Categories > TV > Dark Angel
Friday evening, and the Crash is full. Music thrums from the floor, through the thick soles of Alec's boots and settles trembling into his hips and thighs. Scent winds about him: sweat and smoke and the promise of sex. He won't stay long enough for the sharp tang of sickness to permeate the air. His jeans are tight and his smile is fluid and there are already eyes on him as he reaches the last of the stairs.
Alec casts an appraising eye throughout the room. Bare shoulders, swinging hips, loose joints, and there's not a woman who isn't beautiful here tonight. It is the woman at the bar who catches Alec's attention. She isn't soft and loose and it is the set of her shoulders--straight and squared--that slows Alec's steps. Deep shadows form beneath her shoulder-blades, too sharp beneath the tight pull of her skin. Her hair is dyed--a dark brown over honey blonde. It is twisted tightly at the back of her skull. The back of her neck looks bare and pale as her head bows over her drink.
There is a red-head watching Alec from beneath long lashes two tables down. Her arms are hooked over the back of her chair, her breasts full and high beneath the shining material of her tank-top. She--or someone like her--was what Alec was planning on tonight. Flesh smooth and soft enough to sink his fingers into, all warmth and easy living. Alec's mouth is threatening to twist. He smooths his lips into something blandly pleasant and ignores the red-head and her wet lips.
There's a pitcher of beer at Max's table and she scowls at Alec as he slides into the seat across from hers and snags her glass, foam still thick at the top. Her lip-gloss has left a curving smudge at the rim of her frosted glass and Alec can tastes chemical apple-wax with the beer. He swallows, leans back into his chair and doesn't look over his shoulder toward the bar. He's too good at the game to ever stop playing it, even when all the rules have changed. Alec curls his hands around Max's cool glass and tries not to think of the sharpness of bone and heavy wetness of blood.
"Alec," Max says, sharp. His name always sounds like a warning when Max speaks it. She finds him frivolous, an irritation. He finds her self-centered and ignorant and figures that they're even. There's no weight to her threat and Alec remembers thinking of Max as a pampered little girl the first time he'd seen her. He had sneered at her soft curves, the fullness of her cheeks and lips--and he'd fuck her if she were anything but what she is. They're pretty, always pretty, all of those who Manticore made, but sharp and hard behind their eyes. Max is all attitude and challenging strut, and it amuses Alec to think that Max imagines that she's tough.
"The one and only," Alec says and smiles because it isn't funny. He stretches out his legs beneath the table until his boots collide with Max's feet. "And don't you look lovely tonight," Alec adds, not without an unpleasant twist to his lips and words. Logan's jacket is hanging from the back of Alec's chair, and the seat is still warm with the other man's heat. Alec thinks that they would spend the whole night gazing at each other longingly and leave the Crash horny and thwarted. It would be amusing if Alec didn't expect more from his own.
Alec flashes his teeth and Max and absently wonders whether she'd been frightened of wide smiles and teeth at first. He isn't sure whether she's ever seen anyone torn to pieces by creatures of claws and fur and fangs. Max's cheeks hollow slightly when she's annoyed, sucking at the inside of her mouth. Alec entertains himself with crude thoughts and ignores Max as she draws in a breath to tell him to get lost.
Alec hums vaguely as Max winds down. His attention sharpens when Max huffs and pulls her glass out of his hands. Sometimes, Alec looks at Max and realizes that he had never imagined loneliness before. She thinks that the barcodes they share means something and there's so much that she doesn't understand. Alec looks at Max and feels ancient--he hates Manticore but it's still what he is and Max has been gone long enough and early enough that she still has human enough left in her to belong. She hasn't looked towards the bar since Alec arrived.
"What do you see?" Alec asks, abrupt, serious.
Max goes still in confused surprise for the briefest of moments before she rolls her eyes. "I'm not in the mood for any of your games tonight, Alec. Go find someone else to entertain you."
In those first few weeks, Alec recognized dozens of familiar faces and forms in crowds. He never searches them out but can't help see secrets betrayed in a hundred small ways. It is in posture and voice and expression; it is Alec's memory of the angle of someone's jaw, the shape of a head, the narrowness of hips. Alec wonders whether Manticore is still visible beneath his swagger; whether his past is revealed in the crook of his arms or the length of his spine.
There's something in him for the others to find, Alec knows. When he couldn't leave his apartment without finding fragments of himself on the streets, they had pretended not to know each other. They had trained and fought and suffered together and Alec hadn't wanted to remember any of it. Most of them are gone, now--captured or dead--he doesn't know and usually manages to believe that he doesn't care.
"I'm not playing, Max. Tell me what you see." His voice is sharper than he intended and Alec doesn't need to be at Manticore to hear the whip-crack reprisal of his trainers.
Max's dark hair flips over her shoulder. "People hanging with _friends_--you know, people they actually find tolerable?"
Alec puts just enough scorn into his voice to make Max bristle. "And here before me is an example of the best and brightest Manticore had to offer." He readjusts the beer pitcher and watches the sharp line of X5-338's back waver against the glass.
Max leans forward, forearms braced against the table-top. "The guy at the pool table is checking you out."
"I'm a admirable sort of guy," Alec says, smirks, and waves for Max to continue.
"There's a couple getting hot and heavy in front of the fire exit behind me. Those two," she juts her chin towards two boys at the bar, "aren't legal and the guy who just came in has a shoulder holster and is itching for a fight. Your point?" She leans back into her chair, arms folded beneath her breasts.
Max has spent too long alone in the world and doesn't even think to look. She sweeps into the life of every transgenic she meets: ready to save them all and just as ready to guard the world against those who can't or won't be saved. She still thinks of herself as unique. She's bastardized perfection and her blindness makes Alec's patience fray. And Max is the only thing he has left.
"Forget it," Alec says, because the both know what they are, and Max isn't interested in learning about all that she isn't.
"You're throwing my night out of whack here, Alec," Max says. She cocks her head and Alec follows her gaze, both of them tracking Logan as he tucks his cell-phone into his pocket and slides into the crowd. "So spill it or get lost. For real this time."
"You see the woman at the bar, third stool to the right?"
Max looks and her eyes are impatient when she turns back to Alec. "There's no one there."
"No," Alec agrees. "There's no one there." He pauses, watching moisture track down the curved surface of Max's glass. "We aren't like you. I'm not like you."
"No," Max says, Alec's own scorn turned back on him.
"I hope that you. That you find your unit. Your family."
"Who did you see?" Max asks.
Alec shrugs and smiles. He rolls his shoulders forward, the image of lazy comfort. "No one," he says and reminds himself that he doesn't care. His red-head is gone but there's a blonde who's smiling at him and she's soft and smooth and he can't see the rise of muscle is the roundness of her arms. He remembers that his smile is fluid and his jeans are tight and that he's always made the best of what he's been given.
"Alec," Max says.
"It's been a long time since I had family," Alec says. He doesn't look back at Max.
Sign up to rate and review this story