Poor little ordinary. Alec didn't want to think too much about the fact that his cell had obviously been an adapted cage from one of the old laboratories that made up their thrown-together settlement. He'd been stuck in too many at the whims of scientists and soldiers in the past.

They hadn’t wanted a cell in Terminal City, but they hadn’t wanted their former handler there either.

"When you feel like it, you might wanna feed and water him," Alec said, as a last duty, to who or what he didn't know. All he wanted to think about now was the mattress in his apartment; Lydecker would be waiting for him in the cage on Boxing Day and every other tomorrow the Familiars had thought they weren't going to get.

Leaving the all-new detention area was easier said than done. He and Mole were interrupted on their way by what felt like everyone, wanting to swop stories, to find out from their leaders if all the other stories about Lydecker, about Max and the Familiar's big flop were true.

Mole had grunted, "You need to practice making fancy speeches," and let Alec answer all the questions until someone - it sounded like Gem - took pity on them and hollered, "They're dead on their feet. We'll get the low-down tomorrow, let 'em go."

And go they did, with back-pats and nods. Alec tried to find Gem to say thank you, but he couldn't see her and found that he'd lost Mole too. Didn't matter. Let them rest.

"I've been an awful good boy, Santa," he murmured. "All I want is to sleep till tomorrow."

Alec headed for his quarters.

11.30PM


Joshua had slept through, not waiting to eat or wash when he'd come back to his apartment, just finding a blanket, laying down on the floor, and snoring as soon as his head hit the boards. He had been in the process of waking up for the past thirty minutes, but hadn't wanted to admit it, trying to make quiet sense of jumbled dreams:- kicking cult ass; Max, Alec and Mole's faces. Lydecker's too and memories of being one of the downstairs people, trying to shield Isaac and failing. Joshua thought he'd been handed a taser and put in front of a canvas. He was trying to figure out how he was meant to paint when he heard the knocking.

He rolled on to his knees, putting his feet on the floor and then, stiffly, wishing he'd taken off his boots before lying down.

"Coming, coming," he said, only it sounded more like barking, his voice rough from the sleeping.

He opened the door, "Medium fella?"

Alec didn't look quite as confident as always, but otherwise he was himself. Had got more sleep.

"Did I wake ya?"

"Not really. Why Alec here?" Joshua asked, seeing he was holding something behind his back and flashes of his dream making him suspicious.

"It's still Christmas day."

"Yup," Joshua agreed, looking over at a bright red clock Max had brought him once. Or stole for him. Wasn't sure.

"So I brought you something." Or stole. Not sure.

"Present?" and Joshua knew Alec was smiling at him, like he did when Joshua was really excited, that was the difference between canine and feline DNA. Hey, smiling good. Remember - Christmas, and this Christmas had hopes for the next year. Joshua'd seen that driving back to Seattle. No Familiars on their back.... Hope.

"Yeah, of course, it's not gonna compare to what Rita gave ya, but," and Joshua was handed a bag. The smell gave it away immediately and Joshua's grin widened.

"Hamhocks!"

"Take it as an 'I saw it and thought of you' deal. Hope it kept fresh in the fridge. I was plannin' on giving it to you this morning, but that was before- you know."

"Hamhocks," Joshua grinned and delved into the paper bag for a pretty generous pork leg. He had a dim idea of how hard it was to score these, because Gem always blinked at him when he asked if they stocked any at her place. He looked up at Alec, not sure if he should offer to share, and saw that his friend was looking thoughtful.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Remember the time I got ya hamhocks before?"

Joshua nodded.

"You never really, uh, you never beat up on me 'bout the whole trying to kill you deal." Alec grimaced.

"No. Didn't."

"You coulda." What Alec didn't say, but Joshua thought he was thinking was that Max had, had beat him up over and beyond.

"Things go FUBAR," he said simply.

"And that solves it all? Things go FUBAR and that's all you got to say?"

"No," Joshua shook his head, thinking of the tasers sizzling Isaac, of Lydecker's visits and the emptiness of waiting for Father to come back. Then he looked Alec in the eye. "But some things go whack, try to make them better? Hurts too much. Won't work. So don't."

"Don't." Alec repeated, then he smiled that easy, prepared smile. "Well, I just wanted to give you that and wish you a merry Christmas."

"Wanna share it?"

"Er, nope. You enjoy it though."

"Will."

"Good." Alec nodded and left his friend to enjoy the last minutes of that Christmas day.

END


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