shallowness: Five panels featuring pictures of different female characters based on my interests at the time. (Default)
[personal profile] shallowness
Title: Making up the numbers
Rating: PG
Show: Dark Angel
Genre: Drama/Angst/Romance
Pairing: Max/Logan, Max/Alecc
Type Stand-alone
First posted: December 2004
Summary: Max tries to tell Alec something she thinks he doesn't know, but he's having none of it.

Disclaimer: Don’t own, only playing.
Notes: 1,880 words. Max’s POV. Ten months after the books but there are no major spoilers. Thanks to FridayAngel for betaing, all idiocies are mine.

Making up the numbers: shallowness

There were five of us, but there should have been six.

We waited, seated round the table, as long as we could, but Logan caught my eye eventually and I had to nod back. He served the meal we prepared. He’d prepared really, I just got to add some seasoning – our usual dealio in the kitchen.

Joshua couldn’t look up at me from his meal, as if the increasing tension in the room was his damage. Cindy’s eyes flitted around the table, taking everything in, but not giving anything out, which made me all the more tense.

Only her new girl and Logan had anything approaching ease, making conversation to cover the silence from us three.

Any social graces I’ve ever picked up had deserted me. I was scowling. The jerk had let me down again.

“After dinner,” I’d said to Logan when he’d asked what the plan was gonna be. “We’ll tell them then.” My closest friends, my friends from before the siege and the glory days, my friends throughout it all, and Karin of course, but O.C. had made sure we all knew her fine honey was part of our future.

Well, the friends who cared ‘bout me were there, so I prepared myself for our announcement, took my mind to the happy place that Logan had given me. Tried to make myself relax. Hoped the smile I gave him was enough.

* * *

It was eleven when I left. The evening broke up quickly after the hugs and congratulation following the after-dinner announcement. I suppose they knew it was coming, saw that we were ready for this. O.C.’s hug was fiercer than Joshua’s for all that she is small, and her bones brittle compared to ours.

Perhaps all she was doin’ was just showing how she felt and wishing me luck. The way sisters do. Nothing but that.

I promised to talk to her tomorrow, when of course I will ask her to be my bridesmaid and she’ll shrug, grin ‘n reply with a barrage of questions ‘bout how we’re gonna deal with this bitch. And it’s gonna turn out all right.

When Joshua hugged me, it felt like he thought I was suddenly a creature who would break. I couldn’t ask him about it as he let me go and I stepped back inside off the porch and said I’d see him later. I’m still not sure if I’m not just paranoid – or if I do need to tell him that this won’t change me and what’s between me and Josh, or the other freaks. Marriage is only going to be a confirmation of what Logan and I have now. I’m not even changing my name. I chose this one I got and I’m sticking with it.

I think they wanted to give me alone time with Logan, in the house that’s gonna become our home, as not even Joshua believes now that the original owner’s ever returning. But they might have realized, like Logan did, that I couldn’t settle tonight until I’d had a certain conversation.

So it was eleven when I closed the door behind me, took the stairs down, pushed off my bike, late enough that it was only the people who were serious about spending the night out would be in my way.

* * *

I walked into Crash convinced I was ready for the confrontation with Alec.

He wasn’t there – I sensed it immediately, flicking my gaze to the bar where I’d seen him hunching over so many drinks, then to where the proud tradition of hustling at pool was still being upheld. Got my confirmation. Though many men were whispering into many women’s ears and getting slapped or caressed for it, tonight, he wasn’t one of them.

I figured he wouldn’t be at the Needle, that’s my place, nor his old apartment – it belongs to the past. Instinct told me that he wasn’t in one of Seattle’s other bars, where the women are paid with bills to entertain, and the scotch is blended wrong. Not tonight. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t want to trawl around those high-class establishments and haul his ass out to an alley to talk. Why should I?

He had stood me up. I told myself I should just ignore him.

I went back to Terminal City at my baby’s best speed. And she’s been fast tonight, cutting through the crisp air for me.

* * *

I knew he was there from Mole’s reaction as I walked his way. Checking up on the Command Center has become second nature, even though we’re good with the rest of Seattle now. Mostly.

“Where is he?” I snapped at our duty commander through his cigar smoke. Forgot to ask for an update on status.

Mole took his muggy time to ask, “Why do you want to see him, Max?” He wasn’t pretending to be innocent. I guess Joshua must have come by because it was obvious Mole knew what was going down and why I was in a righteous snit.

“Why d’you think? He stood me up…. He stood us up.” I could ignore the insult no more than I expected a groveling apology.

“Might have had a good reason.”

I snorted. If Mole knew that good reason, I‘d have heard it already. Loyalty to your unit’s real noble, but something you should be applying to all your unit, right?

