Title: Night Watch
Rating: PG - Gen - Humor
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: DA & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Max & Alec get sucked into a job they aren't prepared for.
“What are you doin’ here?”
“What are you doin’ here?”
Max paused at the automatic regulation three yards from any unpredictable target as she had been taught. It wasn’t something she could choose to do any more than how she decided to inhale and exhale but it still riled her even more than she already was. There were some constants in the universe like your face or the brand of your tampons. Some things you kept for life whether you liked it or not.
Alec slowly lowered his arms down from the defensive stance he’d assumed upon her appearance. Satisfied she wasn’t there to hurt him for some reason only he seemed to be aware of, he shifted his attitude to a careless curiosity at the loud and obnoxious flower patterns on the peeling wallpaper.
Max was pretty good with numbers and she knew all about odds. The odds were that the chance of them almost walking right into each other on the top floor of this back street Sector 8 co-op on their day off was no kind of coincidence.
“Sketchy call you?”
Alec looked up at her sharply from studying a particularly gigantic water lily that someone had defaced with a phallus in black spray paint.
“Maybe.” He answered furtively.
Alec’s pathetic version of mysterious was about one of the most aggravating things Max could think of at the moment. It was about 1000 degrees outside on a very rare sweltering Seattle day and it was about double that in the insulated sagging furnace of a building. Max resisted the urge to lift her fists again knowing that any physical exertion would just make her even more uncomfortable than she already was.
“I couldn’t find apartment 24D either.” She murmured in hesitant admittance.
“I found 24C.” Alec’s own exasperation finally broke through now that the Max terror index seemed to have lowered to Orange. “I even found 24E. So unless he lives in that freakin’ utility closet right between—“
Max met his gaze in a sudden and silent understanding.
“I’m so glad you guys could make it.”
It was just another one of those spaces that the Pulse created, making living areas that were once just for duct work and plumbing. It was all crawl spaces and storage before all of a sudden a million extra people needed somewhere to sleep. A few pieces of the dry wall had been knocked out a long time ago to hollow out a decent sized living room that consisted of nothing much more than bean bags in various conditions and sizes. The wall was lined with several closed off doors which were what Max could only assume were Sketchy’s elusive roommate’s bedrooms.
A small strip of a kitchen finished at the far end complete with a broad set of windows that looked right over into the gray blank face of a bricked wall.
“If you press up against the glass and look right up you can see a part of a tree that grows on the roof next door.” Sketchy proudly told them.
“Cool.” Alec's appreciation sounded genuine.
“Is it your birthday Sketch?” Max asked as she slid her bag off her shoulder.
“Because I didn’t bring a present and I’m not really in much of a mood for a party.”
It was at least a few degrees cooler than the surface of the sun in here. A rattling old air conditioner that sat wedged above the refrigerator was doing its best to keep the apartment less than sauna like. Alec had noticed the decrepit machine too and doubled the meager effect by standing in the open fridge door while redirecting the air vents down onto his face.
“Nah.” Sketchy smiled nervously and shook his head, shoving his hands in his jean back pockets. “It’s nothing like that, I just needed a uh, a favor…”
Max found herself exchanging another look with Alec. She didn’t really like how seamlessly networked they tended to be in terms of their own danger and the threat of being possibly inconvenienced. But at least she knew who had her back if she suddenly claimed they had to get going because of her bursting appendix.
“Look, I called like everybody I know, and well,” Sketchy’s tone had grown even more sheepish. “You guys were the only ones that actually showed up.”
Max didn’t like the sound of this. She didn’t like the sound of this at all. She could see Alec silently cursing their inability not to arrive at a place and time when politely requested. What the hell was it with them anyway? Why couldn’t they carelessly blow off people and their stupid important events like every other normal person on the planet?
“What the hell is that?” Alec suddenly asked.
Max froze, knowing that he was picking up something not in the immediate area but close by. Cocking her head she caught it too. High pitched and shrill. It was coming down the corridor they had just been sweating to death in.
“See, my sister is in town—“
“You have a sister?”
Sketchy cleared his throat.
“She kinda asked me if I had a few hours tonight but I don’t cuz well there’s that Johnny Rotten cover band playing down town and there’s no way I’m missing that shit—“
Max ran her hands through her damp hair. It was clinging hot and horrible to the back of her neck like a wet scarf. All she wanted to do was fill a bathtub with crushed ice and settle into it long enough to go into some deep hypothermic coma. A feat like that would probably take her a good half an hour but that sounded just fine and dandy as far as she was concerned. In fact, good old Sketch had better not have dragged them all the way out here just to help him fix his forty year old laser disk player. If that was the case than she was going to take the ancient contraption and heave it off the roof so he would never have to ask again.
It was right about then that the door burst open.
Her body instinctively centered and sank into an attack stance in immediate response to Alec swinging around in an offensive gesture. Startled and unsure what her body might just go ahead and preemptively accomplish on its own, she quickly scanned the sudden flow of newcomers for weapons and speed. Upon closer inspection, she found she had to cant her head down to an almost 45degree angle to get a good look.
There were about seven kids filing in through the door all talking in loud voices to no one in particular. They might have even been speaking to each other but there was no telling for sure. Each was so lost in concern with his own train of thought that there wasn’t much notice in the lack of reciprocation. Max dazedly wondered if this was what people meant when they mentioned the ‘music of children’.
“Sketch?” Alec’s voice wavered with a nervous edge. “What-what’s going on?”
“I’ll only be gone for like, I dunno, I’m sure I’ll be back before dawn.” Sketchy suddenly hugged his elbows to himself and appeared vaguely worried. “If-If I’m not you should probably call someone because I might be in a ditch somewhere—“
“These- These are your nephews?” Max watched as they collectively removed Alec from his place in the refrigerator and started a good old fashion food raid. “All of them?”
“Yup.” Sketchy frowned when he spotted one straggler wander in. “’Cept that dude. I have no idea who he is.”
Max let her hand fly out and catch the back collar of Alec’s T-shirt as he tried to defect. Making a face when her hand came into contact with the dark strip of sweat down his back, she yanked him backwards to her side. The transgenic didn’t have to blur in order to haul some major ass. Lucky for Max, she had excellent peripheral vision.
“Looking for a balcony to jump off of?”
“I don’t hang with kids Max.” Alec informed her curtly. “I didn’t when I was one and I’m not doing it now!”
Max found Alec’s sturdy jeans to be a much better anchor point for her fist to keep him from pulling a full out Jackie Chan right through the plate glass window.
“I don’t know? It might not be so bad.” Max considered. “Play with some Legos, make sure they don’t stab anyone, maybe even lose half of them with a really long game of hide-and-seek...”
Alec made a small pained sound when he realized he’d have to half neuter himself to get out of Max's cinched hold. Adjusting her grip, she ignored the fact that Sketchy had already made a break for the front door and was probably shoving his body into a moving taxicab by now.
“You wanna know a secret Max?” Alec’s demand sounded much too much like the plead it actually was. “I’m not even sure what Legos are even for. I mean I get you snap them together and all that exhilarating shit but then what? I mean what do you do with a bunch of plastic that sticks together anyway—Hey! What does that stupid kid think he’s doing!?”
Her gaze followed Alec’s pointed finger of outrage at the spill of white bread slices and various open jars. They had all been arranged to create some kind of mass sandwich conveyor system. Honey, peanut butter, grape jelly and fruit loops. The clutter was joined by less unidentifiable but just as interesting looking junk.
“Looks like dinner is served.” Max observed.
That saved her at least one task for however long this night was going to end up being.
“You can’t put the jelly on both sides.” Alec tossed up his hands in disgust. “Max! Tell ‘em to stop! Do that thing! Your unchecked rage thing!”
One of the smaller of the troop approached them shyly.
“What ya need?” Max asked.
“You heard the man, Alec.” Max released the death grip she had on Alec’s denim and shoved him forward. “You’re needed in the powder room.”
Alec’s indignation quickly shifted to simple unadulterated incomprehension. He lowered his voice for the sake of the child hopping in place with crossed knees.
“H-How exactly do you help someone go to the bathroo—“
“You’re there purely in an auxiliary function.”
“Right.” Alec responded slowly, his desperate gaze searching her face for any more clues that she didn’t seem to have forthcoming. “Help him in the bathroom. Just in case—“
“Just in case.” Max nodded.
Max had to admit there were worse ways to spend a Friday night. Four fruit loop honey sandwiches later and deep into the third level of Resident Evil XXVI she was having a better time than she’d had sitting around Crash in months.
The addition of beer was just about the only thing she could think of to better the situation. The comfy spot she’d staked out in the huge velour bean bag was in a perfect spot in front of the cruddy television. Her gaming skills had attracted some of her charges in a tense unblinking concentration. They sat in rapture to the rattling sound of machine gun fire and efficient annihilation of the pixilated undead.
She laughed out loud with them when The Amoeba B.O.W. (Bio-Organic Weapon) exploded. With a burst of tentacles from its abdomen, it splattered gloriously with high quality realism all over the dirty tile walls of the danger fraught maze.
“How you like that Alec!”
Even though the guy wasn’t even playing it still felt pretty good to be scoring higher than he was. She picked up a much better firearm and found it nicely already loaded with its precious imaginary ammo. Wondering why Alec hadn’t reacted to her boast, she glanced over her shoulder in distraction.
There were some things about the man that she simply just didn’t understand.