“Like he didn’t want to? Outside of Alec’s world that’s not considered a reason.”

Besides, he’d said he would come. When I’d asked him – asked, not coerced – he’d said he’d be there “with bells on.” His usual sarcasm, sure, but he gave his word. I’d set six places.

“Don’t tell me then, Mole. Protect his hide. Whatever.”

Dalton was the next to try to discourage me, of course. The protégé. He was loitering in the corridor outside Alec’s apartment.

“Leave it till the morning,” he said in a confident voice that he must have been practicing.

“So I can think of more ways to kick his butt?” I demanded. “No. Tonight.”

“You don’t want to do this,” he continued.

“Right now, I wanna garrote him,” I said, surprising even myself with the dark promise in my voice. Any other kid of Dalton’s age, even some of the X5s, would have flinched. Would have probably had flash-backs.

“He’s not in his room,” he said heavily. “But you don’t want to do this.”

He was wrong and he’d admitted as much. I so wanted to do it.

I went to the only possible place left, where Alec and I have often gone to take time out, alone and together. The roof of the mall, underneath the flagpole, where our Christmas tree stood. We’re planning on putting another one up soon – I guess me and mine have finally got to where we can start upholding some of our own traditions.

* * *

He’d been expecting me since he decided not to come. He sat, sprawled against a little wall, a nearly empty bottle of his favorite at his side. But his eyes weren’t dimmed by the drink. They followed my approach, green cat’s eyes.

“Get up,” I snarled.

“If you don’t mind, I’d rather stay here. It’s pretty comfortable.”

“Whatever suits your ass, huh?

“Why didn’t you come? Or at least let us know that you weren't coming?”

“Nice rock,” he said conversationally.

I raised my left hand defensively, although it wasn’t exactly a Manticore-approved move. “It was his grandmother’s.”

“Ah, a not so subtle reminder of what you’ll be marrying into.”

“Logan’s not rich anymore.”

“That wasn’t what I meant.”

“You didn’t answer me. Somethin’ happen to your cell?”

He stretched as if it were some other night and we were just discussing the mall or the council or Joshua’s latest great idea.

“I did answer you, actually.”

“So apart from being a jerk, you’re gonna be cryptic too!” His blank face stopped me before I could threaten him, I guess. Made me process. The ring. The engagement. The big surprise announcement that wasn’t a surprise at all.

“Are you saying you didn’t come because—” I swallowed, unable to form words. Bad enough that I was having these thoughts. I wanted the explanation that I’d stormed up here for to be his. He owed me that.

Obligation, again – always between us. He’s been repaying me for his mistakes forever. I can’t count the times we’ve saved each other’s asses. Yeah, he did owe me the truth.

He rose, tucking his legs in and balancing forward then backward on his feet. Perfect.

“I wanted to get drunk instead. Of course that plan never works, so I might as well have come to your carefully planned dinner party, played nice, made up the numbers and sipped at the wines Logan chose for every course.”

“We only had two,” I mumbled. “For Joshua.”

He grinned, but there was no mirth in it. Nothing at all in his eyes. It was a reckless gesture and he committed himself then and there to telling me the whole truth. I realized too late what listening to this would mean. How dangerous Alec was then. No turning back. The ring still felt weird on my finger, weighing down my hand. Heavy rock.

“I couldn’t do it, Max. Watch you claim you love him enough to promise your life to him and expect me to say ‘that’s great, you two, so happy for you!’”

“You said I should give him another chance,” I said, before I had to actually deal with what he’d said.

“I nearly convinced myself too. I thought that you’d never believe that it wouldn’t work out until you went through it. I thought you were more honest than you are.”

I’ve lied before. I lied when I said Logan and I weren’t like that. I lied to Logan about this man, and he knew it. I don’t think I lied when I said that yes, I did want to marry Logan. But Alec was saying that I’m wrong – accusing me of lying to myself.

“What do you know about it?” I demanded automatically, and he laughed then, body language completely open, because he’d had his say, so why not laugh, it didn’t matter. And those empty eyes reminded me that I knew differently – I knew about Rachel – and tonight I found out what I might have known before if I hadn’t hidden from it. I closed my eyes, but there was no way to make him and the truth disappear.

“You’re going to have to get used to tonight,” he said then, taunting me a little, and yet totally not. “Me, not being there, lying along with you. I won’t be around to be one of the wedding party.”

“Fine,” I retorted, trying to keep a hold on my earlier anger, but it flared and deflated at its own pace. Without it as a mask, there was him and there was me, and there was his love for me.

I turned away.

“You’ll always know you’re missing one, Max.”

I kept on walking, down to the ground and over to my ninja. I only stopped moving when I got to the Needle, and I’m crouched here, still. There’s a ring on my finger. It’s got a heavy rock on it.


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