For some reason Alec had shed just about everything that Manticore had left on his surface but there were a few things that hadn’t gone anywhere. On the outside of self preservation and knowledge of weapon assemblage were some other traits that hadn't flagged even a little bit. Max herself had never suffered from a case of neatness in all of her days of blissful liberation but apparently her fellow transgenic had it pretty bad. Like get out the bleach and boiling water bad. It was kind of fascinating in way to watch Alec examine the hopeless twenty year old rusted sink for a fourth time before laying down the bristled brush for just one more scouring.
But she had to hand it to him.
You would have never known that the entire area had been recently coated in purple jam, marsh mellow fluff and other various substances. All of it had been in such massive quantities and stickiness that any unwary wandering small mammal would have been trapped on any exposed linoleum. Not any more. Alec was going at it like someone was going to have to perform surgery in there at any moment.
There was a Zen like calm transpiring to the sound of hot water and the grit of cheap surface cleaner.
That was until one of the more brave of the group (or perhaps most bored) decided to use an open faced gooey piece of bread slathered with peanut butter as a projectile. Unfortunately, the kid picked Alec as the best target in a room filled with much less volatile options.
Max winced when she heard a genetically engineered fist break through the plaster right above the sink. The sudden splintering crash snapped all the children to attention. Half of them were open mouthed in impressed awe while the other half were hovering near the threat of startled tears.
“Look everybody! Blood! And guts! Blood and guts!”
That did the trick. Max made extra special sure to start prolonging her precise and timely carnage on the screen. It was easy to drawn out monster torture for the amusement of the brood packed in tightly around her in the other bean bags. Watching the game she listened to Alec leave the sink alone and wash himself off. Soon after that, she heard his wary footfall head towards the sofa. Her internal clock told her that her gaming had been going on a four hour time warp.
Looking around she got a few drooping eyes and stifled yawns. She wasn’t sure when kids were supposed to go to bed but 1AM sounded like a good a time as any. This was easier than she even thought. No thanks to Alec.
She heard him sit down carefully on the sofa leaking its stuffing out the sides. There was no need to look at him again to know that he was staring hard and serious at the only way out of the place.
Rubbing at her own eyes, she thought now was a pretty good time for a break.
Max handed the controller over to the most awake child within distance and stood up. Cracking her back and her shoulders she wondered if maybe there were any fruit loops left in the joint. Or that pink colored flavored milk. The sudden brilliant idea of combining the two brought a smile to her face.
She was about to ask Alec if any of it had survived but the sight of him made her pause.
Alec was staring down at a kid that had discovered the sofa was a better bed than the threadbare carpet. The kid had also found that Alec being right in the middle of it didn’t matter much in terms of anything but extra padding between the rogue cushion springs. The slight meaningless weight of the little boy might as well have been four point steel explosive trigger restraints. Alec wasn’t about to move one centimeter in any direction lest he wake the beast.
“What if it leaks?” Alec hissed up at her in alarm.
“Depends on how much Kool Aid it put away.”
Max didn’t know why Alec looked so freaking exhausted. She was the one that had been staring at Sketchy’s shitty old TV for the past 240 minutes while answering questions about bras, dinosaurs, and the aerodynamic possibilities of dog crap. Although, with her focus trained on her mission she hadn’t been quite paying attention to the vague sounds of mayhem that flowed to and fro behind her back. She supposed there had been the sounds of breaking ceramic and possible glass. If she thought back on it there had been more than a few half hearted attempts of stern language that deteriorated into the sad state of an adult begging.
That’s what you did on a job. You pulled your own weight and you took your punches. Begrudgingly stopping to consider the possibility, Max did a brief cursory check over Alec’s exposed skin for any signs of violence. Besides the weird look on his face, he seemed perfectly fine.
Her gaze wandered back to the spotless kitchen.
Zombie slaughter sure did make a girl hungry. Her prior question on her lips, she was about to make Alec fess up to where he’d hermetically sealed away anything edible.
But something made her hesitate again.
To her mild surprise, she watched Alec’s eyes start to slip and fall. Much like his smaller counter parts sprawled all over the floor, exhaustion was setting in. Making a soft sound of disbelief, she saw the X5 shut down for good, his arms spread out on the stiff polyester like some shabby religious icon. Resisting the urge to kick at his crossed ankles as she passed by, she figured it must have been past Alec’s bed time too.
Swinging open the freezer she grinned at the frigid sweet flow of artic air that wafted around her damp face. She grinned even harder when she saw the freezer burned glistening lump of a carton of ice cream stashed under a heap of empty ice trays. Upon closer inspection, she found half a box of those little paper cups with shaved lemon slush.
This gig wasn’t so bad.
It wasn’t so bad at all.
Cross posted to jam_pony_fic
Cross posted to darkangelfic
Cross posted to x5_darkangel_x5